“If one one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”
– Alphonse de Lamartine
Istanbul has been on my travel bucket list for a while. So when I got an email from BloggerCasting inviting me to participate in the World Tourism Forum Global Meeting in Istanbul on 4 – 6 February, I did a little jump for joy!
The folks who are organising the event asked me to share my thoughts on Istanbul, so here it goes…
Expectations of an Istanbul rookie
Istanbul, Constantinople, Byzantium – the city where east and west has had many names over the centuries, conjuring images of the exotic, ancient histories and civilisations. I haven’t visited Istanbul yet, but I’m heading there soon and I have high expectations from the city that straddles two continents.
Turkey has been one of the fastest growing tourist destinations of late, with Istanbul ranking fifth in the 2015 Mastercard Global Cities Index of the most visited cities. It’s been high on my bucket list destinations for a while and I’m excited to finally get the chance to visit.
Where ancient meets modern
In my imagination, Istanbul inspires romance and mystery. Few places have witnessed more history than Istanbul, which has been at the crossroads of civilisations for centuries.
With relics from the Roman, Ottoman and Byzantium empires, to the modern skyscrapers and a thriving business metropolis of 14 million people today, Istanbul is also at the crossroad between the ancient and the modern.
From my research, the city seems to abound with all the elements that makes cities great – strong heritage and culture, mystical and historical relics, amazing food, and a vibrant arts and creative culture. I’m fascinated to in learn about how this historic city has dealt with modernity and become one of the tourist capitals in the world.
I’ve seen pictures of the city’s mosque-dotted skyline, it’s spectacular monuments like the Haga Sofia, but I’ve also heard of the hip Istanbul – the city of foodies, hipsters, fashion designers and creatives – a city of art, music and mysticism. As much as I want to explore the ancient secrets of Istanbul also fascinated with the contemporary side of this dynamic city.
In a times that we live in, when there is still so much misunderstanding of cultures and religious intolerance, I think that visiting Istanbul will provide context and relevance and allow me to learn more about Islam and modernity. I have a few Turkish friends and I’ve been exposed to some amazing Turkish food here in Johannesburg, where I live and discovered local Turkish culture in my hometown.
Culture, heritage and Turkish feasts!
As a cultural tourist, I think there are few places that offer such diversity as Istanbul. I have visions of feasting on Turkish delights, indulging in big Turkish breakfasts, experiencing my first Hamam, and wondering in awe at the Blue Mosque at sunset.
I want to get lost in the maze of streets of the Old Town, discover the secrets of the whirling dervishes and experience the city’s famed nightlife. I can’t wait to taste Turkish street food, dine in Istanbul’s trendy eateries, sip raki on a roof top bar, drink tea like a local and smoke shisha in a hookah lounge.
The mystery, history and culture of ancient Istanbul intrigues me. Now, where tradition and modernity meet – that’s what really excites me.
Let’s go Instanbul, I can’t wait to meet you.
Thanks to my friend and Istanbul travel buddy Heather Mason (@2summers) for letting me use her pics of Istanbul. Check out her epic Instagram feed and her blog post on What to do (and what not to do) on an 8 hour layover in Istanbul.