When my wife and I decided we should spend the last week in the year away from Nigeria, I wasn’t keen on thinking through options. I was wondering where to get the best plantain suckers to plant in my farm come January. However, as usual, she has concluded it was Egypt and had gone ahead to inquire about the travel process. She loves Egypt and has always sang into my adventurous ears that I also needed to visit. She had taken a short trip there while on a term abroad in Greece and fell in love with the place. The Egypt plan fell through when I was told at their embassy that holiday visas had been suspended for now. I kinda secretly felt relief, because I really didn’t fancy going to Egypt at this time.
Turkey had always been on the radar for an extended family trip later in 2015 or 2016. It then suddenly became an instant attraction when we found out that tickets were reasonable, less visa wahala, and our dear Ghanaian friend and former New Jersey neighbour breathing down our necks to visit before she gets redeployed. So we zoomed off on the 27th of December without much research on what Turkey held in store for us, except that I was wagging my tail in excitement of seeing the Hagia Sophia. That’s how we plunged ourselves into near zero degrees temperature in Istanbul and wondered what on planet earth we were doing there.
We were however determined to make the trip exciting despite the sorrowful weather, so we decided on the few places we will see and struck out others. This in effect means we have to go back for a full exploration of that country because it is packed with so much history that one needs a full month to make the most of the lessons. So let me share a few pictures and descriptions to whet your travel throat and encourage you to plan a trip out there as well.
The Turks are known for good food great food, so ‘choppings’ was part of our exploratory device. On the 31st of December we settled to a nice gourmet dinner of Sea Bass caught fresh from the Mediterranean, Chicken Kebabs and a glass of fresh pomegranate juice.The rice is so buttery that you can just keep eating it without the risk of Nigerian stew attack. I will also recommend Hotel Amira, right by the Sultan Ahmet area. They produced excellent service and a fantastic breakfast spread. They were also ever ready to poison us with an afternoon of tea and sweets all for free.
Istanbul’s imperial Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I (Sultan Ahmet Camii), is one of the top sights in Istanbul. The mosque is a fine example of Istanbul’s wonderful and was built between 1603-17 by Ottoman architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa. It’s built on the site of the Great Palace of Byzantium.
The one place I really wanted to see is the Hagia Sophia because of its centrality to the Christian Faith. It is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. Wikipedia can give you more details about this amazing building.
Just a short walk uphill from our friends apartment is the famous Galata Tower or Galata Kulesi in Turkish. It is one of the highest and oldest towers of Istanbul. It is a 63 meter (206 feet) high tower provides a panoramic view of the old town. It was built in the 14th century by the Genoese colony as part of the defense wall surrounding their district at Galata directly opposite ancient Constantinopolis. They called the tower as “Christea Turris”, or “Tower of Christ”. The Genoese were involved in trade with the Byzantines and the tower was used for the surveillance of the Harbor in the Golden Horn. After the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet II, it served to detect fires in the city.
It is pomegranate season, so we stopped over for a glass of freshly squeezed juice. By the way, I smuggled back to Lagos 20 huge pomegranates. The bag was so heavy that I almost didn’t want to take them with me to the airport. I’m glad I did as the redness of my intestines can attest to the amount of the juice I have consumed. Can they grow in Nigeria?
The tram going between Galata and Taksim. Taksim has a very long row of shops and stores, high-end to affordable and has a compression of tourists all feeding their eyes or bleeding their pockets.
Going on a tour of the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. The Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles strait to the southwest together form the Turkish Straits. The world’s narrowest strait used for international navigation, the Bosporus connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. You can see both the Asian side and European side of Turkey while on this cruise.
Dolmabahçe Palace located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, Turkey, on the European coastline of the Bosphorus strait. It served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922, apart from a 22-year interval (1887–1909). Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey. It has an area of 45,000 m2 (11.2 acres), and contains 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths and 68 toilets. The construction cost five million Ottoman mecidiye gold coins, 35 tonnes of gold, the equivalent of ca. $1.5 billion in today’s (2013) values.
Yoros Castle (Turkish: Yoros kalesi) is a ruined castle at the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, to the north of Joshua’s Hill, in Istanbul, Turkey. It is also commonly referred to as the Genoese Castle, due to Genoa’s possession of it in the mid-15th century.
The Black Sea behind us
A row of seaside restaurants
Having a go at Blue Fish for the first time. Caught right there at the Black Sea, it came highly recommended and expensive…lol
It was an amazing 10 days of pleasure in the cold. Final dinner in Istanbul before departure