Where East Meets West : Istanbul
The first stop on our two-week European trip was to Istanbul, Turkey. A vibrant city divided between two continents, Europe and Asia. The city has an incredible amount to offer and we tried to accomplish as much as possible during our visit.
Istanbul is not only labeled a world heritage site, but is the world’s 5th most visited city. It has incredible architecture including many palaces and mosques, great food, amazing markets filled with a variety of goods, music, dancing, pretty much everything you could want in a city!
One of the main attractions is the Sultan Ahmed or “The Blue Mosque”. This still serves as a large pilgrimage destination to many Muslims around the world today. It received its nickname from the blue paint that dominates the upper levels of the main dome. 200 stained glass windows and over 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles also make up this incredible place of worship.
One of the greatest experiences that Jared and I had was viewing and learning about the Turkish carpets. It is a truly beautiful craft and easy to see why it is one of the most well known in the world. We had the opportunity to go privately to a showroom and look at a variety of different rugs and learn about the art form. There is one person that works on each individual rug. Some take multiple years to complete. There are three types of carpets that are categorized by their materials: wool on wool, wool on cotton and silk on silk. All are made with natural fibers and dyes, which contribute to their longevity and undeniable quality. The colors and designs (floral, geographic, tribal, etc.) is indicative of which region the carpet is made in.
It was also in the Turkish rug showroom that we learned about Turkish tea. Tea is a part of the Turkish culture, a way of being hospitable to guests when hosting. While sitting and viewing the rugs, we were offered different tea choices to enjoy. Tea is served boiling hot on a coaster and in small clear glasses so that you can enjoy the color. After trying it once, I was hooked and spent the remainder of the trip drinking multiple glasses. (I must admit however, that it took about three of the tiny glasses for me to get my fill at each sitting).
I love Middle Eastern food. In fact, Jared and I eat it quite often no matter where in the world we are! We had some fantastic meals during our visit. Imagine kebabs, hummus, grilled veggies and a favorite that I usually don’t allow myself but made an exception for, amazing baklava!
Many restaurants had the same feeling, open-air café’s with couches. Families and friends gathered and shared large platters of food. People also smoked large shisha pipes (flavored tobacco- which J even tried!) and brought backgammon boards to play. They would sit, smoke, drink tea and nibble for hours at a time while lounging. It was quite the enjoyable scene to say the least.
One of the funniest things we saw every day, all day was that the bridge crossing the Bosphorus was filled with people lined up fishing from morning until night. I can’t say that we saw anyone actually pull up their rod with any fish, but there must be a reason that they are all hopefully perched there with busy cars zooming by. In addition to the bridge there were fishing boats within the actual waterway, but seeing this bridge covered with poles from end to end on both sides was quite the sight.
In the end, this weekend trip was a lot of fun. We enjoyed the middle-eastern influence while also taking advantage of all the history that was present in this ancient city. It was a great beginning to our European trip!
To see more of my pictures from Istanbul, please go to the gallery.