I realized truthfulness of above statement during my stay in Basel, having lunch with one of my colleague in very beautiful courtyard of Europe’s top Pharmacy Company’s campus in cold march of Switzerland. He just wanted to know whether that was my first visit outside India. Reply to that question has worked for me as self-realization which was never been considered with such attention before by me.
“No. I have been to Hamburg long time back and then to Istanbul for a month just a while back before coming to Switzerland”. That was my self-awaking answer which was positively opinion-ed by my colleague saying “Wow…… You have been to some great places in the world”.
From long time I tried to pen down my travel assays-cum-logs-cum-ramblings to something proper without getting good start each of the time. My Istanbul visit got its start with above incident. Even though I was only for a month in one of the most happening tourist city of world, I stole few weekends to visit well-known historical places and get the feel of this unique, one-of-the-kind city of Turkey.
In a psychological word game where you have to come up instantly with word, “City of minarets and domes dominating the skyline with rich tapestry of history imbued in each nooks and cranny” could be my answer to “Istanbul” (I know this is long answer which is not suitable for psychological mind mapping. I prefer Rorschach test instead :). Istanbul has unique blending of east and west. It is by no means considered as conservative which could be the first impression on anybody considering Ottoman’s dominion and influence over the history. You can see swarm of people following the east and west tradition (of mind as well as also in terms of clothes) seamlessly without any conflict or struggle.
Though city is divided by Bosphorus bay with old town separated with new high-rise clad Europe influenced side of the city, all the tourist attractions are cramped up in Old part of the city. Getting to this part, especially to Sultanahmet where all the historical attractions milling together, reachable via short walks, is itself comprises wonderful journey across Bosphorus with the help of the ferry. On a tourist-heavy day Sultanahmet could compete with Indian “Bazaars”, full of people with rows and rows of shops flagging their biggest attractive products along with small eatery stalls littered around. Opposing to this, there is a wide area decorated as park with fountains and all greenery between and around famous Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.
That leads us to major attractions of Istanbul. You need to have historical affinity to appreciate the importance of Istanbul as visiting attraction. All these attractions carry the abundant amount of historical importance and events on their massively built structural beauty. Hagia Sophia with breathtaking massive dome inscribed with variety artistic depiction of two major religions of world; gigantic interior space adorned with mosaic and symbolism will draw you to utterly time-less experience.
Blue mosque with its six impressive and dominating minarets will leave lasting impression on your mind. Topkapi Palace, Basilica cistern, Taksim Square, Grand Bazaar, Galata Tower and lot other attractions force to have ample planning and time to do proper justice to Istanbul as a tourist place.
Apart from the obvious, just roaming in the old gullies of Istanbul is once-in-a-lifetime experience itself. Aroma of various Turkish çay (Turkish Tea) mingling with various spice and sweet shops smells, sweet shops with large variety of sweets; covering large shades of green and yellow will have instant mouth-watering effect to passersby , display of antiquities and rugs and kilims, Turkish Döner shops providing economical eating options, small corn stalls wafting sweet, sour trails of smoke, these all tends to create a picture which can only be framed with label as Istanbul.
A special mention to Turkish coffee (Only for caffeine aficionados) is required before wrapping up the article. Before tasting Turkish coffee, I was having impressions that nothing can beat strong black coffee in fighting drowsiness (double shot espresso),but so wrong I was. Turkish coffee came in small cup (like you are going to take tequila shot). The thick tar competent sluggish liquid never lose battle against multiple levels of sugar sachet (I suggest not have sugar at all). It is pure caffeine shot, like injecting caffeine through IV tube. Pure bless for coffee lovers. Great instant slap-in-the-face wake up call. Another famous eating “souvenirs” are sweets like Turkish delights and Baklava.
Each city has its own travelling importance, own culture, habits, history, architectures, sometimes unique skylines, natural influence and many more. From travelers point of view no place in this world is less visit able than other. But still some city gain much popularity than others due to sheer number of attractions and experiences to have. Istanbul is such city, never-failing to amuse or surpass the Tourist expectations.