Winter break brings the best opportunity to travel. Especially if you’re travelling back home, from Jacobs to Asia, you can always take a stop-over in a different city every time. So usually I fly Emirates back to Pakistan via Dubai, but this time, however, I decided to fly through Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, and it was indeed one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.
The best part is that if you book earlier you can find very cheap flights to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, starting around 90 Euros. And if you have a German Residence Permit, you can get a visa-on-arrival E-Visa, which eases out the things. So this is a piece from what I wrote for my travel blog on my outbound flight from Turkey.
From my travel journal
Until two weeks ago, I was not coming here. I had already cancelled this trip after the bomb blast at Besiktas Football Stadium. Had it been cancelled, I can only imagine what I would’ve missed on. There are only a few places on this globe that end up having a special place in your heart, especially for a person like me: someone who’s used to rotating after every few years (courtesy of being an army brat). But then there’s something unique about some places that makes you want to go back, all over again, every single time, just like the tourist you were when you first came here. That’s Istanbul for me.
As I type these words, I’m already over the Iranian airspace, heading to Abu Dhabi and then finally home. I’m supposed to be excited, but am I? It’s already been more than 3 hours since I bid goodbye to Istanbul, but I feel like I left something there. Perhaps it’s all that excitement, adrenaline and the craziness that I left there. Well, it never belonged to me. This vibe is something that only Istanbul can own. You can experience it, you can enjoy it, you can live it, but you can never own it. For it belongs to the city only.
And now this vibe will make you want to go back every single time. Every single time you hear the name of the city or see a picture of the vibrant waters of Bosphorus, you’ll miss this place as if you were meant to be there in that moment.
That’s the beauty of Istanbul. More than 16 million people spread all over at the finest confluence of Eurasia, the city has its own unique charm. In order to really do justice to Istanbul, it’s important that you actually feel the historical connection of the city at an individual level. They call it the Crossroads of Civilization, and they’re indeed not mistaken. The city gives the perfectly picturesque blend between the West and the East. So many different civilizations have passed through this conflux. Those waters of the Bosphorus speak for the great men who’ve passed the Constantinople during their mighty expeditions to the further South and the North, throughout the course of the history.
The inside of the Blue Mosque’s dome (Sultan Ahmet Mosque) provides witness for the mighty Byzantine Empire that once existed. A quick stroll through the Grand Bazaar is enough to immerse you fully into the history of Eurasian spice and jewelry trade (I’ve never experienced so many spices in a single moment before btw). Just gazing at the Aya Sofia and the Sultanahmet area among the shinning golden light of the sunset, you’d want to completely immerse yourself into the history that Istanbul has to offer. Take a look at the boat-traffic in the Marmara Sea, and you’d experience the rush and the ‘never comes to a halt’ vibe of Istanbul. A quick Turkish Hamam in the area would give you a sneak peek into the extravagance and luxury of the Ottoman Empire, and perhaps freshen you up for a night out at one of the clubs next to the waterfront.
With dampening daylight, the city takes a whole new charm. The lights present you a whole new picture that the city has to offer. The city just changes. For a second it feels like you’re somewhere on the outskirts of a North American metropolis with all those distant skyscrapers in the background, but then you bump into a Baklava (the sweetest thing ever happened to Turkey, quite literally!) seller. A quick drive along the Bosphorus at night while looking at the blue lights of the massive bridge is a must!
So what is Istanbul?
For me it’s the perfect blend of cultures. Istanbul paints the perfectly peaceful picture of East’s and West’s simultaneous co-existence. The perfect co-existence of religions, Istanbul has its own charm for everyone. It’s the finest picture of the past and the present in a single moment. The sea is perhaps my favorite element about the city, after Baklava obviously. For once I feel like I’ve conquered the city and done justice to its vibe, but I know that’s only until the next time. No one can do complete justice to the liveliness of Istanbul, but the beauty of the city is such that it makes you feel like a conqueror on your own as part of the mighty expeditions the city has been a part of. Istanbul would make you want to hold the time so that you can seize the moment and experience the crossroads of the World. And before you know, you’ll be longing to back to it.
Until next time, Istanbul!