In retrospect it seems strange that we spent so many hours fretting over our holiday plans. Now it seems that Turkey was the natural choice. It was everything that we had wanted from our holiday. And much more. We loved every moment of it. I am still trying to get over it. For example I went to the Bagel Shop to have a goat cheese Bagel this morning simply because I was missing my breakfast cheese fests from Turkey.
We wanted a holiday which was different from our Far Eastern ones and we got it. The glass and chrome malls were replaced with lovely shops in the 19th century buildings of Taksim Square and the 15th Century Grand Bazar and Spice Bazars. The hot and humid weather was replaced by a pleasant chill which made one feel that was one was moving around in natural air conditioning, even outdoors.
We wanted history and we got to see the the awe inspiring early Christian cave churches of Cappadaccia from the 3rd Century AD, the amazing underground cities of the Hitites (I don't know how they stayed there for 3 months, I ran out after 3 minutes), the Hagia Sofia, the principle Church of Christrianity when Constantinople, as Istanbul was called then, was the centre of the world, the epic Blue Mosque from the 15th Century and the Topkapi Palace from the same period when the Ottoman Empire ruled a large part of Europe, Asia and Africa and the Dolmabahace Palace from the time when the Ottomans wanted to Westernise themselves in the 18th century and the mysterious 15ht century water reservoir, the Basilico Cistern. We relived a bit of modern history as we stayed in the former Greek streets of Beyogulu where there was civil strife in the 1950s and we had dinner in the refurbished flower market of Cisak Padesi.
It was also a holiday of historical discoveries. I had grown up studying about Rome, Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia and then Western Europe. I had no idea of the magnitude of the Byzantine Empire and its successor, the Ottoman Empire.
I craved for open spaces and I got 3 hotel rooms where I could look into the sky, one from which we could see the sea and another from which we could see the amazing Cappadoccian terrain. We took a beautiful cruise on the blue Bosporus, drifting by the prettiest of houses and took a hike through the Cappadoccia valleys. We saw the most magical terrains which made one wonder whether this was all a dream.
We wanted to be pampered and stayed in 3 lovely hotels - the grand dame, Marmara Istanbul with its chandeliers and wood and brass theme, the luxurious boutique cave rooms of the Museum hotel in Cappadoccia and the funky Marmara Pera in Istanbul which was petite but perky with its purple and green theme.
We came across some of the friendliest people in the world who were ever willing to help one out. Language was rarely a problem. If we came across someone with limited English then he would go and find out someone who could help. We also saw some of the most smartly dressed people right from those on the streets to even the hotel staff or the chauffeurs.
And. of course, the food. We had some of the most delectable food. Right from the local fare in the delis of Istiklal Cadesi to the gourmet fare in the Museum Hotel restaurant, the Le'la and in the Konyali Restaurant in the Topkapi Palace. We had a most memorable anniversary dinner in Keravan Serai to the beat of the belly dancers and while being entertained by the one of the most talented linguist we had ever seen. We had the dainty local apple teas and Turkish coffees in equally dainty cups and had lovely cappuccinos and cikkolata frappuccinos in Starbucks and were tickled when we got our loyalty card at Gloria Jeans, Istanbul.
We were so happy that we kept smiling through the holiday as we explored Turkey through our friend's Lonely Planet Guide.
Through all of this I read Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul to get a sense of the soul of the city. Then I thought I must jot down my immediate memories before getting into more detailed posts.
So keep watching this space for more.