Istanbul. It's hard for me to not sigh after typing or saying that magnificent word. I had been wanting to visit Turkey for years and swore that the next time I made it to Europe I would go. Last summer I was graciously invited along on Josh's family trip to Berlin.
After a short flight from Germany we found ourselves in one of the world's largest cities. That quickly set in as it took us nearly three hours to drive from the Asian side of the city to neighborhood of Karakoy, which is located on the European side. After checking into our hotel we wandered the enchanting, grapevine covered alleys of Karakoy. I had walked around for no more than five minutes and I already knew that this place was absolutely magical.
After being woken up from the call to prayer, something I had been craving to hear, Josh and I embarked on a twelve hour journey of the city. Little did we know we'd end up doing almost the exact same thing every day we were in Istanbul. That consisted of: finding the best Turkish coffee and baklava for breakfast, walking through the Grand Bazaar, then over to the Spice Market for a bag of Turkish Delight, finding the best kebab or durum for lunch, record shopping, happy hour on one of the hundreds of roof top bars, a quick nap and then late night dinner. Somehow we'd also pack in the Blue Mosque, Haga Sophia and ferry rides along and across the Bosphorus.
Even though we spent four full days in Istanbul and had plenty of recommendations, I know we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer.
Karakoy seems like the perfect home base as it's walking distance to all of the amazing sites and super hip neighborhoods. Once you get tired of walking up to Galta (and you will), purchase an Istanbulkart and take the Funicular up. The card also works on the tram and metro.
Develi Baklava is amazing.
I had one of the most memorable meals of my life at Peymane. My friend / coworker Ryan and his girlfriend happened to be in Istanbul on vacation at the same time we were there. I have no clue who gave him the recommendation but I want to give them a giant hug. This place is hidden (much like every great gem in Istanbul). You have to walk through an Italian restaurant and out the back door, once you arrive at breathtaking patio you're at Peymane. Lamb pistachio kebas and Turkish rose - I will never forget you!
Lebiderya is great for cocktails (but I'm telling you, Turkey produces great rose) and has breathtaking views of the Bosphorus. Go at sunset.
Always make reservations for dinner. It doesn't matter what day of the week it is.
I cannot wait to go back to Istanbul and to explore the rest of Turkey. It was so much more than I ever could have imagined. Sigh.