As published in the Wakulla News.
Of all the places you’ll visit, Turkey will have the most pleasurable impact on your senses. Historic Istanbul, is located between Europe and Asia and divided by the Bosphorus Straight. Discover a riot of colors, sounds, and smells awaiting you around every corner.
Exotic and foreign, Istanbul is a feast for the eyes. Imagine: fairytale towers jutting up in to the sky, up lit and majestic at night: colorful merchandise spilling out on to the street, trollies lumbering past so close you can touch them, and giant slabs of meat spinning in restaurant windows. The Hagia Sophia, a museum, began in 537 as a church, then a mosque. Glittering mosaics, uncovered during restoration, are reminder of it’s Christian past. Nearby, six minarets pierce the sky at the Blue Mosque, built in 1617 to outshine the Hagia Sophia. Marvel at the kaleidoscopic patterned tiles that cover the walls, and colored glass windows of Topkapi Palace. Take a cruise on the Bosporus Straight and watch boat traffic drift by as it has for centuries.
Listen and you will hear a call to prayer, five times a day. This call, broadcast across the city on loudspeakers, is woven in to the daily life. The Muslim religion plays an important part in the city of 13 million. Men hurry to the mosque for prayer, and then resume their busy day. The voices around you, are a jumble of sound, languages from many different countries, thankfully English is widely spoken.
With butter soft texture, the beautiful Persian Rugs are almost too nice to walk on. But, whether you want one, or not, a helpful stranger will seemingly offer his assistance, then try to escort you to his friend’s carpet shop. That’s his job. Be prepared to haggle, these folks are pros. If you think you might buy a rug, research price and quality before you leave home.
Wander among the booths at the Grand Bazaar; 3000 shops on over 60 covered streets. Whole sections are devoted to one specialty. Test your skills as a negotiator, and hopefully score a bargain. Explore the Spice Market where hundreds of different smells compete for your attention: pungent spices, exotic teas, chewy Turkish delight, and so much more. Time stands still here. You can still find someone selling leeches to cure disease, right next to someone selling garden seeds. Everywhere the smell of roasting chestnuts, and grilling meats fills the air.
Savor the flaky, sweet, nut covered delight we know as Baklava. It comes in limitless variations. Sample the kebabs: spicy grilled lamb, roasted to perfections, served on warm lavash, a flatbread, smothered in onions, tomatoes and yogurt sauce. Indulge in the many tastes of Istanbul
Finally, return to the Sultanahmet Square and sit listening to the fountain’s tinkling melody. The sensory overload that is Istanbul, may entice you to stay.