Snapshots of Istanbul

Last January, 2013, my mom and I headed to Istanbul from our respective corners of the globe. We had planned a short, joint vacation of only 11 days. When I came back, I was overwhelmed with all that I’d seen and done and managed to publish very little about our time there. The city was beautiful, fascinating, busy with quiet corners and full of surprises. I didn’t do it justice. This is my attempt to remedy that situation.

Because it’s been more than 10 months since that trip, my memories are a little… unfresh, shall we say? But that’s what pictures are for. Instead of piecing together fragments of memories and filling the holes with untruths, I’ve put together a series of pictures that best captures what the vacation was like for us. Below the photographs, I’ve written little descriptions and context. While it’s not a linear story per say, hopefully these snapshots of our vacation can still paint a picture, sporadic as it may be.

What better way to begin than with the famous Blue Mosque? One of the more spectacular mosques in Istanbul, it’s also on the top of every visitor’s list, day 1, first thing. But it’s only one of many; mosques are everywhere and many of them are unbelievably beautiful, even the buildings meant simply for the neighborhood. The call to prayer rings out several times a day, throughout the city, and became more of a lullaby for me than anything else.

[Related Post: Featured Photograph: One More Mosque]


Anytime I visit a country, I make it top priority to find an outdoor market, if possible. Markets are busy and loud, so it’s difficult to speak to whoever you’re with and you find yourself in a strange, singular bubble of quiet inside the chaos. The things they sell are endlessly fascinating and are a real snapshot into the soul of the country. Olives are a big deal in Turkey, the climate is ideal for variety and quality. (Yes, I was coerced into tasting an olive, because maybe I just don’t like “bad” olives, but it turns out that I’m just not a fan. Sad day.) Fishing is also a predictable staple, considering the heart of Istanbul are the rivers that surround the three distinct “continents”.

[Thanks to Salih from My Local Guide Istanbul for bringing my mom and me through this particular market.]

The outdoor food markets are wonderful, but the outdoor goods markets, or bazaars are even more wonderful. If I was much of a “shopper”, I would have emptied my wallet right about here. The little avenues with lines of shops are all over the main parts of the city; I’m not sure about more residential areas, time was unfortunately short.

[Related Post: Master Pottery]


You also can’t talk about Istanbul or bazaars without talking about THE Bazaar, the Grand Bazaar her royal self. ‘Nuff said. Also, my iPhone photos from this particular visit were total crap, apologies.

[Unrelated Post: An Accidental Visit to the Prince’s Islands]


I love stepping outside of the big city and flashing lights to see what everyday life is all about in a country. (Or “off the beaten path”, SEO BOOST!) Our tour guide, Salih, took us to these winding roads in a neighborhood several miles outside of the city center, Eyüp. It was one of the best parts of the trip, because the neighborhood is especially rife with contrasts, one of my favorite things. Crumbling homes stood directly next to recently remodeled places, painted bright colors and returned to glory. The neighborhood was originally home to wealthy Jewish families who were punished by a population exchange with Greece in the 1920s and had to abandon their homes. Hence, the Greek people who moved in created this all-in-Greek-curriculum school, which holds elementary, middle and high school students in one building. As one would expect, after so many years, enrollment has dwindled.

[Related Post: iPhone Photoessay: The Cats of Istanbul]


Baklava. Once again, need I say more? No? Great.

I also need to say sorry for never taking a decent picture of the classic Turkish tea. I have a picture of my mom drinking tea, but I’m pretty sure I would be murdered if it made its way onto this blog. Tea is everywhere, delicious, and you can’t eat baklava without it or you are breaking rules and the higher order will punish you in due time.


Last but not least, here’s a crooked photograph of me giving my mom a noogie in front of a historical monument, the Hippodrome of Constantinople built in AD 203 by the Emperor Septimius Severus.

Teşekkür ederim for the memories, Istanbul.


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16 thoughts on “Snapshots of Istanbul”

  1. Love, love, love Istanbul. I can’t get enough of the city, and your photos captured it well! I also love exploring a country’s everyday neighborhoods apart from all of the touristy areas. Great post!

    1. It was a seriously great city, by the end of the trip my mom was saying, “Sally, why don’t you move here next? Hm?” I don’t know how much time would be “enough” time, either, but I have a feeling it would be measured in months, not days.

      Thanks for coming by! 🙂

  2. I could always stomach olives, but I never really REALLY liked them until I had feta stuffed olives in England… from a Sainsbury’s. Yep, there you have it. My ever glamourous story of how I came to like olives. Sitting outside on the stairs with a container of olives and some naan bread pizza. Oh hell yeah.

    1. Haha it sounds like I have yet another olive tasting in my future, before I can rightfully claim my dislike of them. (But to be fair, feta makes everything better and that’s just a fact.) If we ever share an olive pizza, I’ll give you my olives!

    1. Awesome! Our tour guide Salih really made the trip for us. If we’d have had more time in Istanbul, then maybe we’d have gotten to the neighborhoods and sights without him, but only maybe. And even then, we wouldn’t have gotten such an excellent sense of background knowledge and history. A million stars for Salih and his tours. 🙂

  3. i don’t meant to be dramatic, but THESE PICTURES ARE KILLING MEEEEEEEE. we were supposed to go to istanbul in june and it didn’t work out and i don’t know, i just won’t feel whole until it happens!

    (ok, fine, being dramatic. but seriously. so jealous.)

    thanks for sharing!! xo the romantic

    1. Haha I understand! I had never been to Istanbul, but I had this weird magnetic sensation that I couldn’t shake and had to convince my mom to go there with me. Istanbul is calling you, now. YOU NEED TO GO! 🙂

    1. Make it there as soon as you can, because it’s the kind of place you’ll need to visit multiple times before it’s enough. Get a head start! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, I love your blog so I’m excited to see you on mine hehe.

  4. Oooh, baklava! I’m dying. Every time my friend goes out there to visit her sister, I always make her bring me back a ton of baklava and turkish delight. 😀

    1. I miss it… so.. much. My mom was also obsessed, I’m sure she went baklava hunting in my US neighborhood for the next best thing as soon as she got home. I know there’s a place in Seoul that you can find authentic baklava, too, but I have yet to make the trip.

  5. Istanbul is a really special city. I was only there for a short time, but it still is one of my favorite travel destinations. I definitely plan to go back and spend more time exploring.

    1. I think it captures a lot of people’s hearts, easily, because it’s so full of friendliness, other cultures and in general, just life. A recipe for success!

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