Istanbul

This is my hilariously lame attempt at writing a x reason to do y post.

The only city spanning two continents? Not exactly, but it’s definitely the most famous and interesting of them. It’s a short flight from almost anywhere in Europe and a city worth checking out for a whole bunch of reasons. Let’s start with six of them.

It’s different than you (might) think. Many people, especially in western Europe have an image of Istanbul, formed by news reports, their experience with Turkish immigrants in their home country or a previous trip to one of the tourist spots around Antalya or Alanya. If traveling teaches you one thing, it’s, that almost all of your preconceptions will turn out to be either wrong or only part of the whole picture. Istanbul is no different in this regard. It’s a very modern and vibrant place with pretty much the same benefits and problems other megacities have. However, its very (and I mean very) long history and rich culture makes it a lot more interesting to visit than many others.

Speaking of history… A lot of cities claim to have a long tradition, but in Istanbul this really holds true. Constantinople was the heart of the Roman empire for a thousand years and the capital of the Ottoman empire for another five hundred. Hagia Sophia (first a church, then a mosque, now a museum) is just one of the amazing monuments to tell the many tales of Istanbul’s heritage.

Its location is awesome. The foundation of Byzantium and Constantinople may have happened due to more strategic reasons, but its location right at the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus straight not just offers some breath taking views, but also gives Istanbul a great maritime feeling.

**Hamams **Having fallen in love with Turkish baths in Budapest, this was a must visit on my first Istanbul trip. If you need some relaxing during your sightseeing days, those are the places to go.

It’s exciting, vibrant and relaxed all at the same time. You would expect a very stressful time making your way around a big and crowded city, but actually Istanbul feels very relaxed almost laid-back at times. Just manoeuvre your way through busy pedestrian areas and be surprised, that you don’t bump into people all the time. Crossing the streets is also an adventure in itself, traffic lights are really more a recommendation than a strict rule, but it still works out just fine. Needless to say, Istanbul is also a very safe place compared to other cities of its size. Just use common sense and stay out of the typical tourist scams.

Don’t even get me started about Turkish food. I very much hope no one still thinks Turkey is only about kebab. The variety of its cuisine is thrilling. Just google Turkish food and you’ll be booking your flight there in no time.

Bonus reason: it starts to rain? No problem, time to witness, that Istanbulians and visitors alike don’t need to bring an umbrella. Instead they just buy a cheap one from the umbrella sellers, who seem to come out of nowhere once the first drops of rain start to fall. It’s a fascinating sight and yes, I admit: I got one too.