It was October and in Belgrade it already started feeling like autumn, therefore I decided I would love to visit a city I have never been to. Finally my friends and I agreed to travel to Istanbul. We flew with a direct Air Serbia flight from Belgrade. The flight went amazingly well, and very soon we landed at the new Istanbul Airport. At the moment I was amazed with the size, and modern architecture of the airport which looked like it was built in the future. The airport also features a huge area with a variety of cafes, restaurants, bars and shops. There is always something for everyone's taste.
Places to visit in Istanbul
The hotel was very close to the famous Ayasofya mosque, and I decided to visit it the same day. The Ayasofya is an important Byzantine structure in Istanbul and it is also one of the world's greatest monuments. It was built as a Christian church in the 6th century under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Later on it became a mosque, a museum, and a mosque again.
The beauty and the power of this structure amazed me. Walking in the close gardens and parks takes you back in time, and shows you the historic importance of this place.
Next day, I decided to visit one of the most iconic places in Istanbul, Dolmabahce Palace. This palace was built in the 19th century, it is a symbol of the modern age of the Ottoman Empire. It is designed in contemporary European style, and actually it is the largest palace in Turkey and contains 285 rooms, 46 halls, and hammams as well as the Harem. I was amazed by the luxury that surrounded many Ottoman emperors, and beautiful architecture which makes this place timeless.
Before Dolmabahce palace, Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans. During the empire, over 4,000 people were living here with their families. Within the walls there are many sacred Islamic relics on display, extensive exhibitions and a museum, definitely also a beautiful place to visit, just a few steps away from Ayasofya.
Istanbul from the Bosporus
Good idea for any traveller is to see Istanbul from the Bosporus which is the natural strait and an internationally significant waterway. It forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, and divides Turkey by separating Anatolia from Thrace. Also separates Istanbul from the European and Asian part. The best way to see the grandiosity of this 31km long strait is to take a boat ride. There are multiple stations across the Istanbul coast where people can take a boat ride, and I would definitely recommend doing that just before the sunset. The boat ride takes approximately 1,5 hours and the boat took us from a place close to Galata Tower, sailed across the Bosporus for an hour and then back to the same place. There are many grandiose villas and buildings that overlook the water, as well as many ships and boats taking the same route as we did. It was just amazing watching the sunset and the orange colour shining over this beautiful city.
Shopping in Istanbul
For the people who really like to shop, Istanbul is the place to be. With the large market place called Grand Bazar you could just come to Istanbul with an empty suitcase and fill it within no time. It is one of the oldest covered markets, and also one of the largest markets in the world. There are over 60 narrow streets which offer more than 5,000 shops, hammams, a mosque, and restaurants. Inside you can purchase spices, furniture, antiques, jewellery, watches, clothes, textiles and many different things. Truly amazing and unique, also I felt here the culture of price negotiation. I found my skills in this field pretty good, and I felt pretty proud of that. I added many different teas into my large tea collection.
Balat - a part of the city that will amaze you
For the last day of my Istanbul visit, I left the most colourful part of the city called Balat. Balat is located in the European side of Istanbul, and definitely is the most photographed place in this area. Many colourful buildings, with amazing cafes and restaurants which cover the whole area, are definitely a magnet for tourists and locals. The atmosphere is very lively and very different from just a few streets away. If you want to have a great travel photo and to enjoy amazing food, this is the place to be.
Everywhere around there are many fine restaurants with usual Turkish food and amazing Turkish delights. The prices are really reasonable and the service is amazing as all Turkish food. People are polite, and always ready to help. The city itself is very clean, and even though the population of this city is over 15 million. In many areas of the city there are more old city vibes, rather than metropolis as it is.
This is a very unique and beautiful place to visit, and I must truly recommend it to everyone.
I finished my trip with a wish to come back very soon, and to bring all my friends so they can also feel and fall in love with this amazing place. There is nothing better than discovering cities like this by yourself and your loved ones.
Daniel Neda, Cabin Crew, Air Serbia