I must admit, I am beyond excited to finally be writing about my favorite city in this world…… it’s Istanbul y’all!!! From the moment I flew into Istanbul Atatürk International Airport, I knew I was in love. This city just has a “Je ne sais quoi” about it. Having taken classes about this specific plot of land in uni I was eager to get out and step foot on this so sought after land.
I departed the plane and immediately headed for customs, my layover was just 17 hours but I intended to take advantage of every single minute. I nervously walk up to the kiosk and present my visa which I had applied for the day before online. Thankfully customs was a breeze and I was through quicker than ever.
Taking the advice of a Turkish friend I head over to Bakirköy for some shopping and breakfast. Immediately I’m in heaven, taking in all the smells, sights, and textures. I know they claim Paris to be the fashion capital of the world but Istanbul takes the trophy in my book. They may not have the same high-end designers but the quality, style, and price of the clothes are UNBEATABLE.
After having a scrumptious breakfast sandwich, and doing some minor shopping, I jumped back on the train and began making my way towards Ataköy. While on the train to my destination I was greeted by an English speaking Turkish man who offered to show me the city. Of course at first, I flat out rejected his offer…. I’ve seen Taken. But after some convincing, I finally agreed to ride the train with him. To my surprise, I found out he was a police officer, because of this I was able to ride the train with him for the entire day for FREE!!!!!
So now I’ve met this man, Yavuz, who I am following on a train to some amazing place he claims he must show me. We arrive at a local hookah bar where he introduces me to his business partner. They insist I leave my bags with them while we continue seeing Istanbul. Once again all the signs are pointing to my organs being harvested in a few hours, and even still I oblige and hand over my newly bought clothes.
At this point, I’m too deep in this to turn around so I just go with it. We board the train and are on our way. I previously told him about my obsession with the numerous Turkish monuments and was just praying he listened. We arrive at the Sultanahmet and my heart melts. There standing before me is the building I could only dream of seeing…… THE BLUE MOSQUE!!! Due to a tragic bombing that occurred the day before in that exact spot the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia were closed. My heart was broken and Yavuz could see that. Once again he uses his magical police badge to gain me access. Tears begin to stream down my face as I take my first steps in the Blue Mosque.
I stand in awe at the intricate details and beautiful sculpting. With not a single soul in the building beside us, I was able to fully absorb what I was experiencing. This once in a lifetime chance was just handed to me. How lucky could one girl be?
But my luck didn’t run out there. As many of you who have visited Istanbul know, the Hagia Sophia sits across from the Blue Mosque and is just as breathtaking. I can’t believe all of these things are happening to me all thanks to a kind police officer I met on the train.
Once I was done exploring the Sultanahmet, he takes me to the first shopping mall in the world!!!!! The Grand Bazaar! I can’t even begin to describe all the beautiful craftsmanship I viewed. I wanted to twirl around and sing like Cinderella after her union to Prince Charming. Was this really happening to me? With the desire to buy everything I laid my eyes on, I end up settling for a few glass pieces and key chains, cliché right?
After the Grand Bazaar, it’s almost dinner time now and there is still so much to be seen. Instead of taking the train back we opt for a taxi so that I can see more of the city while we head to dinner. So far I haven’t thought twice about my clothes or keeping my organs. We make a few more stops and finally arrive at a rooftop restaurant with the perfect view of the Marmara.
I proceed to feast on a plethora of homemade Turkish food, which I must say was fit for a queen. I’m drinking raki, the official liquor of Turkey, and sharing memories with my new friend. Once I realized I was a few drinks shy of being intoxicated, I suggest we head back to get my bags since it was getting dark.
Yavuz is begging me to stay just a bit longer…. like they always do right ladies?…. Well, of course, my adventurous self-says yes. We return to the hookah bar and begin to smoke the night away. The music and atmosphere were perfect and definitely not something I expected from a predominately Muslim country. I was pleasantly surprised. I smoked, drank, and danced the night away…. Well not completely since I had a flight to catch in just a few hours.
As the clock began to creep towards my departure time, I made my way to the airport with Yavuz leading the way. After all, it was past midnight and I was clearly a tourist. Once we arrived at the airport the icing was definitely placed on top of the cake. Unbeknownst to me, Yavuz previously worked for the airport and had somehow managed for me to completely bypass customs and head straight to my gate. Who here actually likes going through customs? I sure don’t so I jumped at the opportunity to skip it all. If that doesn’t make you feel like Beyoncé landing in LAX, I don’t know what will.
We said our final goodbyes and I was off to my gate, left with marvelous memories that could carry me for a lifetime. Had I just lived a completely unplanned fairytale day? I would have never in a million years guessed that I would be the one to meet a foreign man and explore his city on a long layover. But I am so grateful that I didn’t let my fears and preconceptions block that amazing opportunity. This just goes to prove that as long as you use caution and wisdom, you shouldn’t let the media determine where you travel. Had I done that I never would have experienced the NUMBER 1 attraction Turkey all to myself?