Istanbul: First Impressions and a note about the demonstrations

New Mosque, Istanbul

New Mosque, Istanbul

I visited Istanbul last November. In light of recent political events, I’m apprehensive of writing about my time in this city. I don’t want to trivialize what’s happening by writing casually about my experiences as a tourist, but I also don’t want to skip over this part of my trip or act as if traveling to Turkey is a terrifying feat.

It’s not. Even now.

Unsurprisingly, according to Turkish Travel Blog, tourism to the country has been largely unaffected by the demonstrations. Please see their post for more information, and take note of the headline: do not cancel your holiday in Turkey.

If you’re looking for information about the demonstrations, I found this BBC Q&A article helpful to gain a brief background, while this piece from The Economist can supply a more detailed explanation.

I loved my time in Istanbul, and I hope you’ll recognize that Turkey is a safe, beautiful place rather than lump it into some monolithic misunderstanding of “that part of the world.”

Gülhane Park, Istanbul

Gülhane Park, Istanbul

I arrived in Istanbul in the evening, and met my friend, Katie, at the airport. Katie had been in Italy for the last month, and was meeting up with me to spend 3 weeks backpacking before she returned to the United States. After a misunderstanding with our taxi driver, we were dropped a good 10-minute walk from our hostel, but we found our way on foot. Our first impressions of the city were little more than vague wonder that we were actually in Turkey.

From our hostel’s rooftop terrace we could just make out the minarets of the Hagia Sofia. After some much-needed rest, we enjoyed breakfast on that same terrace.

Katie drinking Turkish tea on the rooftop terrace. She joined me for 3 weeks and 5 countries worth of adventures, so you'll be seeing more of her.

Katie drinking Turkish tea on the rooftop terrace. She joined me for 3 weeks and 5 countries worth of adventures, so you’ll be seeing more of her.

That morning, we wandered, marveling at our good fortune — lovely weather, lovely company, an exciting country that frightened our parents and made our hearts race. I can’t wait to share more stories and photos with you from this fantastic place.



  1. firmeb · · Reply

    Emma: Thank you for writing about Istanbul – a city at the top of my list to visit one day! I’ve become a fan of Jason Goodwin’s mysteries set in Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire. If you are not already familiar with his books I encourage you to check them out. In addition to the mysteries, Jason Goodwin is a travel writer whose first book was about tea – The Gunpowder Gardens. So, a perfect author for your interests! Best, Beverly

    1. I hope you get to visit someday soon! And I’ll definitely check out Jason Goodwin — thanks for the tip!

  2. […] steep, narrow streets that led Katie and me to Galata Tower, which, mercifully, had an elevator and rewarded us with this […]

  3. […] some reason, Sarajevo called to both of us. When we first met up in Istanbul, Katie and I talked about where we wanted to go over the 3 weeks we’d be traveling together. […]

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