The city where your child becomes a rock star. The city where East meets the West. And one of the last cities where people treat strangers as a family. Insanely culturally rich. Insanely friendly. The one and only. Istanbul.
We arrived on a rainy December day and we'd be fools if we thought the rain would stop. It never did. But it evoked we had that city to ourselves. And let me tell you, it was the best feeling. No tourists, just locals. We became an attraction. But not because of myself or my husband. Not at all. Blame our son. That kid was a hero. A superstar. Everywhere we went, people adored him. They wanted to picked him up, played with him, spoiled the heck out of him. Every store we went to, every restaurant we ate at, people were giving us free toys (remember the story here?). We left with a fuller suitcase than the one we came with. And even today we can't fully understand what has really happened.
One evening, after a satisfying cup of coffee, the azan (the Islamic call to prayer) started and in that empty street of ours, with rain dripping on a cobblestone street, we felt welcomed. We found ourselves right in between Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque, and as we listened to the beautiful voice of muezzin, felt the rain soaking our skin, something intriguing happened. Those are the magic moments you'll never forget. And every time our memory takes us back to those special places of our fantastic brain, the feel, the vibe of that particular moment, quickens. Comes alive, once again. Real treasure right there, let me tell ya.
If you see pictures of Basilica Cistern (and no, sadly I don't have any), no travel guide, nothing can prepare you for the majestic beauty that visually appears in front of your eyes. Underground kingdom with lines of ancient columns, that are buried in the water. The opportunity of walking through this marble paradise makes the experience surreal. All you can hear are tiny drops falling down the water that surrounds you everywhere. And if you come to visit Istanbul in December, this is the perfect place to hide from the rain;).
Those empty streets were becoming quickly familiar as we spent all day wandering around. If you are like me and want to always bring something from your travels, please, do wander. You will find some amazing stores and usually all it takes is to take one or two streets off the main shopping one. Istanbul has great bazaars as well. We visited the main two: Grand Bazaar and Egyptian (Spice) bazaar. Both of them are wonderful and very close from each other. But again, take one or two streets away from them, and you will find yourself lost in between Turkish people, who will not bargain over your child but mainly adore him.
Interacting with locals is so important. It puts the reality into perspective and rather than listening to what media want you to believe, here is a chance for you to truly understand the culture. We had a blast not only with the locals but also just random travelers. I do believe this city is visited by the most interesting and cool people. Not only our luggage was full, but my wallet was also loaded with new cards and contacts. And stories, so many of them. Leaving the beautiful city richer is an understatement. I left only to learn that nothing is same anymore. That part of me has changed again. For better. And if you let those places to do the same thing to you, the never stopping growth of yours will be forever performing the happy dance. I love you Istanbul, you were so good to us.
All photos are taken by me.