Over two years ago (oh how time flies!), I was invited to a conference in Erbil. When my friend and I noticed that our best flight option was through Turkish Airlines (which has direct daily flights to many major U.S. cities) with a layover in Istanbul we got abnormally excited about the opportunity to explore the historic city and eat amazing Turkish food! We immediately made plans to extend our several hour layover to almost three days.
Being an immigrant from a post-revolutionary state has many benefits (and disadvantages), including having family and friends dispersed throughout the world. Like many of my travels, our trip to Istanbul was made even better when my dad got in touch with family friends living there that were adamant to host us! Including, picking us up at the airport, making us homemade meals, and taking off from work to serve as our tour guides. I cannot thank them enough and cannot wait to host them in DC!
This is only the first of many posts I have for things to do, see, and eat while in Istanbul!
The first place our hosts took us was to explore Topkapi Palace and museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the Bosphorus Sea. The Palace was built in the mid-15th century and used as a residence for Ottoman sultans from 1453 to 1853, then was utilized as officers' barracks, and since 1924 has served as a museum. It has four courtyards that are beautifully kept and wonderful to walk through. At its peak, the palace housed over 4000 people, and today contains relics from the Muslim world.
When visiting the space, take your time and look at the details, look at the beautiful artistry on the ceilings, walls, and floors. The colors, the detailing, and the uniformity are amazing, and I've printed out several of my images and used them to decorate my house!
Get headsets for your tour! Our family friends were great and helped to secure our tickets and English tour headsets. I definitely recommend the headsets as they allowed us to explore at our own pace and listen to stories in rooms/spaces that we were interested in, and, frankly, let us move on to something more interesting when we got bored!!
Lastly, make sure you take some time to get some fun portraits on the back terraces overlooking the Bosphorus deep in the palace. It's beautiful, blue, and a wonderful souvenir/Instagram post/Snapchat! (Shoutout to my travel budddy and the lady who took my photo below, Hanne Dalmut!)
Seeing the Bosphorus was really a memorable moment, especially when I looked out and thought about its history as a crossroads of people and cultures for centuries. A service it still pays to the world today, as a major strait for trade, tourism, and Russia's oil interests... Still, it was breathtaking.
Get in touch if you have any questions, I'd love to share more tips for planning your own trip!!