The view from the little table on the street outside where we are breakfast was of the back of Hagia Sophia!
I loved the vibrant feel of the city. There were quirks and colours everywhere.
There were also incredible monuments dotted throughout the city, with incredible detail. I especially loved the mosaics and mouldings.
As you walk the streets you'll be approached by some of the best sales people I've ever met - most of whom seem to want to invite you to join their families and tell you that usually kiwis but the really big rugs and that they know all the best shipping so you don't need to worry about your bag weights....
It's worth going along with it for the show, you'll see so many rugs and learn about how they are made. You'll also probably get some free tea. We had apple, it was delicious.
Next we made our way over to the Blue Mosque, smaller than Hagia Sophia, but in my opinion more beautiful. It's bright and open and they will happily give you all the bits you need to cover up.
The mosaics on the roof and walls are gorgeous, and a myriad of colour with blue being only slightly more common.
The mosque took longer than we had expected so we went off on a hunt for food through one of the smaller bazaars. By the time we found real food we had each tried about 20 flavours of Turkish delight and smelled at least as many types of tea.
There were cats sprawled out everywhere around the city, which I quite enjoyed.
Istanbul is a rather warm place. We knew this going in, but nothing quite prepares you for the bright constant sun and high humidity. Make sure you carry a full water bottle wherever possible.
Hagia Sophia is one of those places that everyone tells you you can't miss in Istanbul and we made sure not to.
My favourite part was rather linked to my childhood. It's these pieces of marble, split and mirrored that decorate the walls. As a kid we made so many folded 'paintings' that this had me giggling all the way around.
The church/mosque is very old, it's so old that it was old when it was still a church and that's a long while ago! One place this is abundantly clear is the marble doorways, worn to a curve by hundreds of thousands of feet of every religion wandering through.
At one point Ross suggested I name this blog 'Caitlin and Ross eat food'. It wouldn't have been far off what the trip was...
Here's our first experience with the traditional street bread and hot chestnuts.
We made the delightful decision to wander along the waterfront that night and were whisked into a really cheap river cruise along the banks of Istanbul between Asia and Europe. It was a truly peculiar thought, but an average tour.
Our walk home after the cruise was fraught with challenges to our willpower, as we passed what seemed like endless supplies of incredible food... Especially baklava!
Bright and early on our second and final day we walked across town to the old palace.
They have so much impressive old stuff that there are piles of old carved rocks just lying about in parks. These stones were probably carved before my country was discovered.
The castle was huge. We only had time for the grounds and we didn't even end up getting around all of them!
We got the audio guides, which I would very much recommend as they have all kinds of lovely tidbits you'd miss otherwise.
The detail on the mosaics here was also absolutely mind boggling, especially when you remember the tiles are all hand made, hand painted, and hand placed.
We dragged ourselves away from the palace to the grand bazaar for lunch. I will admit myself a bit disappointed by it, probably because of all the hype. We found it to be entirely too touristy and there was a bunch of cheap knock off junk there too.
We did allow ourselves to be persuaded into buying rather a large amount of Turkish delight here though, which they happily put in my reusable tin. It wouldn't have gotten back into NZ like that so half was vaccum packed, but the other half I happily carried to Greece that night.
A final word from the now-much-wiser - there are two airports in Istanbul.
They are not close together.
It's a good idea to make sure you've left enough time for the airport you plan to use. I didn't.
Amazingly I still made my flight, thanks to a very helpful Ross and a maniac taxi driver who hit 140km/h at least once on the drive.
After all that rush and bother I made it through check in with a whole 5 minutes to spare (with Swedish rounding) and cruised on to my plane to Athens.
I really loved the vibes of Istanbul, and would happily go there again. I also loved traveling with a close friend - it adds so much to the experience over traveling alone.
I'm a wee bit behind on blogs due to having too much fun, but I'll try get Greece underway as soon as possible!
See you somewhere!