It's hard to say if it's about food, smell, history, religion or people. Maybe it's about cats, music or landscape. Or about working hard and enjoying life. Or, perhaps, Istanbul is about love.
We drove from Piatra-Neamț to Istanbul. About 1.100km. Some will prefer flying, but driving allows you to see more, carry more, enjoy everything more. And boy, you can tell stories while you drive...
Anyway, we first stopped at Nessebar, a small island on the Bulgarian shore, next to Sunny Beach. An amazing little heaven, with Greek and Turkish influences written all over the place. Book a room at Royal Palace, you will get to understand why the Romanian tourism is sinking and the Bulgarian one is thriving.
And Renata wanted some pictures. That's the priviledge of having your own private photographer :) I used the mighty Huawei P30 Pro for all the following images. Once more I can say that it's an amazing piece of hardware. I didn't care for settings, just shot everything on auto and I don't think I've missed much.
As we arrived in the afternoon, we enjoyed some clamshells boiled in white wine and a sip of Bulgarian rum. Everything accompanied by music and amazing service.
Could not resist the temptation of self portrait. And Renata was more than helpful with this :)
Next morning we got up at 4.30 and went on the beach to enjoy the sunrise. Amazing light and really warm.
After breakfast and some shopping we were on our way to Istanbul. Entered in Turkey and Malko Tarnovo, in a beautiful mountain area. Turkish roads were better than expected. We left the car at the Istanbul New Airport parking (40.000 car spaces) and adventured into this amazing city. I will not rumble on the details. But lead you to this city with images and words so that may sparkle your interest.
First stop was at our amazing hotel: Mantion by Sublime Porte. I strongly advise you to consider it for your stay in Istanbul. Sparkling clean, 200m from Sophia and Blue Mosque, modern design, incredible host, absolutely best breakfast, little cute and quiet garden. What else can you want? Oh, small price? Checked!
Then we changed our clothes :) and went to the main attraction: Blue Mosque and Sophia area.
We only visited the great Blue Mosque and walked some streets in the center first evening. Impressions? Muslims and Christians, old and young, black, white and yellow, everyone with big smiles and a strong sense of communion. Of course I saw the military vehicles and soldiers on the sides.
This is unfortunate as I deeply believe we are all the same. And we should not judge other by being different. Anyway, I now can fully appreciate the arab way of dressing-up. You are seing the man, not his clothes. Plus the flow of air during the hot days...
Next day we visited the spice bazar and various mosques and churces in this huge city (more than 20 million inhabitants). Everyone invites you to enter in restaurants and stores. And everyone is happy if you do. They serve you with tea and sweets, they answer every question and they hug you even if you don't buy anything. This is the spirit of Istanbul. Every one is helpful and happy. Nobody said no to a question. I think the red tea they all drink all day long have some effects. Or maybe it's the faith.
Be prepared to walk a lot in Istanbul. Bring confy shoes and clothing. We had an amazing weather (24-27c) but it can get hot here. Istanbul is built on 7 hills, just like Rome. You are always either climbing small streets or go down on ones, with sea peaking at you when you are least expecting.
Our plan was no plan. Of course we had a checklist, but we fell in love with just walking the streets. Suleyman Mosque happened to be in our way.
Just bellow the Mosque we found some places that offered us a different understanding of Istanbul. Pierre Cardin next to burned houses. Kids playing on dirty streets.
Regardless, we felt this is the way Istanbul lives. Tollerance is the key. You know that Sophia has been a church for more than 900 years and mosque for almost 500? Or that Christians were accepted in Istanbul almost without a glitch? That Virgin Mary is still pictured on Sophia walls?
Galata bridge is a must. So is the western shore where you can eat Balik Durum, a simple rolled fish with vegetables at 2 EUR that can be a feast. Throw in the red 'tcheai' and you're ready to walk another 20km. Food is cheap and really good here if you don't hit the main restaurants where everybody goes.
Istanbul is the city of cats and seagulls. But there are quite a few dogs like this one. They all seem brothers. And they all sleep in the most unexpected places.
Next day we went to Taxim, Galata tower, Biserica Sf. Anton and all the myriad streets in the area.
Then we took the bus to Asia and walked to Camlika hill.
In the evening, we could not resist coming back to our shore little garage restaurants for more rolled fish and tcheai (tea).
Third day was reserved for Topkapi palace, Sophia, Basilica Cisterna and Grand Bazar shopping. But first, breakfast!
Here, in Istanbul, there's a street for everything. Sweets, pijamas, buttons, bed lining, scarfs, shoes and so on!
And you can always find refuge from the crowds that flood the streets sitting at a small table and drinking a refreshing red tea.
Fourth day was reserved to some more shopping and finding new streets and places we never visited. Easy job, as Istanbul is huge.
Nobody seem bothered if delivery trucks block the entire street for 5 or 10 minutes. Did I tell you that driving in Istanbul is a real adventure?
Last drinks in Istanbul, last view from above!
Driving back home was a 15 hours journey. We stopped in small villages and asked for coffee and burek. They didn't understand any English but we were always met with a big smile and all the help they could offer! Amazing country, amazing city.
Of course we barely scratched the surface of Turkey. And we are just as ignorant about its history and culture as we were before traveling there. Nevertheless, we fell in love with its people and scenery and we will come back for more!
What do you think about our story?