A friend of my parents who travelled extensively once told me that Turkey was the best country she had ever visited. From then on, it was this exotic, magical place that I would one day have to see. Although reality could not live up to the imagination of a 10 year old, I was not disappointed.
Istanbul felt like a giant theme park to me. The mosques, the people and the way they dressed, the food stalls filled with kebabs and all sorts of baklava, sweet tea served on neat silver trays, and small side streets that turn into massive markets that you get lost in.
The Blue Mosque – Sultan Ahmed Mosque
This was a place to get lost in and that’s just what we did. We left our hotel and walked. We followed a tourist map that directed us past the main tourist attractions and then we walked more. The city is full of color and breath-taking structures. We did the typical tourist thing and snapped picture, after picture, after picture.
It was an incredible day that we realised was coming to an end when we felt the distinct ache in our tired feet. We ended our first day eating a delicious Tagine stew and drinking Lassie while watching the sun set behind the Blue Mosque. It was a very good day!
Hagia Sophia & The Basilica Cistern
On day two, we paced ourselves and decided to explore a few of the touristy highlights. Hagai Sophia is an impressively beautiful mosque and worth visiting to explore the different levels and experience its vastness.
Not far from the mosque is the Basilica Cistern which is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city. They were used to filter water that was provided to the Great Palace of old Constantinople. It had fish swimming in the clear water and raised board-walks winding between the pillars so we could easily walk through the large room.
If you are planning to visit Istanbul on a tour or tight schedule and only get to spend a day in Istanbul, you will still be able to get in a good dose of the sight. Check out this link to the Backstreet Nomad to plan all the stops you can fit into an awesome sightseeing day.
Ghost Village Of Kayakoy, Fethiye
Kayakoy, is a deserted village consists of hundreds of rundown stone houses with an abandoned old church in the centre. We arrived at the “reception” area and were met by an old Turkish lady who communicated the price of entry. From there on in, we were left to explore the ruins alone, accompanied only by a few stray goats.
The eerie feel of this deserted place is incredible. For anyone who obsesses about anything apocalyptic, this place with have your imagination firing off the charts. The village is large and extends for almost a kilometre up the hill into the forest. It must have been a busy, bustling centre in its time but today there are little more that goats, ghosts and wild daisy’s growing between the buildings.
Pamukkale & Hierapolis
Our 10 day trip had come to an end and our flight was leaving that afternoon. We were making our way back to Istanbul and this was our last stop.
Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” is located in southwestern Turkey. The city contains hot springs and terraced rim pools, created by minerals deposited from the warm flowing water. We entered at the bottom of the hill and climbed the terraces to the top. At the top of the hill, there were ruins of older structures and the entrance to the source of the hot springs.
The water was invitingly warm and we stole a few extra minutes to swim amongst the ruins left at the bottom of the traditional baths.
Just before we left the site, we were lucky to spot several whirling dervishes performing a religious dance called the sema. (Unfortunately the camera only captured them taking a break) Start to finish, this turkey trip had been a cultural feast.
From the moment I arrived in Istanbul, I knew I was in another world. We stayed in the old city which felt authentically Turkish. This is not an easy element to harness, especially in modern times when “old” culture is lost between modern adaptations and popular culture catering to tourists.