The Boy and I landed in Istanbul on the evening of the 24th of May, and we absolutely crashed. We flew into the Gokcen airport, which is a little farther away from the main, touristy portions of the city (cheaper flights!). There’s a shuttle (Hava Bus) that goes straight from outside the airport to Taksim square, and charges just 14TL per person (which is super cheap). But it does take almost an hour. Since we had no place to be in a hurry, that was fine with us.
When we got to Taksim, though, we were absolutely famished. Suitcases in tow and yelp in hand, we found our way to a small restaurant called the Oz Urfa Kebap. This being our first meal in Turkey, we didn’t know what to order. The super sociable waiter recommended that we get the mixed grill platter.
I have no words to describe how absolutely delicious the BBQ chicken, beef and lamb was. The kebabs were out of this world, and were served with a tomato sauce and a yogurt dip. The Boy and I polished off the platter (which could probably have served three). We have a very stringent sharing policy: If there were 3 pieces of any single type of kebab, we each got 1.5. No compromise.
Post lunch, we started walking again. Our hotel actually turned out to be quite far from Taksim (we had to change two train lines, and then walk a good 15 minutes). By the time we got to our hotel (Maritime Hotel in Sultanahmet) we were absolutely exhausted. We set our alarms for an hours snooze, and woke up 6 hours later.
Yep, we basically slept the our whole first day in Turkey away. We were ridiculously disappointed in ourselves!
But we more than made up for it by being super responsible adults the next morning. We’d heard that there were wild lines for Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia, so we got to Topkapi exactly at 9 a.m. Once there, just to hedge our bets, we each purchased the Museum Pass. It allows you to skip lines at multiple museums, the most important being Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and the Harem quarters at the Palace. It’s for 85 TL (about 30$) and valid for 5 days.
Topkapi was a dream. The palace is gorgeous, and they have fantastic displays of huge historical value, especially to the Islamic faith. There are relics and historical pieces from the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and even older, such as relics from the time of Noah. The Treasury section contains absolutely breathtaking jewels from various periods of history. It also houses invaluable items that were gifted to various Caliphs over decades. The brilliance and sizes of diamonds and other precious stones in the Treasury if astounding! Unfortunately they don’t allow any photography. If you visit Istanbul, though, a visit to the Topkapi Palace is a must!
Also housed within the Palace, but requiring separate entry, is the Harem. These were the women’s quarters, and are stunning in the beauty of the architecture.
After Topkapi, tbh everything else seemed to pale in comparison. We went to the Hagia Sophia, toured the Grand Bazaar, and realized that there was too much to see in Istanbul and we hadn’t scheduled enough days in the city per our itinerary! What came next was a flurry of activity on our phones, as, sitting on a bench facing the Blue Mosque, we quickly cancelled all our Turkey bookings and created a whole new itinerary for the remainder of our trip!
What came next was the craziest 48 hours of our whole Honeymoon! Read about the rest of our Turkey trip here!