(Before entering the Blue Mosque)
It’s highly unlikely that people intend on visiting any city for a mere 2 days, but you know life happens sometimes and you may find that you only have 48 hours on your clock to explore and enjoy a city. Well, just make sure that this isn’t a result because you missed your flight because that’s what happened to me, and boy did I regret to know that I missed an extra day of what would later become my favorite city in the world thus far, you can imagine the devastation.
Anyway, lesson learnt… For those who won’t repeat my mistakes, or for those who life might happen to, here is what you can do, see and explore in Istanbul in just 48 hours. Obviously that means a lack of sleep, but who cares about rest when you’re in Istanbul?
I’d rate the best time to travel to that part of the world is towards the end of their winter, but early autumn, August – early September. The average temperature is about 24 degrees Celsius with the highest temperatures reaching 28 degrees Celsius. Istanbul is located in the Mediterranean region so be prepared to spoil your palette with Mediterranean cuisine which will blow your mind. Sis Kebab, Borek and of course the Mezze of Tzatziki, Humus, fried aubergines, kisir, lakerda and pastirma, served with fresh bread for starters. You obviously cannot come all the way to turkey to not try any of their Turkish delight amongst other sweets, fresh Mediterranean Salad, Turkish tea and Coffee. In Turkey stuffing your face is absolutely acceptable.
Outdoor Turkish Restaurant, Mezze platter with bread and beer, Turkish Tea
Day 1: The afternoon I got there I made sure find out all that I could do from the hotel reception, even though I had already had a planned itinerary. That evening I went on the Bosphorus cruise, which is so much more stunning at night than it ever could be during the day. The cruises are usually entertaining, depending on which cruise you join obviously, but they normally serve three-course meals, drinks and provide rather interesting but cultural entertainment. You could opt to sit outside and enjoy the scenic view with a cocktail at hand and fresh air.
Day 2: I started my days as early as possible to ensure that I can take in as much as possible, but that means being prepared and wearing your most comfortable kicks. City walk tours are the best because they allow you to get into the culture of a place, mingle with the people, basically acting like a local. Istanbul as you will know is extremely rich in both history and culture; it is everywhere.
Hippodrome of Constatinople: First stop, this use to be the public arena for chariot races during the rule of the Romans (203 -330 CE), Byzathine (330 – 1453 CE) and Ottoman Empire (1453 – 1922). It was a place where public events and gathering were held, including gladiatorial games, official ceremonies, protests, torture to convicts etc.
Blue/Sultan Ahmed Mosque: Second stop, most probably the most famous mosque after Mecca. It was built in 1609 -1616. Unfortunately it was under renovations when I visited but I still got to experience the gist of this beauty. Upon entering all females have to have their head covered and long skirts are given too. The most is beautiful with so much attention to detail in almost every corner and art covering most stones as well as more than stained glass windows, with hanging chandeliers for natural lighting. It is still active today and when there; there are men and women participating in their religious norms of prayer.
Hagia Sophia: Third stop: the most beautiful church you will ever lay your eyes on. The oldest church ever built; yes the oldest in 537 AD and just has the most beautiful message of bringing piece within the region at the time between Christianity and Islam. The symbols of both religions are present inside the church, although it serves purely for tourist purposes now. It’s just so stunning!
Grand Bazaar: Fourth stop: do not get lost! Home to over 4000 shops with 61 streets, it’s pretty hard to imagine how you would not get lost. As you can imagine there’s a wide range of things to choose from ranging from spices, jewelry, perfume, both western and traditional clothing to gifts, lamps, restaurants and many more all at negotiable prices, Just put on your best bargaining game with a straight face and you be on your cheapest most affordable shopping spree!
Topkapi Palace: last stop: this palace is filled with rich history that served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans in the 15th century. The museum occupies a vast amount of land, which is walk-able, with various buildings, courtyards, pavilions and gardens and a library. Here one can explore the core livelihood of the empire and all of its dynamics. There is a beautiful restaurant with a spectacular view onto the Bosporus Sea where you can enjoy a tasty Turkish lunch while staring at the scene.
There’s obviously much more to explore in the city of Istanbul such as the Taksim square, Basilica Cistern, Dolmabahce Palace, Galata Tower, Spice Bizaar etc. which easily makes it my favorite city to visit, even with the little that I got to see, which I regret simply because I missed my flight!
by Nonhle Matsebula