You know it’s good when there’s a song written about it. Istanbul, not Constantinople. Turkey’s capital acts at the perfect starting point. It’s not quite Asia. It’s not quite Europe. And it’s not quite the Middle East. It’s a comfortable blend. It is, to borrow an American cliché, the perfect melting pot.
The best place to get lost in the city is its oldest market, Kapalıçarşı or The Grand Bazaar. Originally constructed during the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, The Grand Bazaar is Istanbul’s largest and oldest indoor market. There’s 61 streets and over 3,000 shops for you to peruse at your pleasure. You can find anything here from silk and leather lined shoes, perfectly tacky keychains and Turkish lamps. When you’re amongst the crush of people, feel confident in the fact that you can get all of your souvenir shopping done here. Don’t let anyone take you for a fool though. Unless prices are explicitly marked or stated, bargaining is expected.
The best time to exit the Grand Bazaar is during the call to prayer. Five times a day, the Blue Mosque announces a beautiful, warbled call to Allah. Other mosque join in out of sync. The exact time of the call to prayer is not set every day. Instead, the time is decided upon things like the rotation of the earth, revolutions around the sun, latitude of the earth and daylight savings time. The result is a beautiful mesh of haunting noises that fills the entire Istanbul sky. Tourists may entire the mosques whenever prayers aren’t happening. According to the website, mid-morning is best. If you’re a woman, be sure to bring a headscarf.
Honestly, the city is slightly bewildering. Turkish mirrors the Roman alphabet just enough where your brain thinks it can decipher it; and is flabbergasted to know that, to the average Anglo, it is straight gibberish. There’s not a standard Turkish “look” either. American tourists can be stereotyped by their loud indoor voices and puffy white tennis shoes. Parisians have a serious smoking habit and are painfully chic. Turks are just cool. As a tourist, this is difficult. You can’t pin point the language. Can’t pinpoint the people either. The best thing to do is to just give up. Be lost. It’s okay.