Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One of the Great Cities

Istanbul was a real delight. We'd heard entirely good things about the city from other travelers and our visit lived up to the expectations. It is an amazingly beautiful city with wonderful architecture, natural beauty in all the various bodies of water and green spaces and has a very cosmopolitan and European feel. It's a huge city both in population (16 million or so) and area - the second largest city we've visited (after Cairo) - but it was not intimidating at all. There is ample public transportation and once within a neighborhood, walking around is very pleasant.

We were lucky to couchsurf with Ali, a wonderful guy who lives on the Asian side of the city. Since we were there on the weekend he spent Sunday with us taking us all around the city, pointing out the various sights. We also took a little scenic cruise up the Bosphorus strait that connects into the Black Sea.
From Istanbul
Then, Jaimee and I spent another day touring all the other sights we didn't see on Sunday with Ali. Yet still we don't feel we saw everything there is to see in Istanbul. We did see the major landmarks, including the famed Blue Mosque. This picture doesn't begin to do the building justice. Built in 1609, it is an impressive building both inside and out. See this google search for even better pictures.
From Istanbul
The one drawback to Istanbul that we'd heard from others was that sometimes the shopkeepers could be aggressive in attracting customers, but after Cairo and Luxor in Egypt, the market bazaar experience in Istanbul was a dream. Only one person was even remotely rude or combative, but we didn't let it bother us in the least.

We enjoyed having tea and coffee at a few of the street side cafes that dot the city. We have also enjoyed trying a few new foods. We had read that the food in Turkey is the best, and we have to admit that it is very tasty! Also, Turkey is definitely more expensive than anywhere we've been in the last few months, but it's still quite manageable.

Although we could have stayed longer in Istanbul and really enjoyed ourselves we headed out on a bus yesterday down the Aegean Coast to the town of Canakkale, which is near the sight of the Battle of Gallipoli of World War I and also the location of Troy of Iliad fame. Today we're taking a tour of the Gallipoli battle fields and tomorrow we plan on touring around Troy on our own.

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