Istanbul greeted us with a cold, wet welcome that morning when we landed at the Istanbul Ataturk International Airport. I was exhausted from the 10+ hours journey where I had little sleep. But we weren’t heading to the hotel straightaway. It’ll be a whole day of exploring before we’d get to make our way to the hotel. I didn’t know how I was going to stay awake.
Our first stop was the Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for about 400 years of their 624-year reign. The architecture was marvellous, colourful tiles lined the high domes, marble flooring paving our way across the gardens. We got to lay our eyes on artifacts that we read in the Quran and other Islamic history books. Those were really eye opening and so protected, we can’t even bring a camera in.
By the time we were done exploring the grounds of the Topkapi Palace, most of us were ravenous. We were brought to a restaurant not so far from the Palace and that was our first introduction to Turkish cuisine.
The Turks love their fresh raw vegetables and soup. Throughout our 11 days in Turkey, our meals were never complete without a garden salad or soup, usually tomato or lentil. Our main course was usually chicken, beef and the occasional fish. I love the smoked meat flavour of kebabs and the freshness of their yoghurt and hummus.
I love the cobbled paths of Istanbul and how everyone seemed so warm and friendly. But this was just day one and a tiny introduction to Turkey, there is so much more we’d be exposed to in days to come.