In December I had the pleasure of traveling to Istanbul, Turkey (for the first time) to attend the Marka Conference, a very impressive international brand conference. And I was lucky enough to have both my siblings, Pierce and Ashley, join me for this adventure. Istanbul is an amazing city where East literally meets West, divided by the Bosphorus. The culture is recognizably European, but with a strong Middle Eastern influence. This interesting mix is clearly seen in the city’s architecture, local cuisine, and cultural practices. And the Turkish people we met along the way were so kind and hospitable. Istanbul is a place I dream of going back to one day, along with the South of Turkey, which is supposed to be beautiful. We were only there for two and a half days, but we were still able to experience Istanbul’s highlights. Enjoy! –LBL
Turkish Coffee: There is no better way to combat jet lag than with a good Turkish Coffee. They make it using a special technique, and it is very strong and not for the faint of heart!
Ulus 29: On our first night we went to dinner at Ulus 29, a very beautiful restaurant which was recommended to us by numerous locals who claim it as their favorite. The food is excellent traditional Turkish food with a modern twist, and the view is spectacular (it’s perched on a hill overlooking the water).
Istanbul Modern: The first and only modern art museum in Istanbul. It has a really great collection of modern art, mainly from Turkish artists. The location of the museum is right on the Bosphorus, and they have a fabulous restaurant that is really lovely for lunch.
Hagia Sophia: Full disclosure, we arrived too late to get into this museum, but it was one that everyone recommends. The building was first a church, then a mosque, and now a museum. It houses classic works. It looks like an impressive museum and is facing the Blue Mosque.
Blue Mosque: A beautiful mosque with an ornate interior. The scale of this ancient mosque and the beauty of the interior make this a really special place to visit.
Basilica Cistern: This large cistern was originally built for collecting rain water in ancient Istanbul. For those of us who have never visited a cistern before, it was a neat thing to see. Giant columns support this giant underground room. The main point of attraction here is also the beautifully carved Medusa heads as column bases.
Turkish Bath: We opted for a traditional Turkish Bath experience in one of the oldest baths in the city. It is not for the shy or easily embarrassed, but after being scrubbed and soaped up by a strong Turkish lady (or gent) you do leave feeling refreshed. It is also interesting to participate in such an ancient ritual as the bath.
Boat trip down the Bosphorus: I highly recommend this as a great way to see Istanbul. And make sure the boat tour takes you to the Golden Horn, preferably around sunset, when the sky and water combine in a golden hue. Stunning!