My parents are extremely well-traveled. My father was born and raised in Nigeria, where he lived for 15 years, until he and my grandparents moved back to Bangladesh, where my family is originally from. He met my mother in Bangladesh, and from the time they were 23 until two years before I was born, they traveled.
From spending six months in Australia to exploring Ghana for a few weeks to going to college in Denmark, my parents have covered every continent, well with the exception of Antarctica, of course. We have two giant glass display cases filled to the top with different artifacts and proudly representing all of their adventures, in our living room at home. From having a miniature Eiffel Tower to glass windmills from Holland to a replica of Copenhagen’s famous The Little Mermaid statue to Colombian clay pots to intricately-detailed rickshaws to bottled sand from Qatar, our living room could one day be turned into a museum. So it is no shock that I am also affected with wanderlust.
Now, as my luck would have it, (okay maybe being a broke college student has more to do with this than luck), my international travels have been extremely limited. Although it makes me upset that my parents have seen so much of this world and I haven’t, it also motivates me to research places I want to go, save money rather than spending it on yet another sweater I don’t need, and create a plan to go somewhere new. However, a place that I have been to with my family that I want to talk about is a country that I fell in love with as soon I stepped out of the airport — Turkey.
Last winter, I flew to Istanbul in Turkey with my parents and little brother. Istanbul is probably the most beautiful city I have seen so far. My trip there included a lot of sight-seeing, a lot of walking, and a lot of shopping. Oh yeah, I also found the best McDonald’s there, and coming from me, an avid McDonald’s hater, I can assure you it might actually be the best in the world.
So I decided to dedicate this blog post to sharing what I did in Turkey, and hopefully one day, you guys can go see this beautiful country yourself firsthand.
The Blue Mosque
Dated back to the 17th century, this place of worship in Istanbul is free and fully open to visitors. The details of the architecture here were absolutely breathtaking, and this mosque is actually visible from almost anywhere in the city. Luckily, our hotel room balcony had the perfect view of it.
The Hagia Sophia
This is a famous historical building that once was an orthodox basilica, then became a mosque, and is now a popular museum in the heart of Istanbul. This building’s architecture reflects that of The Byzantine and Ottoman era’s and this museum had beautiful mosaics, some of which date back to the 13th century.
The Topkapi Palace
This was by far my favorite place in Istanbul. My family and I spent about five hours there and we still didn’t see everything. Photography is strictly forbidden inside, and I can understand why — the treasures and artifacts contained inside this palace should be seen and appreciated only in person. Every room in the palace took my breath away. I also loved learning the history and culture behind every item, and through that, I got to learn a lot about Istanbul as well as Turkey too.
My only regret after this trip was that I did not take enough pictures — I would have loved to share all of the things my family and I saw. We spent so much time just observing and learning that we actually lived in the moment rather than feeling the need to Instagram or Snapchat every memory made. There were so many other things to see in Istanbul besides what I listed — these three were just the biggest, must-see stops in my opinion. If you ever get a chance to go to Istanbul, also stop at The Grand Bazaar, which is exactly what it sounds like.
So to sum it up, I will definitely be visiting Turkey again… but maybe in the spring this time. It was FREEZING in January. I urge you all to put Istanbul on your travel bucket list, and keep adding to this list every year, every month, every day. So no, maybe you won’t get to even half of the things on your list, but when you do get the chance to check off one, you will feel so accomplished and rewarded. I truly believe traveling makes you smarter in a way that no book ever will and allows you to broaden your mind, your perspective, and your opinions.
And with that, I leave you with my favorite quote and the warmest wishes to book that plane ticket.
“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.”
– Lisa St. Aubin