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istanbul

Five Things I Ate in Istanbul

My biggest regret about my week in Istanbul is that I didn’t eat enough. Seriously. I spent so much time running around trying to see things in Istanbul that I actually didn’t have time to eat all the Turkish food I wanted to try. This is almost unthinkable for a food-loving person like me. But there you have it. I didn’t eat İskender kebap, which is my favorite dish at the Turkish restaurant back home in Melville. İskender, along with shawarma, is only served between 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. at most Istanbul restaurants, and we rarely found time for lunch until about 5:00. I never ate the famous Turkish dessert künefe, which my Instagram follower @sarahmariesny describes as “Christmas in your mouth”. I didn’t have Turkish ice cream (too cold), and I never tried those deep-fried sticks that look like churros, which were for sale on every corner. (I’m not sure why I never tried the churros.) But despite all this complaining, I did eat a lot of wonderful food in Istanbul. Istanbul is like Paris; it’s a city that takes eating seriously and delicious food and drink is everywhere — from fancy restaurants to cafés and street-side carts. Sultanahmet Koftëcisi, one of the most famous köfte restaurants in Istanbul. More on köfte in a minute. Rather […]

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Istanbul: A Travel Blogger’s Dream (and Nightmare)

When I was invited to attend the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul, I decided to stay on for an extra week. I bought a guidebook, consulted with friends, and made plans with Meruschka, who was also traveling to Istanbul for the forum. A week should be plenty of time to explore the city, I thought — visit all the best tourist attractions and maybe fit in some locals-only activities. Right? A man sells Turkish flags outside the Spice Bazaar. Ha! Wrong. One week in Istanbul is nothing. We didn’t scratch the surface…In fact we didn’t even touch the surface. Meruschka and I spent a lot of time being lost and wandering aimlessly and taking hundreds of photos, which was awesome but we didn’t manage to do half the things we planned. The Süleymaniye Mosque, largest mosque in Istanbul and reportedly the most beautiful. Alas, we never made it. Istanbul reminded me of a few important travel lessons: 1) When visiting a huge, frenetic, culturally rich, ancient city like Istanbul, sometimes you have to throw out your guide books and to-do lists. Getting around takes time and it’s easy to get lost and distracted. 2) Getting to know Istanbul, which has tens of millions of people, thousands of historical sites, and a […]

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Cats of Istanbul

I’ve just returned from two weeks in Turkey, most of which I spent in Istanbul. The main reason I went to Istanbul was to attend a travel conference called the World Tourism Forum, where I listened to speeches and panels with leading tourism professionals and met other travel bloggers from around the world. I also wanted to explore Istanbul (I’d been once before, but only for eight hours) and check out at least one other destination in Turkey. And there is one other big reason why I went to Istanbul: the cats. This might be the cutest cat in Istanbul. Or it might not be. There are thousands of cats competing for that honor. Everyone knows I love cats. I photograph them everywhere I go, and my own cat writes frequently on this blog. But my love of cats can’t compare to the cat-love that encompasses the city of Istanbul, and in fact all of Turkey. Cat on a wall in Cihangir, Istanbul. Istanbul’s Multitude of Cats There are hundreds of thousands of cats in Istanbul, most of which are strays. By “stray” I mean that the cats live mainly outside and aren’t “owned” by any one person. But the stray cats of Istanbul, as […]

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Five Things I Can’t Wait to Experience When I’m Back in Istanbul

Three months ago, I flew to the United States via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. It was the best deal I could find and I decided it would be fun to visit Istanbul during my layover, even if it was just for eight hours. In the blog post I wrote about that eight-hour layover, I finished by saying, “Next time, Istanbul, I’m coming for a week.” Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. I meant what I said; eight hours in Istanbul is certainly not enough and I wanted to come back for a longer stay. But let’s face it: Istanbul is a long way from Joburg. I knew I wanted to go back but had no idea when such an opportunity would arise – months, years, maybe never. I guess the travel gods heard my prayer. Because a few weeks ago I received an invitation to attend an international conference called the World Tourism Forum, as part of a global delegation of bloggers, during the first week of February. Guess where the World Tourism Forum takes place? That’s right. Istanbul. Istanbul! The conference lasts for three days but I’m going to stay for a week afterward. (See? I meant what I said.) I haven’t made specific plans […]

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What to Do (and Not to Do) During an Eight-Hour Layover in Istanbul

Two days ago I was sitting in Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, wishing that I weren’t. Three weeks before that I flew through Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, en route from Johannesburg to Washington D.C. Istanbul is not exactly on the way from Joburg to D.C., and the flight included an eight-hour layover. But the price of the ticket was right ($825, or about R11k), and I thought it would be a great opportunity to briefly visit a city that so many of my friends have raved about. I made the most of that first layover, catching the train into central Istanbul, seeing some sights, and arriving back at the airport in time for my connecting flight. The Pertevnial Valide Mosque in Aksaray, Istanbul. The mosque was built in 1869.  On my way back to Joburg from D.C., I had another long layover in Istanbul. I decided I was too tired to make the trip into town this time. I’ll just hole up in the airport and work on my blog, I thought. I cannot overstate what a big mistake that was. Eight hours is way too long to spend in any airport, and especially one like Atatürk, which is super crowded with inconsistent wifi. As I […]

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