We went to Istanbul after we went to London during Peace Corps. It was basically just a 36 hour layover, and it was the best layover in my life! We got to the Stone Hotel in the snow after dark. I couldn’t believe our view of endless minarets – some modern and some ancient – and the Sea of Marmara.
The next morning we woke up to a blanket of snow that was still falling. I have to admit that whenever I pictured Istanbul or Turkey, I always saw fruit trees and sunshine. I think we were lucky to see Istanbul in a different light.
There is so much history in Istanbul. You can really sense the transition from West to East in the city. It was neat to be in London (west) one day, Istanbul (transition) the next and back in rural Azerbaijan (east) the next.
Aya Sofya is really evidence of this bridge. It was built as the largest church in Christianity, converted to a Mosque (by covering the Biblical mosaics and adding minarets) and is now a museum. It is huge and breathtaking.
Besides the Starbucks, we also bought a hookah and some hand painted tiles. I could have spent an eternity and a fortune in the Grand Bazaar. The shop keepers were always surprised and delighted when we would speak Azeri (which is somewhat close to Turkish) and say things like InshAllah.
Istanbul was a wonderfully beautiful city. I would love to spend more time there exploring the culture, history, architecture and food.