Istanbul was somewhere I had to visit during my travels this time round, a place where I had heard many good things from other travelers and voted best destination by TripAdvisor in 2013. Now the city has a population of approximately 20 Million and a radius of 800km wide don’t hold me to that a taxi driver told me that. The city is in between both Europe and Asia with a bridge connecting the two. The traffic is next level there getting from A to B can prove very frustrating, but for the people that live there know no better. The people speak English there for the most part and it seems like every single male smokes cigarettes. I was staying at a hostel by myself in the Sultanahmet area. The hostel I wanted to stay at the Big Apple was booked out, try book there as I was there on their rooftop bar most nights. Since I was traveling by myself I could do what I want when I wanted and since this was the last leg I decided to make the most of it before I went home. I caught up with some friends that I had met earlier on we sat down and ordered some traditional Turkish food and do what I always do and exchange stories. One of the biggest attractions in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque and is free to the public as long as you cover up so, they have a place where you can borrow some scarves for this. Now I’m guessing it’s called the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles on the walls of the interior. I have previously visited a Mosque in Melbourne but nothing on a scale quite like this. Turkey is an Islamic country where people pray multiple times at the same time every day. This reminded me of where my parents were raised in Malaysia which has also has a large population of Muslims and prayers are played over the loudspeaker and can be heard all over town, if anyone has visited an Islamic country they will know what I mean when the sirens come on to call to prayer and a very calming voice that echos around the whole city every day as part of their religion.
For market lovers you will not be disappointed there are many around the city but none more famous the the Grand Bazaar. Since it was my last stop I decided to do some gift shopping, you can walk around for hours and find some stuff that only certain shops have. I ended up finding a bracelet in one of the markets which is my favorite one out of all the ones I bought the whole trip. Remember at markets especially the ones there you can bargain them down, there are a million shops with the same thing so they want your business believe me. I would love to have bought a few things to bring back but the size of certain things were to big and fragile. Buying a Sultan’s Knife didn’t go down to well at the Airport security either, keep that in mind even though it’s a souvenir it is still considered a weapon hah. I brought back with me a Backgammon board something I learned how to play whilst in Turkey (haven’t played it since). Like Greece I was on a massive Kebab binge here in Istanbul. I tried multiple places only to be disappointed, it had nothing on my Ken’s Kebab back home though I can’t complain it was only a fraction of the price. I think eating that one out of the back of a van didn’t help when I woke up in the middle of sleep with the most hectic stomach pains, luckily the toilet was free I’ll just leave it at that. I caught up with some friend’s Greg and Lauren who are brother and sister who were on my boat during the sail. They were going to be leaving later that day so we decided to go for a stroll to for some lunch and chat about our experiences so far in Istanbul. After I saw them off I went walking the streets further and further out, I think exploring places outside the tourist zone is where you discover the country for what it really is. I’d say people looking for some culture should definitely go to Istanbul, I didn’t get a chance to explore the Asian side of Turkey but from what I hear the food markets there are really unique and have a lot of fresh seafood. As for the nightlife there are a few clubs in Taksim but my partying at this point was done for the trip, I was more then happy to sit at a bar and talk to some other travelers. I’d say everything is relatively cheap, especially accommodation compared to most the places in Europe and depending where you eat can stretch out you’re dollar. As for getting around Istanbul it is very big and crowded so your best bet is catching the tram’s they are cheap and running frequently, I definitely don’t advise taxi’s unless going to the airport.