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February 17, 2014

Istanbul: Best of Both Worlds

     When our cruise ship docked in Istanbul for a night, it was a rare opportunity for me to be in this very historic place. Turkey, which is basically between Europe and Asia, has been on the crosswords of world history from ancient times until modern times. Istanbul is basically enjoying the best of both worlds. Even from afar, this mixing of two worlds is very apparent in their architecture.

     Istanbul is used to be called Byzantium. It is located along the historical Silk Road. It used to be the front lines in the expansion of Christianity in Eurasia. Currently, it is now an Islamic city. The Bosphorus divides the city into the "European side" and the "Asian side". This strait also connects the Black Sea to the Sea or Marmara.

    After getting off the ship, the first thing I did was to visit the popular Grand Bazaar. It is the world's oldest and largest covered market in the world. It is located within the walled section of Istanbul in the Fatih district. Personal advice: get a local or a tour guide to help you navigate this huge labyrinthine market. There are many stalls and shopping malls inside the Grand Bazaar. If you are interested to buy Turkish carpets, jewelries, furniture and other trinkets, the Grand Bazaar is the place to go.

     Inside the Grand Bazaar are also restaurants serving authentic kebabs and other Turkish food such as Simit.

     The Simit is a ring-shaped bread topped with toasted sesame seeds. The first time I saw it and tasted it I was reminded of a bagel. It is supposedly the most beloved snack of the Turkish.

    Of course Istanbul is more than just the Grand Bazaar. There are beautiful mosques scattered in the area, including the beautiful Hagia Sophia. Going around Istanbul is easy. There are local trains, buses and cabs are everywhere. My only regret during my visit to Istanbul is that I didn't have enough time to really explore the city. I hope I get to have another chance to visit this beautiful city.

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