On the spice route

A trip to Turkey truly opens a window to an exotic world. So when I had to make an official trip to Istanbul, I decided to stay back for a few days and explore the city. Though I had read about the city and heard about it from my friends who had visited the place, I was truly in for a surprise when I landed at the Ataturk Airport.

The first signs of welcome was snow - those little flakes floating and dropping gently. Since it was my first experience of snow, like an eager child, I touched a flake and was thrilled. The official meeting was a great experience, but the holiday began when my husband joined me from Bengaluru. We moved to a lovely homestay run by three men and an excellent housekeeper-cum-cook. This place was located in the heart of the city. We planned our next four days carefully since time was very short. It was clear that we would not visit other cities in Turkey due to the unpredictable weather.

In fact in the four days that we stayed there, we were not able to cover the entire city of Istanbul, so we did not feel bad about missing out on the other cities. Well, there is always the next time. One day, we planned to visit the Grand Bazaar. As we entered, we saw why it was called the Grand Bazaar -- the goods and the market was opus.

The salesmen were selling everything from shoes, bags, embroidered handiworks, carpets, draperies, handmade crockery, artefacts to name a few. One of my favourite jobs is to haggle and bargain, which I believe I did quite successfully. We walked around and returned to our room. It was a beautiful homestay with warm owners and a caretaker. We had dinner at Fuccini and retired for the night.

The next day we opted for a cruise on the Bosphorous Strait. We saw the Asian and European sides of Istanbul.The influence was seen in the architecture. We then had a lovely lunch and visited a fishing village. We did not see any fishermen, but plenty of friendly dogs. Being an animal lover, I thoroughly enjoyed feeding biscuits to them.
Apparently the Government is very active in protecting cats and dogs. They are vaccinated, neutered and medicated. The next day was spent at the Blue Mosque (called Sultanahmet Camii), which was built by Sedefkar Mehmet Aga between 1609-1616.

The mosque is a fascinating structure with its six minarets and it is the only six-minaret-mosque in Turkey. Though I have seen several other monuments this was something beautiful. At the entrance, I was given a blue scarf to cover my head and plastic covers to be worn over our shoes.

We then went to experience hamams (Turkish baths). It was relaxing and the experience was refreshing. The spice market was the target for the next day. After having a delicious breakfast made by Gulten (the housekeeper) we moved out to a rainy and breezy experience. The colourful spice market was a pleasure for the eyes.
It had all types of sweets (we visited the famous sweet shop Güllüoglu), spices,
magnets, handmade artefacts and everything a tourist would like to see.

The other places were the Dolmabahce Palace, Clock Museum, Crystal Palace and Galata Tower Palace. Broken magnets and crockeries were used as tiles. As vegetarians we had a good meal of pides, lentil soup and gozleme and of course baklava, a Turkish delight.

Our trip to Turkey left us enriched but yearning for more. This is one country which we would like to visit again sometime in future.

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