If you haven’t read my other travel posts about this trip be sure to read them here before reading this one:
There are so many things to see in Turkey and going to Istanbul for just a few days was definitely not long enough to really take in the sights! At first, our to-do list was really long but after a little time, we started scratching things off that we suddenly didn’t care about! It’s funny how that worked out, but I’m getting ahead of myself!
After getting an entire three hours of sleep on our first night, we ate breakfast at our hotel and headed to the Topkapi Palace Museum. Our hotel was really close and we enjoyed the walk through the gardens. It was actually perfect weather to visit Istanbul and I’m really glad we went when we did!
We headed to the gates of the Palace to get our entrance tickets. You can also purchase tickets that cover a lot of museums and other places, but since we weren’t set on where we wanted to go, we decided to not risk it and feel pressure to visit everything just because we had a ticket! After we had our tickets, Anson spent some time talking to one of the private tour guides sitting outside and convinced him that what we wanted to pay him was enough!
*Side note, I went to Sicily with my mom years ago and we ran into a private tour guide at some ruins. We tagged along and he was truly amazing! Later, I was back in Sicily with my family and I told Anson that he would have loved that guide. I had saved his cell number in my phone and amazingly, it still worked. We called him and he met us at the ruins and gave us an amazing tour. Since then, Anson is all about a private tour guide and I am totally on board with that! It might cost a little more, but it’s absolutely worth it!
We set off to the Palace with our tour guide and had an amazing time! (If you get a private guide, you also get a private photographer, so that’s a bonus!)
I won’t tell you all about the history because google is a great thing–but I will say that having our own guide was well worth it. There were some rooms with artifacts with no signs telling you what they were. We truly would’ve spent two minutes in many places because we just wouldn’t have known what we were looking at!
After we finished at the Palace, Anson asked the guide to take us to the Blue Mosque.
We headed that way and after I was given a long skirt to wear over my leggings and put on my scarf (that I always carry in my purse when I’m traveling), we were allowed inside.
The church was beautiful but also very sobering to me–especially as a woman. The small area where women were allowed to go pray honestly made me feel pretty inferior and sad as I saw the men walking around freely anywhere they wanted in the massive church. I found Istanbul very welcoming and warm, but the moments in the Mosque brought out feelings I am not accustomed to feeling here in North America.
As we left the Mosque, the guide offered to take us to the Basilica Cisterns, so we followed him through a shortcut and then inside as he knew someone and completely cut in the front of the line for us! Seeing the amazing pillars underground was spectacular. My only regret was that they weren’t hosting any concerts while we were there. An orchestra playing there would be simply breathtaking!
After we headed back above ground, our guide took us to a shop where they made dishes and other pottery items. We said good bye to our guide before seeing a demonstration of how they made everything by hand! Then we had some Turkish coffee while looking around the shop. I picked out a bowl for myself and a cup and saucer for my mom. We probably spent way too much money on these things, but I’ve learned that I am really not a haggler. I would rather just pay the money and be done with it!
The next day we visited the spice market and the regular market. This is where my lack of desire to haggle about prices really shone through. I picked up a bunch of spices and teas at the spice market and honestly, we went to about three stalls only. There are hundreds of vendors basically selling all of the same things and it’s a little overwhelming. Anson shook his head at me just paying the money, but like I said–it’s just really not something I enjoy.
After we picked up our tea and spices we headed to the regular market. People from all over the world head to this market to pick up literally anything you can imagine. We walked down about two aisles and said, “nope. nope. nope.” We left the market without buying anything and decided to walk around a different part of the city instead.
I am sure there are a lot of touristy places we should’ve gone to, but I don’t regret getting on the train and heading to a new area to just walk around.
We got some dessert and coffee, walked the streets and relaxed. It was kind of funny how our long list of places to see quickly got taken down to just a few places, but that’s one thing I love about traveling with Anson. We have been to enough places and seen enough things that we are able to adjust as we go and decide what is most important in the moment. Sometimes, have an enjoyable afternoon together is more important than crossing off four more museums just so you can say you went there!
*One place we did not visit that we would’ve liked to see was Hagia Sophia. They were closed on Monday and by the time Tuesday came we didn’t care nearly as much! The guide told Anson all about it while we stood outside before heading to the Blue Mosque though!
How do you like to travel? Do you plan your days or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
Next Tuesday look for my post on where we ate in Istanbul! I have two very contrasting dinner experiences to talk about!