IstanbulWhat a start to the new year! A wonderful trip to Istanbul. The city is an astonishing buzz of activity mixed with sights, sounds and wonderful smells. My friend Laudec and I were met with snow the first few days – certainly a treat, as neither of us experienced snow before.  First thing that struck me was how busy the streets were, even late at night. It’s as if the city only come alive after 8 at night.  It’s something I am not used to.

Our trip started with a visit to the Bacilica Cisterns, a trip to the Blue Mosque as well as the Hadgia Sofia. We passed by these buildings almost on a daily basis as we didn’t stay too far away from them. On the road down there were plenty of wonderful little restaurants we frequented, with warm welcoming atmospheres and delightfully friendly people.

We spent two days on the Big Bus tour around Istanbul, visiting a couple of wonderful places, of which Miniatürk certainly was a highlight. To see so many historical buildings in such detailed miniatures is admirable work. The best part was seeing a model of the Theatre of Aspendos. Seeing a similar theatre at Pamukkale a few days later at Hierapolis made every hour travelled there worth it.  While visiting the ancient site, we spent some time in the hot water springs in Cleopatra’s pool while admiring the thermal pools next to the mountainside.

Other highlights on the trip included visits to Topkapi palace, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. We also tried a few Hamams or Turkish baths. What a mixed bag that was… from good, to bad… to ugly! But nevertheless each an experience.  One thing is for sure… it’s certainly worth paying a little extra for the “tourist” experience.

Istanbul is a must-visit with such a rich history and culture and friendly people.  I would love to go back some day and explore more of this wonderful country and it’s rich heritage.