Istanbul is a great place to stop over en route from South Africa to Europe. I recommend everyone visits this ancient city where East meets West. The Turkish people are so hospitable and openly friendly. Well, I have to admit I didn’t meet any women while I was there, but the men were very friendly and really fascinated by my turquoise blue contact lenses.
We only visited Istanbul for a few hours between flights, so we didn’t have a chance to take any Bosporus boat trips or visit all the attractions, but we took the tram from the airport into the city (this is quite an easy public transport system to figure out if you are a tourist). We headed straight for the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) and Hagia Sophia because I just had to take the opportunity to see these amazing architectural masterpieces up close. Then we intended to go to the market nearby, but got ushered into a shop down a nearby side street, offered Turkish apple tea and settled down for a long chat and shopping session. What a delightful custom, to offer visitors sweet, refreshing apple tea in small glasses when they arrive! It makes you feel so at home. See how perky I look in the picture below, very happy with all the hospitality!
Besides buying some Turkish tea to take home, we also ended up with beautiful hand-painted serving dishes and jugs. When I admired an amber pendant set in silver the nice man in the shop persuaded my husband to get the matching earrings and bracelet. They are very persuasive in the shops, but not overbearing and it is always service with a smile. My father has spent some time in Istanbul and says the ice cream is not to be missed. It is such a strange gooey texture and the ice cream sellers are entertaining, turning the act of preparing an ice cream cone into a show.
I would have loved to spend more time in Turkey. One thing I would not do again, however, is fly Turkish Air. Our plane, on an international flight, didn’t even have televisions behind the seats. It was highly un-entertaining. When we left to catch our connecting flight to Zurich we were driven to the far reaches of the airport to what I term the ‘airplane graveyard’ due to the random plane parts and mechanical work going on, which was slightly disconcerting and didn’t fill me with confidence. But we landed in Switzerland in one piece at the end of it all. And I had enough Turkish delight in my hand luggage to keep me on a sugar high for the entire flight home!