|The Blue Mosque at sunset from above|
Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly raving about our travels and destinations on this blog and I hope it doesn't come across as disingenuous but I write what I feel and lately I've been feeling really grateful for the path Joe and I have chosen and the ability to see so many cities & countries. It's been teaching me that a positive outlook often leads to positive experiences and my raving is a reflection of that and certainly not insincere.
With that being said, Istanbul... Wow. We arrived to a sort of organized chaos in Ataturk International Airport and as we weaved in and out of taxis making our way to our prearranged transport, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about this destination. We've grown quite accustomed to the shiny, comfortable kind of travel to fully developed European cities and we were immediately reminded that this was going to be different. Not completely different, but different enough to notice.
Istanbul was unfamiliar enough to feel slightly exotic and exciting without going so far as to feel strained. We found found ourselves wandering through crowded streets filled with both pleasant and nauseating smells and then later, down deserted, cobblestone paths to funky cafés fit for any cosmopolitan city. One minute I'd be pulling my scarf up to cover my hair and bare arms to step into a mosque and the next, shopping alongside girls in miniskirts. We'd be awestruck by magnificent architecture standing strong and beautiful through hundreds of years and the falls of empires and then climb staircases of a derelict building still home to several families despite its complete disrepair. It's clear that Istanbul straddles more than just two continents.
Joe and I were in wonderment for the duration of our five days in Turkey's (and the world's) largest city. Each morning we were anxious to explore more and then collapsing into bed exhausted yet exhilarated after a full day. When Sunday rolled around and our return flight to Norway loomed, neither of us felt ready to leave Istanbul. There was so much more to see, learn and eat. That city dug a place in my heart even if it wasn't all shiny and perfect.