Istanbul Must Do’s

Since our 6 week stint in Istanbul will likely be coming to a close soon, I thought I would make a list of Do’s and Don’ts if and when you come to the city…and you really should. We loved it here!
DO Visit…
The Kariye Church. It’s called the Chora Church in English. It’s a little out of the way… had to take a bus from Eminounu to Edirnekapi, but people will be happy to point you the way from there. It’s just about the oldest church you can find around here, and the art is quite beautiful. Since Turkey is the foundation of the growth of the Christian church, it’s very interesting to see. Then nearby there you can climb the Ottoman walls like I did. I felt like I was doing something illegal, but nobody stopped me, so it was fine! It was a gorgeous view. The steps are super skinny to get up, as you can see:


The Basilica Cistern: An underground cistern they discovered, then added really cool lighting and lots of fish. A legend about the Medusa’s heads found here is that they turned them on their sides or upside down to avoid having to look them in the eye and get turned into stone.

Any and all mosques that you get a chance! You will be surprised at their variety and vastness. This one was nicknamed R2D2 by Jacob.

A Whirling Dervish performance. Sufis are a mystical sect of Islam. They believe by whirling around they will achieve oneness with God. We listened to Islamic music before the dervishes started whirling. Jacob and I had different impressions of this however; I thought the flute added a lot to the performance, while he thought the flutist was making tons of mistakes and the other players were getting frustrated with him! Who knows? We saw it at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center.

Miniaturk. They’ve got miniature versions of all the beautiful sites in Turkey, as well as some abroad, such as the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Plus there’s info on Ataturk, who truly changed the focus of Turkey from one of conquering and imperialism to that of economy and secularization from Islam. And these people worship this guy. His image is everywhere.
Hagia Sophia: Bridge to the Asian Side

Don’t Stay at the Budget Hostel unless you’re no more than two people! It’s really very small. But we lived here quite comfortably for 6 weeks. And made some great friends. Umer is a humble, helpful, happy guy who can’t speak English and is kind of a secondary housekeeper. And then this other guy has a name I can’t pronounce let alone spell, and he loves to insistently converse with us with only three phrases that can mean everything: “finish” “problem” and “very good.”

Do Attend the Istanbul LDS Branch! You’ll meet some very kind people. We were invited to dinner with two families. Both had very small children who we enjoyed hanging out with! But Babil Sokak can be hard to find. It’s a little street near a main tourist hub, Taksim Square. It took us three weeks to find it. Last Sunday we got to work in the nursery and Jacob had little girls climbing all over him like a jungle gym. Very cute :)

Jacob had aspirations of growing up to be a squirrel when he was young, so he was excited to meet another young guy who believes he is currently a squirrel! Allison, the youngest, was mesmerized by Barney.

This family has three little boys all 5 and under! We admire Christine for staying at home with these three little energy balls: Atticus, Sherman, and Sincy. And as a side note, we saw dolphins jumping in the Bosphorus on the ferry to their apartment. Very cool!

 

Don’t order”steved” fish! Or eat at any of the fish restaurants along the Marmara near Sultanahmet. They are tourist traps. They told us “Turkish music” to lure us in as we perused the menu. When we got inside, we realized it was just a guy pretending to play cheesy pop songs along on a player piano with some of his own additions totally off-key. It was actually pretty hilarious. It sounded horrible. At the same time, there were actually no other tourists there, but a bunch of Turkish people dressed up to the nines. Was this their idea of classy? We decided a better way to celebrate Friday the 13th (always a good day for us because it was our first date) was to buy a Dido bar and play some SkipBo.

Do get
a Turkish haircut! Although admittedly I felt queasy as I got my hair done–because the people working frantically on my hair couldn’t speak English and the girl didn’t use scissors but a razor thing that literally shaved layers off of my hair, so much so that I feared I would go bald, and I even stopped her, which I have never done, to say, “Don’t you think it’s getting a little thin?” but of course she didn’t understand and just kept going– I was very pleased once it was finished! And you get spoiled for only 15 Turkish lira, which is like 9 bucks.

Don’t Visit…
The Pera Palas Hotel unless you are obsessed like I was to see the place where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express. It’s currently being renovated. On the other hand, maybe when you all come out here to visit it will be finished and you can go inside to see the room where it was written! Kai, this is for you… since you liked the movie so much:

Or don’t visit the Hagia Sophia or Topkapi Palace Harem without a tour guide. I can’t say that for certain, because we didn’t get one, but without a tour guide you’re just looking at stuff without knowing the significance of it, which can be confusing/boring even if very cool-looking/important.

 

 

Do just go out exploring–you never know what you’ll find. My last venture I discovered a lovely view of the Olympic stadium, for example:

Some say Istanbul is overpopulated with 15 million residents, but I’m a city girl at heart, so I appreciate this:


The end.

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 366 awesome articles for us.

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