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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Travel Diary: Turkey (Istanbul, Prince's Islands, Cappadocia)



This is my last day in Turkey, as I begin to write about my experience. I had to start early because there's just so much I can talk about this place. If you've never been to turkey or are planning a trip, I'm sure this post will be of help to you. Read on to discover the amazing Turkey.

We had our flight on Thursday on Nov 26th through Qatar Airways, which was connected via Doha. We reached Doha in 40 minutes of time and then after a 6 hours stay, we flew to Istanbul which was also 6 hours duration. We chose to go with Emirates first but the flights were full. This was my first time flying with Qatar Airways and I quite liked their service.

Istanbul

Upon reaching Istanbul we took a taxi to Best Western's The President Hotel, which is located near the Grand Bazar. This hotel was a great choice, because not only is it close to the Grand Bazar, but also the Blue mosque and Hagia Sophia Museum.

We spent our first evening exploring the locality and also went to the Grand Bazar, which is one of the many tourist attractions of Istanbul. This place is full of little stalls that sell replica handbags, shoes, clothing and also Turkish shawls, pashminas, scarfs, bags and wallets, lights and decorative stuff. No wonder all of that looks beautiful and very tempting, we didn't shop from there because the prices were too high. We were ready for the steep tags because we were tourists. Also in the streets there were little nooks where they sell Turkish food, which is yum. Next, we went to Taksim Square, which is a commercial street full of brand outlets, restaurants and clubs. The night life there is great so for those who want to enjoy till late hours should definitely go. Taksim Square can be reached by Metro train or taxi.

The second day we went to the Blue mosque aka Sultan Ahmed mosque and prayed Zuhur. One can't go without thinking how gifted these craftsmen were by the Al mighty that they were able to build such a beautiful structure centuries ago, with limited tools and no technology. Then we went to Hagia Sophia Museum, which was a 2 time cathedral, then a mosque and finally turned in to a museum.

On the third day, we took a Big Bus tour service, which took us to the European side of Istanbul. We skipped some of the places cause we had already seen them. We got off at the famous Spice Bazar, which has a lot to offer other than spices. We bought Turkish delights and roamed around exploring the market. On the other side is a pet market where you'll find different varieties of pet food and accessories, plus they sell birds there too. 

On the fourth day we took a tour around all of Istanbul and saw the Galata bridge, the Bosphrous bridge, Dolmabahce Palace and the surrounding areas. Our final stop was the Topkapi palace, which has belongings of not only the Khalifas but also Hazrat Muhammad S.A.W, Imam Hussain R.A, Bibi Fatima's belongings, gifts sent to the prophet by then Turkish rulers and many more exquisite pieces. Photography is strictly prohibited in those halls. This palace was one of my favorites spots in Turkey and one can spend an entire day exploring the priceless treasures in there.

The Blue Mosque
Inside Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Dolmabahce Palace entrance
Topkapi Palace entrance
A glimpse of the Spice Bazar
 A glimpse of the Spice Bazar
Prince's Islands

Next we went to one of the Prince's Islands via a cruise, which takes around 1.5 hours to reach there. There are around 4 of these and we were taken to the most famous one. Upon reaching we were given a horse carriage ride around the island then lunch and some free time to have a look around. We returned via the same cruise and my husband and I chose to take metro to our station.

A glimpse of one of the Prince's Islands

Cappadocia

Anyone who has been to turkey does not miss Cappadocia. The hot air balloon ride is one of the main highlights of this beautiful city. Unfortunately, we didn't book one with our tour because of the weather. The balloon rides mostly get cancelled if the weather is rough and then shifts to the next day. But since we only had 2 days in Cappadocia, we didn't want to risk it and rightly so, because it started snowing the day we got there. I got to see the first ever snowfall of my life and it was amazing.

Our first tour was around the north of Cappadocia and begin with Goreme Open Air Museum, which consists of conical shaped buildings, which are actually churches. The buildings are thousands of years old and one can only wonder how did people live in these little cave like dwellings. Photography is strictly forbidden inside the churches and tourists are taken in small groups. The tour guide is not allowed inside as well. Tourists cannot stay inside a church for more than 3 minutes because of the carbon dioxide we breathe out damages and centuries old paintings carved on the walls. Next we went to the Mushroom Valley, which has huge stones with conical tops that makes them look like mushrooms. Just a few miles away is a similar valley with stones shaped like characters. The most famous of these being the Camel rock.

After lunch we headed to one of the most famous pottery house, which is run by Chez Galip, who holds a great resemblance to Albert Einstein and has had his name recorded in the Guinness Books of World records 2 times. He is a world re-known potter and immensely talented and by the looks of his work we couldn't agree more. It is also for sale. But we weren't allowed to photograph his work due to copy right issues. But if you happened to go to Cappadocia, don't miss this one.

As as we were heading to our next destination which was a castle, it started to snow all of a sudden. Within 10 minutes everything turned white and we couldn't see it. We still head to catch a  panoramic view of  Cappadocia, but due to heavy snowing we couldn't do that either, but we still did get out these, and enjoyed actual snowfall.

Our second day tour was around the southern part of Cappadocia and we started with some sight seeing. After that we hiked for 1.5 hours in the snow and then took off for lunch. Next we went to Kaymakli underground city, which covers a four square kilometer area but only 10% of it is open for tourists. There are 6 floors within the city and we were taken to 4 of them. Honestly, one just has to be here to experience all this. Lastly, we were taken to the Onyx factory, where a professional carved and polished a marble egg in front of us. Later we were taken to an exhibition hall, where they had jewelry encrusted with Onyx and Turquoise for sale. Words don't do justice to these wonders.


A sight of Goreme Open Air Museum 
Mushroom Valley

Camel Rock
The guy at the pottery barn explaining to us the stages of pottery design and painting
Cappadocia in Snow
Cappadocia in Snow
Cappadocia in Snow

Turkish Food 

Turkish food has quite a resemblance with Arabic food but there are some cuisines that are exclusive for example the baked potato stuffed with chicken and veggies, Testi kebab which is a lamb dish cooked inside a burning pot, chest nuts, the gummy Turkish ice cream, fruit flavored teas and Turkish sweets. I also tried chicken wraps from different places and it was a delight every time.

Turkish Ice cream
Traditional Turkish bread called Simit and Chestnuts
Pomegranate Tea
Turkish Lavash or puff bread
Shopping

The Grand Bazar is no new name when is comes to shopping in Istanbul but we thought otherwise. Bargaining is just a word and there's no one ready to go below a certain price tag in spite of everyone having the same stuff and more than 3000 shops. We shopped from the stalls right outside of the bazar, the local shops close to our hotel area and Taksim square. I also got some jewelry from Cappadocia. But to be honest, it is good to look around and explore the place because it is so well known, in my experience the Grand Bazar is not the best bargaining joint.

Traditional Turkish jewelry boxes
Earrings I bought from Cappadocia
Earrings I bought from Cappadocia
People

Turkish people are friendly and outspoken. They will happily offer a helping hand if you find yourself in a sudden problem. But I cannot say that same for some shopkeepers who just went out of their way and got rude. They'd just pass a remark or change their tone. Ignorance works best with people like these.

Facts about Turkey

These are the things I came to know of from our tour guides during our trip.

Istanbul alone has 3180 mosques
There are 36 under ground cities in Turkey
Turkey is the largest producer of figs, hazelnut in the world
The finest quality turquoise comes from turkey and that how the stone got its name.

For more unseen photos and videos checkout my Instagram.


Who ever says Nov-Dec are not the best months to visit turkey probably got it all wrong.  This time of the year is best for visitors from hot areas, specially Asians. What's the use of experiencing a hot day in a foreign country when you've already tasted scorching summers in your own? Cold breeze, rains, long walks, great food and sudden snowfall are the way to do it. My stay in turkey was a splendid one!
Kiran Imtiaz Author

I would love to hear from you. Leave in your valuable comments, questions and anything you want to share, below. Comments with irrelevant links will not be published.

5 comments :

  1. Kiran thank you so much! You made me feel as Im travelling al9ng. I hope you had a great memorable journey. In shaa Allah I have a strong wish to visit Turkey n ur post has strengthened it. Wonderful post will share it on my page too :)

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  2. Turkey has always fascinated me much. The views are breathtaking. I so wish to visit this place someday IA :)

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  3. Turkey is really a beautiful place to visit, i hope you had great time.

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  4. Mashallahh Turkey is such a beautiful place, Thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete