I was recently in Istanbul for 2 weeks - my 2nd visit to this amazing city and what a pleasure!! The visual contrasts constantly surprise and delight me - women totally covered in Muslim dress next to Western women wearing a great deal less; the regular, call to prayer, over the public address system whilst tourists stroll the streets and the local people persistently try to entice you into their shops; the incredible 3500year old structures in the Hippodrome alongside a young Turkish boy driving a toy motorised car - it is constantly a visual feast that invigorates the senses and at the same time a wonderful lesson in acceptance and understanding.
When you visit, it is vital to enjoy the Turkish tradition of visiting a Hamam - better still, don't just stop at one visit go to many to compare the service, the architecture and wonderful peace and tranquility found inside the Hamam. The Hamam, a public bathhouse, is a tradition of social interaction that has endured for centuries. I know its considered a rather "touristy" example, but I visited Cerbemlitas Hamam several times and thoroughly enjoyed lying on the ancient marble, staring at the domed roof where the sun penetrated the star shaped "skylights". Built in 1584, it is fabulously calm oasis in the midst of the noise and frenetic pace of Sultanahmet - in fact as you lie on the cool marble slab it is hard to believe you are in the same city. This is definitely one practice I would love to be able to enjoy on a much more frequent basis!
|Photo from www.cemberlitashamami.com|
The friendly people, the significant architectural sites, the ancient history and the modern design focus of this city are very real reasons to plan a visit.