Updated: 28th September 2015
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I realised when I used to say I had ‘done’ any country or destination it simply wasn’t true, no matter how long I had spent there. Places would always surprises me and swallow me whole again second and third time around. Istanbul is one of those places that you really shouldn’t rush, trust me, you will regret it…
Having been pulling overtime like it was as natural as drinking water I just wanted to wandered aimlessly. To eat when my mood told me to, to see sights when I wanted to play the tourist. I was happy to skip things I didn’t want to que for. To simply mull over a cup of tea and people watch for hours. I never wanted to know what the time was or set an alarm. I don’t think there is city better suited for that kind of weekend…
I just spent ‘time in’ Istanbul rather than ‘doing’ Istanbul.
Istanbul is one of those places I doubt will ever spit you out, but, simply chew you back up into its electric life whenever the time comes to return again. The history haunts the streets, the future glides past you with each modern tram, the call to prayer lifts you up as the scent of sweet corn lulls you in. It is everything a city should be and everything you want to go back for.
As your eyes dart from grand building to the next, let them wonder. The young boy chasing a pigeon with glee whilst his sister shrieks at excitement at the corn truck close by. The mother torn with a smile at which one to follow.
Spending what seems like an eternity staring at a ceiling of a Mosque or Palace. Trying to fathom the intricate detail above you which your eye just can’t consume in its entirety.
It is the little details in Istanbul that will have you hooked if you allow them. Piecing together the art, the stories and the architecture into understanding such a strategic point that bridges the east and west of this world.
The history and the empires that had called this home before a young boy enjoying the simple pleasures of chasing a bird on a Saturday afternoon.
The yellow taxis comes to a stand still in the square, drivers laugh with each other whilst grabbing a refreshment from a nearby stool. Modern trams slide by quietly as they catch the reflections of Mosques that tell stories. People drink wine, oh the wine, did you know Turkey had a wine region? Go wine tasting in Turkey, you’ll see what I mean.
If all cities could deliver old and new together so boldly, yet, so effortlessly, in the way that Istanbul could then I doubt anyone could ever say ‘I am just not a city person’.
Old faces, young smiles, busy markets and small cobbled paths which lead you to a handful of men laughing and smoking shisha. The scent of Kebab lingers as you search for that next cup of fragrant Turkish tea. The blue sky lights up the blue Mosque and you really don’t want the day to end.
The call to prayer echoes through the city, out of a small door you can see the man whose lungs carry the call through the wind around you. The crowded attractions somehow manage a return to purpose, to keep their roots true, to somehow still feel real even with the onslaught of selfies and confused dress codes.
Istanbul is electric. It is the first and last word that comes to my mind when I have to describe it. The green gardens, the river, the flags, the colours, the shops, the tea… everything wraps up into one bundle of power that explodes around you as you take the streets in.
Even after sunset, in the stillness of the night with nothing but cats to pound the cobbles with you, it still retains a buzz.
If you visit Istanbul then do yourself a favour and take it slow. A weekend was never going to be enough but I could have easily spent a week wandering those lanes, sipping on tea and catching the last light of the day lingering on the rooftops and Mosques.
So yeah, I am certainly not qualified to write a definitive list of what you ‘must see’ in Istanbul. I did, however, take in the little moments, the places across from the sights, the atmosphere of the city. With what I was lucky enough to enjoy in that short weekend I am pretty confident in saying – You will love Istanbul.
Go and ‘spend time’ in Istanbul. I think it beats ‘doing’ Istanbul.