The 90th anniversary of the new Turkey was just celebrated with the inauguration of the recently opened $4 billion, 8.5 million mile rail tunnel that runs almost 200 feet below the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus is the body of water between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, and for centuries has been the path of travelers and also invaders. The significance of the tunnel is that because of its geography, Istanbul has long defined this ancient city as the connection between East and West, where Europe meets Asia and cultures intertwine. The tunnel will not only ease commuter congestion for the city of Istanbul, with its 16 million people, but hopes are that in the future it will facilitate trade between Europe and China.
I have so many stories and photos of Mosques, food, shopping at the Spice Market, the Grand Bazaar, more food, a Sunday afternoon yacht adventure, an evening with International Women of Istanbul at the W Hotel, visit to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi and the Harem, delicious street food adventures as well as dining experiences at top restaurants of the world (honestly the street food is my fav). Then I helped Lynsey to host a Turkish Wine Tasting with Turkish appetizers and cheese at a friend’s home which overlooks the Bosphorus… divine.
My First Turkish Bath
My first Turkish bath or Hamami was quite an experience. When the woman washed me with her ample breasts flopping over my body, I felt like a child relaxing into sleep as she prepared me for the hot marble slab on which I laid with other women from around the world.
I was thrilled to be in Istanbul and also sad thinking I will have to leave Lynsey. Let it suffice to say that my journey continued to provide adventures beyond my wildest dreams. Each day I awoke with health, optimism, and absolutely no idea of what the day will bring…. what better way to spend a sabbatical?
Must Read while in Istanbul – My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Set amid the perils of religious repression in 16th century Istanbul, when the Ottoman Sultans were in control, My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk is a fascinating read while visiting this country steeped in history, art, religion and architecture.
Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia
As I walked off the tram headed to these grand and historical places, it was 5 pm and evening prayers were being called. Again, I was in the right place at the right time. It was an experience unlike any other to descend from that tram to see the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia for the first time, while hearing calls for evening prayers from many different mosques seconds apart — The sounds of reverence were incredible.
When the Mosques closed, I rushed back to Lynsey’s to change for an evening at the W Hotel with the International Women of Istanbul and their significant others. Being with these expats from all over the world who have chosen an international lifestyle, I was reminded of my father and his Pan Am years when we traveled the world, and I was envious of people such as these who had chosen to learn new cultures and languages as a way of life. Being with Lynsey, knowing that she was brave enough to be one of these expats, made for a most enjoyable evening.
Spice Market and Grand Bizarre
Although each day in Istanbul has been filled with adventure, this was my favorite day so far. With Lynsey working, I headed to Topkapı Sarayi Muzesi (Palace) & Harem Dairesi (Apartments) to make sure that I fit these in prior to leaving. There are so many rooms that can be visited in the Palace and in the Harem that I felt like I was a guest. I imagined the life so many centuries ago, as I admired the detail and color throughout with mother of pearl inlays and brilliantly colored and meticulously laid tiles. Thank God I am not a woman in 16th century Istanbul! At the very least, I would have had to be the first wife!
Later I met Lynsey at Topkapı and we headed to a lunch spot that was near the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar and had the best lamb kabob ever….This was authentic Turkish food at its best.
Thinking this lunch couldn’t be topped, Lynsey led us to the Spice Market where I was overwhelmed by the colors, smells and fast pace of the vendors and shoppers.
I will let these photos of the Spice Market speak for themselves. Let it suffice to say that I almost had Lynsey married off to the cashmere scarf salesman, who was relentlessly flirting with her, and that I made great headway with end-of-year Holiday shopping. Thus, too busy haggling to take photos of the Grand Bazaar.
One of my favorite meals in Istanbul…..fresh spices, fried fish sandwich, eating on a bench overlooking the Bosphorus on a warm fall evening…yummm