Istanbul came up as the destination for our Easter Holidays almost by chance. Close enough to make it a 5-day long one, but too far for a weekend… and for that reason an unknown destination for such a big group as ours (8 people). A good decision, as it did not disappoint us at all.
Istanbul location (right between Europe and Asia, and next to Middle East) is translated into the city’s culture and architecture: mosques, modern Western buildings, and Western clothes mixed in the streets with traditional Muslim burkas.
The city grows around the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus strait, one of the most important cargo paths in the World, and which has always been a key strategic location, and home of many battles. Even nowadays, the strait is heavily surveilled by radars both to control the intense vessel traffic, and for security reasons.
The Bosphorus strait and the Golden Horn divide the city in three main areas.
The southernmost one is the Old Area. There is where most of the tourist spots can be found, and where certain taste of the old Istanbul flavour can still be enjoyed. To mention a few of these spots: Santa Sofia temple (first a church, then a mosque, now a museum), Sultanahmet Mosque (aka Blue Mosque), the Basilica Cistern (not enough highlighted in most of the travelguides), or the Süleymaniye Mosque.
Istanbul is also known for their bazars, which are found in this area: the Grand Bazar (which did not impress me much, as I am not into bargaining and I was not looking for any specific object) and the Egyptian Bazar or Spice Bazar, which will capture you with the mix of smells and the ability of the sellers.
To the East, you can reach the Asian part by taking one of the many boats that cross the strait in just 10-20 minutes. We did not enjoy this part so much due to the horrible weather of that day, but the views of the old part are great.
To the North, crossing the Galata bridge, you get to the Galata and Besiktas neighbourhoods. The more western, modern and expensive areas of the city, look like any other city in Europe, with restaurants and live-music pubs flooding the streets.
By the way, restaurants… Food. Who doesn’t know kebaps? They have become popular all over the world thanks to the Turkish population in Germany who have make it international. If you are used to the great mixes you can try in Germany, the first thing you will realize in Turkey is that most of the ingredients are missing, and each kebap is lighter in a way, but with a more delicious meat and a great bread. But Turkish cuisine is not only about meat: fish, milk products (ayran, cheese), bread, pistacio and sweets are also worth to try.