72 hours in Istanbul?

No problem, an adventure is just a step away. With my limited leave days and my life ethos of Yolo-íng I ventured to Istanbul for a few days. How irresponsible of me right? Nope – one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that you’re alive and that a budget or limited time will not be the end of you.

Luckily for me Turkey is one of the few places where as a South African you can do a Visa on Arrival… For Free! Turkish Airlines also has some of the most reasonably priced flight tickets out there.  Flying out of Kenya I paid a cool USD400 return (about R7,000) for a return flight.  The visa process was smooth, and I came out on the other side 30 mins later.  It literally could not have been smoother!

I, as I’m sure you have picked up, am a sucker for itineraries and structure. So I often draw one up for short or long trips!

The below is a rough itinerary that we used and I 100% stick by it. It was a good balance of seeing both the Asia and Europe side of the city (Istanbul is the only city that spreads over two continents),  getting in some cultural time (Read: Blue Mosque) and eating to my heart’s content all the street food, wine and olives I could stuff down. See below slightly amended version:

  Friday 14th Saturday
Morning Various flights getting at x and x Brunch at Gezi http://www.gezi istanbul.com/   Pastry Spots: Karakoy GulluogluPapadopoulos Coffee & CakePetra Roasting Co. MÜZ
Noon Check in to hotel and settle in, phone number: +90 212 293 00 07,     Sites to see:   Bosphorus Cruise (2pm)Brewery on the Bosphorus   Choice of one scenic restaurant for late lunch: MiklaMuzedechangaX Restaurant and Bar 2PM Hamam   Possible sites to see Basilica Cistern   Coffee Spots Drip CoffeeistAkaliMOC Istanbul   Topkapı PalaceAya SofyaBlue Mosque  
Evening   Dinner @ Nusret (Etiler or Nisantasi) Cipriani for some Bloody Mary’s & G&T and then searching for kebabs Lets probably do the traditional kebab place with Cagan today?   Flight is at 20:30 and 19:30! Be at the airport by 6.30pm

Luckily for me I had a couple of friends from high school in town who take their eating as seriously as I do (shout out to Cagan for actually leaving his demanding Bloomberg job before midnight to show us around) so  we managed to squeeze in some good local food.  How do I judge authentic food spots anywhere I go? Well if they don’t speak a word of English and the line is around the corner… that is a pretty good sign that they’re doing something right.

I have never eaten so much:

  • Wine that’s not South African
  • Olives
  • Beer
  • Amazing Coffee
  • Turkish Delight

….In such a short amount of time. 

A couple of other highs were taking a cruise between the two parts of the city (Istanbul will always have my heart), seeing the world-famous Blue Mosque (guys, trust me on this – go go go), and trying out local food. Turkish food is the perfect balance of spice without burning off half your mouth, the spices are complex, yet simple and balanced.

I love any city that allows you to walk to your hearts content whilst checking off bucket list items.  I loveeeeeeeeed the copious amounts of cafes littering the streets and the fact that every single place we walked into had amazing and cheap food.

A word to the wise…and here comes the draw backs. If you’re black..disregard the stares. Apparently, our people don’t make it a habit to visit Istanbul…especially with their whiter than white boyfriend. Also make it a point to thoroughly cover up in the old parts of the city. I walked about once in a shirt that showed my very bony chest and I have never received so many stares IN MY LIFE. I couldn’t stop laughing because I didn’t know whether it was my general chest or my melanin that was the cause of the attention.  Just don’t risk it!

All in all if you’re ever looking for a great, affordable and easy holiday… Istanbul is a definite Must.

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