Travels in Turkey: Istanbul (Part 2)

I wrote this on the plane from Istanbul to France last week, but didn’t really have good wifi to post until now.

Other highlights of our last few days in Istanbul:

Along the Bosphorus, north of the old city, there is a row of villages along the water. We visited one of them, Ortakoy — a charming little cluster of shops and cafes on the water. Later, we did a cruise up the Bosphorus and were able to see the many opulent palaces built along the water, and more villages on both sides of the strait.

I really loved the Cukurcuma and Cihangir neighborhoods. The first was full of antique shops and junk shops, spilling over with so many treasures. The highlight for me was visiting The Museum of Innocence, housed in a townhome in Cukurcuma. This was created by the author Orhan Pamuk, who wrote a novel of the same name and created this museum, filled with objects from 1970s Istanbul, as a tangible experience based on the novel. I read the book before we came here, and totally loved this museum – so eclectic, so creative, so meta.

In Cihangir, we snacked on excellent meze and had drinks at various outdoor cafes. The weather was so perfect and the narrow, steep streets so full of captivating views. It was a perfect, relaxing way to pass an evening.

One of the last sights we visited was Chora Church, a small Byzantine church that was converted to a mosque. The many mosaics depicting New Testament scenes were whitewashed when it became a mosque, inadvertently preserving the mosaics for posterity. The mosaics were exquisite; way better than Hagia Sophia. Highly recommended.

While out there, we decided to climb the old city walls. I was disappointed to see that the walls were crumbling in many places so you can’t really walk along on top of them, but rather climb up just to see the views. We did a treacherous climb up that involved basically scaling a wall, and while the views were beautiful, we also encountered several sketchy characters at the top and so we didn’t linger. Later we heard this area could be kind of rough. We often venture to non-touristy areas, I don’t really recommend doing this — not worth it.

We also went to the spice market (Egyptian Bazaar) which I loved – fragrant bins of exotic spices and teas, and rows of decadent sweets. We sampled several kinds of Turkish delight and ended up buying some, along with nuts and dried fruit. Later, I bought harem pants at the Grand Bazaar!

On our last night, we had dinner with friends near the Galata Tower. Plates of meze, bottle of wine, and a night out with a group were the perfect way to end this part of our trip. Since we have friends living in Istanbul now, I can’t wait to return and explore more. But for now, we’re on to France!

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