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 |
| Sunday |
| Monday |
|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
- 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.