Sure Istanbul is one of the most visited cities of the world and there are lots to see. The Hagia Sophia, the blue mosque, Taksim Square, Topkapi Palace, The Bosphorus with the bridges, the Grand Bazaar, spice market, beautiful shawls, carpets, lanterns. You can stay lost in the beauties of the city and not realise how time flies. However, these are a couple of things that stood out for me –
The food : The kebabs are out of the world – soft, tender and just rightly spiced, they can lift your mood anytime of the day. My personal favourite is the Adana which traces its origin from South Turkey. Its hand minced meat mixed with mouth watering spices and skewered to perfection. Then there is the turkish Tea – ubiquitous in Istanbul – its a quick refreshing recharge on long walks exploring the city. Another favorite during the trip was Baklava. The most common ones are of Pistachio. Since I am not a great fan of pistachio I used to dig out the other varieties – almonds or walnuts. And sometimes with fresh cream. Heaven.
Swirling Dervish : In Istanbul there are a couple of places where you can see this performance, I went to the Hodjapasha Dance Theatre – a renovated old turkish hammam which has performances every evening. The place itself it quite unique. Semah is a religious ceremony where the dervishes swirl with their hands outstretched towards the sky symbolising union with god. In the background plays mesmerising music of flute, percussion. Its a solemn ceremony but it is beautiful. I strongly believe that its one of those things in life which you have to experience to feel it and though it is a religious performance its got nothing to do with whether you believe in god or not but rather about finding that inner peace and serenity. Years ago I had heard one of my colleagues mention about the significance of this ritual. Understood it only today. Having said that it does have different impact of different people. While I sat mesmerised, there was a guy sitting next to me who kept dozing off and almost falling off his chair.
Capadoccia, hot air balloon : ok so this one wasn’t in Istanbul per say, but was part of my trip to Turkey. You have to take a flight to Keyseri from Istanbul to reach this place. The balloon ride is planned during the sunrise and so pre dawn you are taken to the location while the balloons were set up. It is freezing since Keyseri is much further in altitude. expect temperatures to be much lower than Istanbul. Since it happens early morning, warm clothing is a must. It looks beautiful with hundreds of balloons ascending to the sky and then floating above the ethereal landscape below. And then the sun rises, painting everything in a beautiful hue. Much like the landscape of the moon the mountainous caves below are some of the oldest human dwellings.