Friday, January 1, 2016

Istanbul with Poorna

Once Christmas was over, we packed our bags and headed for Istanbul! My friend, Poorna, had been in India for a wedding the week of Christmas and decided to stop in Turkey for a few days on her way home! We were meeting her in Istanbul, spending the weekend there, and then all coming back to Izmir for a few days.  I was super excited to see her and to have a visitor and her visit didn't disappoint!

The day after Christmas, Mike and I headed to Istanbul so we could meet Poorna at the airport.  Our flight got in about the same time as her and we found each other pretty easily at the airport.  We had rented an AirBnB for the night, so we headed that way so we could drop off Poorna's bags.  I love the idea of AirBnB, but we always seem to have a few issues.  We waited for the owner to come and let us in for what seemed like a half an hour. There has to be a better way to arrange meeting the owner, but Mike and I haven't figured it out and always seem to have a few issues.  Once we met the owner and were let in to the apartment, we were pretty content with the size and the location.  

By that point, though, we were starving and were  in desperate need for lunch.  Our apartment was pretty close to a bunch of restaurants and we found one that had traditional Turkish food.  Mike got an Adana kebap, while Poorna and I both got the mezze sampler.  Oh. My. Gosh.  I'm still dreaming of that sampler.  It had hummus, yogurt, baba ghanush, stuffed grape leaves, and pita bread.  Both Poorna and I were in heaven.  Mike said his kebap was delicious also. 

Once we were fed and rested, it was time to start sight seeing.  Mike and I are pretty familiar with the touristy section of Istanbul, so we knew where to go and what is worth seeing, but Poorna later said that she was pretty confident she could have done this by herself if we hadn't been there because Istanbul is so easy to navigate. Our first stop was the Aya Sofia, which is basically in the middle of the tourist section.   Despite the fact that it hasn't been taken care of very well, I still think you can see the beauty that was once there.  Instagram filters help, too :)

Thanks Poorna for letting me steal your photos! I forgot my camera.....
Our next stop was the Blue Mosque.  We couldn't go inside because it was time for prayer, but we did walk around the courtyard and admire it from the outside.  Honestly, I think the outside and the courtyard are the best parts.  The inside is beautiful, but if you don't see it, you aren't missing that much. 

Why, hello Blue Mosque! Aren't you just beautiful?

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Afterwards, we still had a little bit of time, so we went to Topkapi Palace, which I think is a must-see in Istanbul.  It's just so massive and there are so many different rooms and views to see when you're there.  We've been every time we're in Istanbul and I think we've finally figured out that you must get there early in the morning.  Despite the lack of crowds everywhere else, there were still lines to get in to the room with the jewels (the Treasury) and some of the other more popular places.  We didn't end up doing everything, but I feel like Poorna got a good feel of the palace.

When we were finished there, we were all pretty exhausted and needed to recuperate before dinner, so we headed back to the apartment for a little relaxation.  Mike found a Thai restaurant that we wanted to try so after an hour or so of rest, we made our way there.  There isn't a lot of ethnic food in Izmir, so we always try to eat ethnically when we're traveling.  Despite having to walk up the world's tallest hill (or at least it felt that way), the food was totally worth it.   I had a duck dish, Poorna had chicken and Mike had steak.  We split a bottle of wine and by nine o'clock, we were all completely full and ready for bed.

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Mike's steak at the Thai restaurant

The next day, we had the morning to sight see before we had to check out of our AirBnB and get to the airport.  Mike and I try to do or see something new every time we have a visitor, so we wanted to do Dolmabache with Poorna since we hadn't been there and had heard rave reviews.  It's a little removed from the rest of the touristy sights, but it's totally worth the metro ride.  

So, for a little history lesson...Topkapi was the old palace of the Sultans and then Dolmabache was the new palace.  It's where Attaturk, the founder of modern day Turkey, died.  Topkapi is interesting because there is so much to see, but Dolmabache is incredible because of how extravagant it is.  It is usually grouped with Versaille and other big palaces. It's beautiful!   I can't imagine living somewhere like that.  The secretary's room was as big as our master bedroom! INSANE!  It's definitely worth the metro ride out there and I'm os glad we took the tour.

Never would have thought the girl I met in Yearbook would be my palace exploration buddy.
photo cred to Poorna :)
Once we picked our jaws up off the floor and finished the tour, we still had a little bit of time before we had to catch our flight.  TripAdvisor recommended doing the Little Aya Sofia.  Honestly, I thought it was pretty, but nothing special.  Maybe I'm getting jaded, but I just didn't think it was anything too incredible.  

We grabbed lunch at a Chinese restaurant and made our way to the airport to head to Izmir.  I feel like Poorna definitely got a good taste of Istanbul and Turkish culture during her first two days.  You could probably spend weeks or months in Istanbul, but you can also spend two days and get a good taste of the city, which I feel like she did.


After a little fitbit hiatus due to battery issues, I'm back and tracking each step!

Saturday: 30,565 steps!
Sunday: 18,188 steps