Hello happy readers, welcome to Dhrishti! I am uber excited to launch my blog for the daughter’s first birthday, a lifetime memorable gift for her. My prep for the blog has been ongoing for over a year now. It will grow as the daughter grows and that’s how I wish it should be.
I, as a child, have had musings on those Arabian nights stories. My amusements grew when I got a chance to visit a few Arabian countries like Saudi Arabia, The U.A.E and Egypt when I was in school. Though there is nothing like I had imagined from Arabian nights, these cities never failed to satisfy my musings. There are a lot of cultural restrictions, still I love the fact that these countries are very beautiful and are one among the peculiar ones in the world.
Turkey, in that list, is a destination I have always wanted to visit, especially for the lively culture that is a perfect blend of western and traditional Arabian world. Our visit to Istanbul and Cappadocia in December 2017 was indeed a memorable one as it was our daughter’s first vacation and despite of having the baby and recovering post-delivery, we could go to this annual trip. The fact that we could visit a different destination from the UK, which we decided to do every year from the year we got married got me all thrilled for the trip.
We landed at Istanbul when the temperature started to drop to single digits, meaning, no crowd and no hustle. We could cover fewer places due to the little one, but nevertheless, we enjoyed our trip. The people there are very friendly and helpful (apart from the one taxi man that cheated us).
We decided to stay in Sultanahmet, which, I found was ideal for visiting all the nearby attractions and do some generous shopping too. The very first day was over at Arasta Bazaar, the shopping area near Blue mosque. We got to drool at a lot of carpets, ceramics, spices and jewellery.
There are shops that sell handmade and machine-made ceramics. When you are planning to buy ceramics, you should be careful to identify where and what to buy, for, you turn on any side of the market, you get to see so many shops that sell ceramics.
These are some serious goals, aren’t they? I loved a lot of stuff here, but decided to be contented with buying only a ceramic vase and a bowl from this shop. And oh! The cute ceramic jewelries you find there are must haves if you like dressing up like a boho-chic. The artisans do hand painted ceramic jewelries that you can’t miss out on.
When in Turkey, it is mandatory that tourists visit the Grand Bazaar. The bling you happen to see there is a visual treat. However, it is essential that you know to bargain. The shops at Grand Bazaar have all become commercial and try to sell products with twice or thrice the price you can normally get them for. I had gone through a lot of blogs and articles on what happens at Grand Bazaar earlier, so we were determined that we go there for a visual tour only and not invest on anything. However, when we first got off the taxi outside grand bazaar, this antique shop got my attention and we headed straight to it to check out the stuff they have.
This shop had so many unique and curated pieces that I couldn’t decide which ones to buy. Camera inside the shop was prohibited as the owners believe to keep the uniqueness to themselves. The mom and I decided to raid the shop and buy multiple cutesies from the shop. You should check out if you are an antique
And, the second day, when we shooted off from our service apartment, the first attraction we saw was the old town’s little Aya Sofya mosque. A hidden gem, originally an old church of Sergius and Bacchus was constructed in the sixth century a little before the now Hagia Sophia mosque was constructed. The church was then converted to a mosque and has a lot of history bounded to it.
Then we had the traditional tours to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) and the Basillica Cistern. When you view the blue mosque, originally called as Sultanahmet mosque, named after Sultanahmet I, from the outside, you get confused as of why the name. However, when you step inside the mosque, you see the inner walls of the mosque are predominantly covered with Blue mosaics. The intricate patterns of the inside walls were eye candies. The Blue mosque was built to compete the architecture of Hagia Sophia.
Our second day at Istanbul came to an end with a visit to the Hagia Sophia. There were renovations going on in the inside of the mosque, still it looked majestic and top the list of must dos in Istanbul.
How can we miss buying the aromatic spices and not try the Turkish delight and buy some while in Istanbul! We did a visit to the spice bazaar and raided a few shops until we found the right flavour of Turkish delight we wanted to buy along with some oregano, saffron and pomegranate tea. Yes, you heard it right! Though I am not a lover of tea, Pomegranate tea was something delicious and we loved to try some. The overflowing shop racks with aromatic spices were such delight to even watch and of course click some photographs.
We headed to Cappadocia from Istanbul on our third day in the Turkish land. Oh what a little city and how beautiful are the cave like hotel and house structures! Since we were four adults and one infant, we had booked for the hot air balloons for two following mornings. But since the weather was not nice on our first morning there, we decided to combine green and red tour and visit all the attractions on the first day.
Amongst the places we visited, the cave museum and the fairy chimneys were very interesting to visit and learn more about. The cave museum, called as the Goreme open air museum is a UNESCO world heritage site and is famous for its Frescoes and rock-hewn architecture technique. The museum is located in the centre of Cappadocia and has an easy access from Goreme village. It comprises of rock cut structures from various monasteries and their popular churches that still have their Frescoes intact and in a very good condition.
Most of the churches are from the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries and the architecture of the open air museum denotes the unities between the monasteries.
Then we headed to one of the underground cities called Derinkuyu underground city. It was a challenge to carry the little one in a baby carrier and walk down the underground city which goes 200 ft underground. The guide there told us this is the largest of all the underground cities in the Cappadocia province and about half of the city was accessible for visitors. I was determined to explore until the lowest point with the baby in the carrier, however I realised that was not a very wise idea after I had a severe back ache coming out of it. Nevertheless, it is some exercise for the postnatal irregular body isn’t it?
On our way back from the underground city, we visited the rose valley and Pasabag, where the mushroom shaped fairy chimneys are present. It is said that there were Monks what wanted to seclude themselves from the normal world, hence had cut chimneys and secluded themselves in 10-15m high rooms that were cut narrow from the columns. Hence this place is also called as the ‘Monk’s valley’.
This place has unique double and triple chimneys atop single columns and hence is a very peculiar architecture among all other in Cappadocia. Our next destination was to Avanos, the pottery village. Yes I do hear you guys saying you wanted Turkish pottery to be added to your décor collections. I most certainly did buy some. Let me give more details.
We were taken to ‘Kapadokya seramics’, a family owned business and is a few generations old. The place is quite large that you have hundreds of beautiful ceramic goods to choose from. Of all the ceramic houses in Avanos, I was told they have very intricate patterns here by the taxi driver and our visit didn’t disappoint us one bit. We got to see such beautiful pottery and learnt the history of pottery making and how this family followed the patterns they do now on ceramics. Though photographs were prohibited inside their shop, however, the shop keeper was generous to allow me to take one snap, that did make a good memory!
And oh! The second morning’s weather was generous on us and we did do hot air balloon- the very reason we wanted to visit Turkey. Such beautiful valleys we had travelled over, some rocky, some plains and some caves! And not to miss the sun rise from the balloon- Oh Bliss! One in our bucket list ticked off and a must do for travellers.
Hot air balloon is available in several places around the world, but this, oh boy! Is not to miss as you get to roam above the Cappadocian valleys that is a treat for eyes. The hot air balloons are operated by many companies throughout the year depending on the weather conditions. If you do not want to miss your ride, make sure you book for your flight on the first day of your visit and have atleast one more day as spare so that if you are partially lucky, you can do the ride atleast the second morning you are there.
And after having our breakfast, we spent the rest of our day strolling in the streets of Goreme, wandering from shop to shop looking at those beautiful ceramics, yes again! More ceramics and Turkish carpets to look at! Who will deny exploring more of those traditional and vintage carpets? I surely wont! We visited this one particular shop where we got introduced to a British lady, who had such serious affair with her carpets. To my surprise, our daughter liked her and played with her for a bit until she climbed back on to me again.
The kilims and cushion covers you get there are to die for if you are a décor enthusiast. When it comes to shopping carpets, you should know what you want and how you want. There are vintage and new carpets to choose from. The vintage ones, when they become your possession, has a lot of stories to share on how and when was it weaved and under what circumstances, while, when you choose a new carpet, you are sure to keep it to pass on to generations to make it vintage.
For a vegetarian family like us, food will not be a challenge in Turkey as there are many vegan options. We were served at the Cappadocian hotel where we stayed with traditional Turkish bread called Gozleme with vegetable stuffing and some fresh cut vegetables. They were delicious I should say. For the rest of the days, since we stayed in a serviced apartment, we carried some basic rice, readymade rotis and gravies and managed to have good home cooked like food. But there are a lot of choices in the city for those that are willing to try different hotels. There are even few very good Indian joints where not only the Indians, but also others were seen enjoying the food. We visited the Dubb Indian restaurant for one of our nights in Istanbul and the ambience there was welcoming.
We did miss out on some very famous activities like having a Turkish night with traditional Turkish dinner, the husband mentioned missing a relaxing Turkish bath, visiting the Taxim square while in Istanbul, but, we were still happy that we could cover plenty of places and do ample shopping with a 10-month-old with us. The daughter was such a sweetheart co-operating with all our hectic travel plans. So, in the end, us and the parents were very happy with the trip.
We enjoyed our trip last year and cant wait to grab another chance to visit my favourite land again some time. I leave you here to have your dream too about the Turkish land.
I hope you enjoyed the read and would like to add Turkey to your travel list.