November 02, 2012

Travel Europe: Six things in … Istanbul


Been there. Done that. Bought the rug. That’s what I thought, after a two-day stopover on a cruise four years ago.

Yet so many people rave about Istanbul, I wondered if they were simply smokin’ from a different hookah, or if perhaps I had missed something during my whirlwind tour of the “must see” sites: the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace. It was architectural overload, like staring at the sun. If I had been invited to gaze upon one more mosaic, however beautiful, I thought I might bleed from my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong. Istanbul’s wonders are worth visiting, particularly the Blue Mosque, as it’s not only stunning; it’s also an important religious centre where worshipers pray five times a day.
But for the most part, the de rigueur list barely scratches the surface of what I had come to suspect might be the true spirit of this city, where residents respect their history, but live, love, work, dance, play and party in the present.

So I went back. I slowed down. I took time to meet the people and learn how the locals spend their days, and their nights. What I discovered is that this isn’t a city you should try to “do” in two days. Take a week. Take a walk and wander, and let Istanbul weave its web around you.

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