This trip to Istanbul last summer was a special one. A gift to my son for his sixteen birthday from my family, he, my sister, and I had four unforgettable days in one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Spread over two continents, home to more than 14 million people, Istanbul is a vibrant city, offering a wealth of history, interesting scenery and distinguished cuisine. Colours, colours, lots of colours, sounds, fragrances and flavours will instantly set you in a hubbub of locals, tourists, vendors, shoppers, restaurant owners, retailers, fishermen, drivers, street dogs and hungry cats. Mosques, churches, palaces, markets, bridges, towers, boats and water, water, lots of water will surround you just to prove to you that you are walking in one of the world's great places – a crossroad of civilizations, religions and cultures. So, we had a lot to do and a lot to see here... and we did it, walking the streets of Istanbul from early morning to late at night. From the Sultanahmet district (our hotel was located there) with the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome, the iconic magnificent Hagia Sophia and the impressive Blue Mosque, through the Grand Bazar (I didn't really enjoy it), Galata Bridge and the fantastic 17th century Spice Market (Egyptian Bazaar) to a pleasant cruise trip through the famous Bosphorus Strait, we immersed ourselves in every possible sight of this place. We visited the kitschy, in my opinion, Dolmanbahce Palace with its fantastic garden and my personal favourite the beautiful Topkapi Palace. We literally ate our way through the city – simit, gozleme, baklava, kunefe, watermelon, white cheese, roasted chestnuts, rice pudding, turkish delight, the famous dondurma (ice cream cone on a stick, sold from a street vendor who teased us performing awesome tricks with the ice cream before finally giving it to us). We ate kebaps and pilaf at a wonderful roof terrace with a spectacular view, but nothing could compete with the freshly caught fish sandwich on freshly baked bread with pepper and tomato straight from the grill of a man and his wife who skilfully prepared this delicious dish on the waterfront promenade right in front of the arriving boats. We drank tea, turkish coffee, ayran and boza. We experienced the most warm pouring rain and the most magnificent sun set over the beautiful skyline. But most of all, we enjoyed the extraordinary cultural experience that lies around every corner of the city. I felt Istanbul foreign and at the same time so very humanly close – unpretentious, hospitable and beautiful in its unique way.
What are your plans for this summer, dear friends?
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