Monday, November 18, 2013

Let's meet about Istanbul?

It all started with the idea of a reunion in Istanbul. By the time we were through with the planning and execution of it, it was a great reunion and a memorable after-reunion roadtrip through Turkey.  Ten of us from JBIMS + two spouses from Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Switzerland, Oman and US made up our reunion group, some of us meeting after 15 years. (My friend Neeta too joined me from Pune, though she chose that we meet only after the reunion for our trip thereafter).

One of the first sights I remember as we landed in Istanbul was of hillsides of red-roofed houses, and the Bosphorous, and the bridges connecting not only two sides of the city but also two continents - Asia and Europe. And as I traveled through the city, soaking in the sights and smells, I couldn't but help the strong feeling of this place having been around for a long long time!

As expected, the stay in Istanbul was spent catching up and chilling out with the group.  Interspersed with a pretty rushed tour of some of Istanbul's landmarks. The Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia) is truly spectacular -- its scale, beauty of the architecture itself, the Christian frescoes are all magnificent. The Blue Mosque is nice too...tho I thought it was actually less blue than the image the name had conjured up in my mind!

I did also manage to visit the underground Basilica Cistern, very small parts of the Grand Bazaar (it is seriously massive, dwarfing our Crawford market in Mumbai many times). We did the Bosphorous ride too...and it was actually a bit of a bore after the hype surrounding it.

Istanbul's trams (and trains to more distant locations in the city) are very convenient to move about. Would strongly recommend that you take these (@ 3 Turkish Lira per ride) as you hop in and out of tourist spots - many of them concentrated around the Sultan Ahmet square.

Istanbul itself has so much to offer visitors that obviously three days is completely insufficient. Well, we met visitors who were spending upto a week or 10 days in Istanbul alone - calling it their "Turkey trip". Obviously there is a lot to do there.

The best way to enjoy Istanbul is to take to the streets...speaking of which, for all the media coverage of public protests in Taksim Square preceding our trip, Istanbul was generally devoid of protests, other than ofcourse some of our reunion group protesting we weren't visiting enough nightclubs, especially as a few of them had arrived in Istanbul 2 or 3 days earlier and had yet to experience the nocturnal side of the city :)

Istanbul is surely noct urnal. Atleast that's what I call a place that has traffic jams at 2 and 3...we had these while getting to and from Raina - a nice, classy, mostly open-air club we went to just off the Bosphorous bridge)...again witnessed the entire streets off Taksim Sqaure packed with pedestrians at 3 am (I didn't however dig the 360 deg club there...or maybe it was my tired not-used-to-clubbing-bones protesting the partying two nights in a row!)

Nothing can beat the pleasure of walking through the city and its many cobbled streets (make sure you wear comfortable footwear)...soaking in the city's multi-hued sights amidst the wafting smells of Doner (the Turkish equivalent of Shawarma), kebap (kababs), carts selling roasted chestnut, and peeking into sweet shops stuffed with Baklawa of many varieties and Turkish Delight.

I could not manage to do too much..The Topkapi Museum, itself requires atleast half a day to do justice! I knew I would have one more day in Istanbul at the end of the was hoping I could get to experience some more of this ancient city.

Here are some of my memories through pictures...There's more to the "road" part of the roadtrip began on the night of Day 3...

Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) - built as a church (ca 537 -1453), converted to a mosque (ca 1453 - 1931), now a museum since 1935

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (aka Blue Mosque) - built ca 1609 to 1616. I particularly loved the multi-coloured stained glass hues streaming through the many windows

The underground Basilica Cistern - built in 6th century during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian
The mostly residential and lush Asia part of Istanbul - at the Bosphorous cruise.


  1. Brilliant Piece Dipali :) Pictures are amazing too.... Look forward to visit Turkey keeping you in mind as my TRAVEL EXPERT :) Happy Travelling!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thanks a lot Poorti! Major credit goes to Neeta for her research and planning, and ofcourse your tip to do Goreme was a jewel! :)