We left Cappadocia in the afternoon after walking around and exploring the town all morning. We arrived in Istanbul around 5:00 pm local time, and had transportation set up to take us to our airbnb. Our airbnb was located right around the Galata Tower, one of the historic landmarks of Istanbul. In Ottoman times it was used to detain prisoners of war, but was later used as an observation or “look out” tower for spotting fires from enemies. It is one of the oldest tower’s in the world. Eventually we bought tickets and made our way up the tower, which we highly recommend doing – the view from the top hosts beautiful views of all of Istanbul!!
It was rainy the day we arrived. We got settled in our airbnb, which reminded us of Tim Burton or Beetle Juice vibes the way that the place was decorated in black and whites and splashes of yellow decor ((you can see it in our YouTube video here: Istanbul Part 1)). We had a cute little balcony looking over an alley way, so that was pretty nice! Later on, we went to find dinner. A lot of places were not allowing in door dining, but we managed to find a cozy little spot called Pepos Galata. We shared some appetizers, had two different chicken entrees and each had a glass of rosé (because if you don’t know us already, we love our rosé). After dinner, we just went back to the Airbnb and rested up for the next day’s adventures.
The following morning was still a little rainy as well. We did a workout in the massive living room of our Airbnb and then got ready to take on the day. Our first “mission’ was to find a street lined with umbrellas overhead, that we had seen on Instagram of course. But first, like all adventures – coffee! We did see the umbrellas first and snapped a few pics, before actually finding some coffee. There were a few places we had tried to go to, but again were closed!! We did stumble upon a little cafe where we had cappuccinos and chocolate croissants (def not your Turkish breakfast we were used to the past couple days, but we just wanted to eat anything at this point).
After getting something in our system and getting caffeinated, we started our trek across the bridge to view Instanbul’s other famous landmarks – the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Topika Palace. We did walk through the Spice Market and got a bag of Turkish delight to try!! Loved it!! We then tried to go to the Grand Bazaar, but it was closed on Sundays, which we learned that’s probably why a lot of places were closed that we had tried to go to earlier.
Arriving at the square (known as Sultanahmet) where the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are located, we learned that it was closed for prayer, and to come back around 2:00 pm when it would be open to tourists, so to waste some time we went looking for a bite to eat! One of the popular foods in Turkey is the Simit, which is sort of like a pretzel, but it is bread twisted into a circle. The ones we had, we were offered the option of putting Nutella inside it! It was soooo good!!! Mmmm. There was also another little artisan’s Bazaar with more shops and spices that we walked through until we were able to visit inside the mosques.
When entering the Mosques you had to wrap your hair/head in a scarf as part of the culture as it is still used for prayer today. The Blue Mosque, is an iconic landmark of Istanbul and most likely the picture that pulls up when you google Istanbul. It’s known as the Blue Mosque because of the Blue tiles that make up the walls of the interior design. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. He decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power. Unfortunately, we got to see the Blue Mosque under construction, wah wah wahhhh, so most of what we came to see (the beautiful interior design) was covered up. But it was still cool to be able to go inside.
We had a better experience visiting the Hagia Sophia. When you go into the Hagia Sophia you are required to take off your shoes before entering the room of prayer. The inside of the Hagia Sophia is beautiful! The architecture is stunning! Interesting enough, the mosque used to be a cathedral, a mosque, a museum, then turned into a mosque again. We sat in the middle of the room and watched a little bit of the prayer going on before we left to go visit the Topkapi Palace. ((We did stop for some lunch and had some soup and bread and chicken with rice to warm up on what was a little chilly day).
The Topkapi Palace once served as the main residences and administrative headquarters of the powerful sultans during the Ottoman Empire, dating back to the 15th century!! With 15 different sections, the Topkapi Palace is one of the biggest palace museums and attracts tourists from all around the world for those who want to learn about the history of the Ottoman Empire. It truly is a must when you come to Istanbul as the palace has beautiful rooms of mosaic tiles and gold thrones, and you can walk along the courtyards with views of the Bosporus straight.
After touring the Topkapi Palace we decided to grab some Turkish Tea at these colorful little shops that looked inviting. The place we actually ended up in was called Barbecue House, but we did not get BBQ. It was so quaint and cozy with a fire place running as mentioned before, it was a little chilly outside! We had some tea and shared a fruit plate, because you know – nutrients!
Then we started our trek back to where the Galata Tower was. We stumbled upon a bookstore that was also a coffee shop and ordered some Matcha Latte’s to go. When we got back to our airbnb, we got upgraded as the toilet in our first airbnb wasn’t functioning properly. No complaints here, as our new accommodations were just another floor up, and we had a whole rooftop terrace balcony with a view of the city!!! We watch the sunset, and then tried to go find Turkish Pizza, which we ended up settling for Americanized Turkish pizza – just a regular take away pizza spot that was really one of the only places that was open around us ((You can watch our Istanbul Part 2 on Youtube))
Day three of our time in Istanbul was probably both of our favorites . We hit the ground running early and went to a restaurant called Privato Cafe and had the most amazing Turkish Breakfast!! Oh my gosh, there was bread, with butter, jams and all kinds of spreads. Olives, fruit, pancakes, potato cakes, eggs, cheese! Coffee, Tea. It felt endless, but all the plates are pretty small, so you don’t fill up on just one thing and get to taste it all! That was probably our favorite part of the day to be honest haha.
After breakfast, we made our way to the Grand Bazaar. Being a Monday morning, the streets were way more lively and packed with people. Shops were open. The city felt more alive, and we felt like “okay. This is what Istanbul is all about.” The Grand Bazaar was no different. There is tons of shops from spices, lanterns, carpets, teas, clothing, and of course we bought more Turkish delight (some for a friend back home). We got to take our picture in one of the vendor’s shops with all the lanterns. Everywhere we walked too, people kept thinking we were from Spain (which our Grandpa is from Spain descent, so they aren’t wrong. But we are more Polish than anything, for those wanting to know).
Next to the Grand Bazaar is another area of shops, or I should say maybe what used to be shops as it looks very run down. There are a few shops once you enter the building, but it almost looks like you shouldn’t be in there. We were trying to find a rooftop view of the city that I had learned about from Google haha, but apparently it was closed for renovations. On our way up, a man stopped us and asked if we were trying to get to the roof, and when he mentioned it was close he offered If we’d like to have some coffee at his cafe. He walked us to this blue door, and went to retrieve his keys. When he opened the door, it opened up to this really cool cafe, with a balcony that overlooked the city of Istanbul. I mean it was incredible!! We had some coffee and sat on the balcony just taking in the scenery (not to mention the coffee was pretty good too!).
Our next adventure we wanted to cross off our list was visiting the city of Balat, which is the traditional Jewish area of Istanbul. Over the years it has become an instagram hotspot as the artists there started painting stairs and the colorful buildings to attract “influencers” which in return helps the businesses receive customers. And Balat really is such a cool area. It’s very hipster and artsy. We were lucky for the time we got to go as it wasn’t too crowded, so we got to snap a few pics in front of these colorful houses that you’d see on instagram. We walked around Balat the majority of the day taking pictures and grabbed a latte at a Cafe called Cafe Mood. Then we started our walk back to the airbnb (If it seems like we did a lot of walking, that’s because we did. About 30,000 steps a day)).
Back around town near the Airbnb, we went to some shops to get some souvenirs and more Turkish delight; however, if we seem obsessed, these rolls of it were sooo so good!! They had all kinds of different rolls from red velvet to almond and pistachio. Our favorite was this purple roll though I can’t remember what was in it. We enjoyed our Turkish delight on the balcony of our new Airbnb abode ((Watch our day Istanbul Part 3 here))
For dinner, we still needed to find Turkish pizza. We kept googling places that had it, and when we’d show up, they were closed. I’m not sure if it was because of the Pandemic or not, but we did end up finding some at a place about 15 mins walk away. So we brought it back to our Airbnb to eat. It was pretty good. I did get some Gelato too. Even in Cappadocia, some of the vendors around town try to push you to try the ice cream, I finally caved in and said I had to try it. I ordered a cone of pistachio ice cream at a shop, and tried to take a cool pic with the Galata Tower, which I kept calling the Gelato tower ironically. See my attempt below. Bad pic. Good ice cream.
Our last night for dinner, we just ended back up at Pepos, and our server from the night before remembered us. We actually saw him out one day heading to work, and we promised we’d be back, so there we were! It’s a really good spot though for dinner. We had some appetizers, a salad, and shared another bottle of our fav wine to celebrate just living life to the fullest! That night we were able to get our Covid tests done at our Airbnb, to be able to return to the USA the next morning. It was overall an incredible trip, and Istanbul quickly became one of our new favorite cities that we hope to return to soon!! There’s so much history and culture and good food!!! Treats and all!
And that’s what Fit for Flight is all about – living a life in balance, but enjoying yourself along the way!! If you ever get the chance to visit Instanbul or Cappadocia Turkey, do it!! I added all our YouTube links here from our adventures in Turkey as well as more info under each caption! And you can check out our photo Gallery from our website here
Go Live. Stay Fit!!
Links to YouTube