Much like Egypt, we arrived having no idea what to expect. A new country in a new part of the world. New foods, new culture, a new language and new people. No matter how many places you visit, a new area always brings an excitement I can’t put into words. Nerves. Expectations. We exited the plane and within minutes we were blown away. The whole process from getting our bags to passing through customs to finding a ride to our hotel was the smoothest of any country we have ever been to. That’s saying a lot considering what traveling during covid times is like. Our taxi driver quoted us 185 Turkish Lira for the 25 minute ride (we were told to expect it to cost 200-440) and half way there he got a call that his Dad was sent to the hospital so he asked if we would mind getting in another taxi. We agreed so he pulled over on the side of the highway and waved down another taxi. Right there on the road we transferred our bags and continued with almost no delay and no price increase. The new driver took us a slightly longer way so we could catch the sun setting over a river from a bridge. It was beautiful.
Once we got to our hotel we showered and headed out for dinner and a walk like we always do. Our hotel was right in the middle of everything. The streets were lined with restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating and friendly hosts out front inviting you in. However just like with the taxis we felt no pressure. Most of the hosts spoke English and seemed sincerely happy just to talk. A simple no thank you and they left you alone. We choose a place, The Constantine Arc, where we had an appetizer and 2 plates that the host recommended along with a hookah. The food was authentic and delicious. They brought us apple tea after dinner and were happy to give us advice on what to see and do in their city. After dinner we walked the streets and felt perfectly at ease. The dinner and hookah cost $600 TL ($65 USD) which is a little more then we usually spend but we wanted a true experience for our first meal and it didn’t disappoint. The hotel room is small but very clean and comfortable and cost $33 a night with breakfast included.
As we walked around enjoying the energy of the Istanbul nightlife we both agreed that Istanbul can easily make our list of favorite cities we have visited. So far the food has been great and the people have been friendly and welcoming. The city is open and alive unlike Thailand. And we couldn’t be more excited to explore a new city then we are tonight. Even the call to pray is less intrusive here then other countries we have visited like Indonesia.
Turkey for the win so far.