I’ve dreamed about visiting the majestic city of Istanbul ever since I was first taught about its tumultuous history in elementary school. I was completely enthralled by photos of its color and chaos. From the dramatic architecture of famous mosques to the way the skyline seemed to sparkle like a giant gem set against the Bosphorus. In my mind Istanbul was synonymous with glamour and intrigue. Finally getting the chance to explore the town on my own this year I couldn’t help but revert back into the mind of my 12-year-old self- completely in awe of everything around me.
Despite a hectic arrival (one where the driver assaulted me as my friend ran to the ATM), the city did not disappoint. Our hotel greeted us with delicious cups of apple tea, a drink so sweet you can practically feel your teeth rotting in the most wonderful way. A single sip has enough sugar to wake the dead. After three cups each we were ready to explore the night. Despite the later hour everything was bustling; at 2AM Istanbul was certainly giving New York a run for its money.
Our few days there were exotic and exciting. The unique mix of Eastern and Western cultures (straddling both Europe and Asia) creates a vibrant lifestyle that couldn’t exist in any other setting. It’s a labyrinth of alleyways and hidden passages which all seem to lead to a view that is somehow more beautiful than the previous one.
Any guidebook will tell you about the major landmarks (none of which should be missed of course!), but the most beautiful moments usually happened by accident. Getting lost and ending up having lunch in a kind strangers home somewhere by the water. Trying my first Turkish coffee in Taksim with a group of new Norwegian friends. Having no idea what I was ordering off the menu but ending up with one of the most delicious meals of my life. The constant chaos that at first made me feel anxious eventually helped me realize that the best experiences happen once you finally open yourself up to just going with the flow.