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#SETRAVELS: Busy Streets and Breathtaking Sights in Turkey

I’ve been wanting to go to Turkey for a few years now and last month I finally buckled down and booked a ticket. I flew into Istanbul and spent four days there before catching a flight to Cappadocia, a bus to Pamukkale, another bus to Antalya and then flying out. Two weeks later and I hardly scratched the surface but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Style Empire - Istanbul

After landing in Istanbul Ataturk Airport, we caught a taxi to our hotel in the Old Town, Sultanahmet. We spent two nights there and visited a few historical landmarks such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Mosque, Basilica Cistern and even went for a Turkish bath. Everything was very walkable but there is a tram for those who prefer transportation and taxis can be found fairly easily. We sauntered along the streets and were lost more often than not but we found ourselves at the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar before making out way to a few of the mosques.

Style Empire - Istanbul, Basilica Cistern
Style Empire - Istanbul, Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)Style Empire - Istanbul, Chenessa Lam outside of the Blue Mosque
Style Empire - Istanbul, Sultanahmet Mosque
Style Empire - Istanbul, Grand Bazaar
Style Empire - Istanbul, Spice Bazaar

For our second (and last two) days in Istanbul was spent in Beyoğlu, a district located on the European side of Istanbul. We stayed at the Misafir Suites located right off Istiklal Street, a bustling pedestrian street with plenty of shops, restaurants and cafés. Unlike Sultanahmet, where life calms down once the sun sets, in Beyoğlu, it seems that life lights up once the sun goes down. During the day, there are many sites to see, such as the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Galata tower and the Bosphorus sea. Beyoğlu is basically open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Style Empire - Istanbul Istiklal CaddesiStyle Empire - Istanbul, Galata Tower (Chenessa Lam)Style Empire - Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace

There were two other destinations I wanted to visit while in Turkey: Cappadocia, known for its spectacular landscape, and Pamukkale, known for its hot springs and travertines. From Istanbul, I took a flight to Kayseri, the closest airport to Cappadocia and spent one night in Göreme, a city within Cappadocia, in a cave hotel and explored all the area had to offer.

Cappadocia offers a landscape unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. From centuries past, the elements have eroded layers of volcanic ash forming conical rock formations. In the early hours of the day (usually from 5am to 8am) hot air balloons litter the sky and that is a sight in itself. From fairy chimneys and rock churches to underground cities, Cappadocia is bound to take your breath away.

Style Empire - Cappadocia
Style Empire - Cappadocia Zelve
Style Empire - Cappadocia, Hot Air Balloons
Style Empire - Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons

From Cappadocia, I took a 10 hour overnight bus to Pamukkale. There is no other way to get from point A to point B, so I sucked it up and made way way over. Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, consists of natural hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. The ancient city of Hierapolis surrounds the travertines and when visiting Pammukale, one must bathe in the calcium infused waters.

My last few days in in Turkey were spent in Pamukkale and it was incredible. Unlike the bustling streets of Istanbul, Pamukkale is much quieter with many family run hotels and restaurants and although tourists flock to see the Cotton Castle, it still remains untainted.

Style Empire - PamukkaleStyle Empire - Pamukkale TravertinesStyle Empire - Pammukale Travertines (Chenessa Lam)

After two weeks, was time to say “Good Bye”. I didn’t want to leave but I had a plane ticket and couldn’t miss my flight. Instead of going back up north to Istanbul, I took another bus (this time only 5 hours long) to Antalya, and parted ways with this beautiful country and everything it had to offer.

What We Ate
– Mezes: Turkish tapas which may be hot or cold and may include beef, lamb, or fish. You’ll also find fresh green beans and cacik (yogurt, cucumber and garlic).
– Pide: Turkish pizza. A thin crust is topped with cheese, egg, meat, chicken or fish and then heated in an oven.
– Kofte: Turkish meatballs. They can be found as street food (often wrapped in a pita) or in restaurants served with rice and salad.
– Kebab: Large skewers of chicken or beef are cooked slowly on a rotating grill. The cook slices strips from the skewer to serve in a wrap or on a plate, usually with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. This is often found as street food but can also be found in restaurants.
– Baklava: Layers of phyllo pastry filled with nuts then covered with honey or syrup. This ought to satisfy any sweet tooth.
– Turkish Delight: A sweet solid jelly (which comes in different flavours) dusted with icing sugar. Another one for the sweet tooth!

Good To Know
– The local currency is the Turkish Lira. Most places take the Lira or Euro but it’s best to have Lira on you for the best exchange rate. In larger cities, you can also use credit cards but in smaller towns, cash is best.
– In Mosques baring shoulders, knees and excessive skin can be offensive. Headscarves must also be worn in the mosques. If you don’t have one, they have ones you can borrow but keep in mind, they have been worn many times before.
– Hotels are plentiful, no matter what your budget. Research the area you want to stay in (Asian side vs European side) and then search online for the best prices. We stayed in a 4* hotel in the Sultanahmet district for just over $100 CAD.
– Getting around is fairly easy. We walked most of the time and when we went from city to city, flights are relatively inexpensive if booked in advance. Busses also run regularly, however they will take up more time.
– Get lost and enjoy the scenery!

– Chenessa Lam

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