Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Christmas in Istanbul, Turkey

^^ our view from the roof top^^
^^ there were dogs all over the streets, but they were so nice and well taken care of too^^
^^we found a Christmas tree^^
^^ in front of Sultan Ahmed Mosque in our taqiyahs^^
^^ lavash with a yogurt cucumber dip and a meat pie^^
When looking for plane tickets to Asia, the cheapest ones left on Dec. 23, with a 6 hour layover in Istanbul. Making it so we would be spending most of Christmas on a plan to China. We figured why not extend our layover to 32 hours and spend Christmas in Istanbul. And after 17 hours of travel we were happy to be spending Christmas Eve on the ground.We were not expecting for it to feel Christmas-y in a predominantly Muslim country. But as we drove along side the wall of Constantinople on our way to old Istanbul the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" came on the radio. While listening it was hard not to noticed the red and green flashing lights of traffic, proving that no matter where you go in the word it can feel like Christmas.

Once we got to our hostel we went exploring and did not expect to find such an amazing view of the Hagia Sophia on our roof top. I recommend the Mavi Guesthouse to anyone. After settling in we walked the restaurant filled streets to have lavash with a yogurt cucumber dip and a meat pie for dinner. Then went to find baklava for dessert. There is evidence of the cities history everywhere. Many of the restaurants have remains of buildings and archways from Constantinople, we ate our dessert atop the remains of the Great Palace of Constantino (Palatium Magnum).

On this trip across Asia we had to pack for warm and cold weather. In the attempt to bring warm clothes and save space we bought long thick socks to keep our legs warm. Plus being Christmas Eve these socks doubled as our stockings. I know that stockings are one of Blake's favorite traditions, so I packed some goodies to fill them with the next morning. So before bed the stocking were hung and a spread of cookies were laid out, as Blake and I celebrated the birth of Christ in our little room in Istanbul.

On Christmas day we were in walking distance to everything we wanted to visit. We ate roasted chestnuts for the first time as we walked to the park between the Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmed Mosque (blue mosque). Once there it felt like we had just stepped into a post card. The streets smelt like lamb kebabs and spices, and there was an abundance of Turkish delights to sample as we walked to the Grand Bazaar. Another charming thing about walking the streets of Istanbul was as the call to prayer rang through the city, pigeons took flight from every corner. There are more then just the two famous mosques, but smaller ones scattered around as well, even inside the Grand Bazaar.

Now the Grand Bazaar, Oh my! Let me just quote Blake, "Coolest shopping experience I have ever had", and it truly was. They had everything you could imagine, lots of carpet and scarf booths, and lots of metal working goods. The place is a 60 street covered market, so we in no way explored the whole thing. We did however walk around till we got lost and found a few treasures to bring home.

The last place we stopped was the basilica cistern. Again another reminder of how old this city is. 

As night began to fall we made our way back to the main park. There we ate random things from different vendors like a potato cheese crape thing, pomegranate juice, and some fruity taffy on a stick. Then were convinced to buy taqiyahs (hats) that Blake enjoyed so much he wore his all the way to the air port that night. For dinner, two men, one from Egypt the other from Yemen shared their food with us and we spent the rest of the night enjoying their company, along with others from around the middle east.  


  1. Wow! Those sites look amazing! How fun to be able to travel the world a little.