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Istanbul's Old City

Must be one of the coolest old cities in the world

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View Semester Break, pt. 1 on kmclean's travel map.

Istanbul is definitely my new favourite city. It has an amazing history and all the museums you could ask for to go with it, but there are so many other things to do, too. Another huge attraction in the old city is the Grand Bazaar. We spent a lot of time there and also at the Spice Market, or the Egyptian Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is as old as the Ottoman Empire itself, and one of the biggest and oldest markets in the world. And after a long day of touring and shopping, a visit to a Turkish bath (hamam) was the perfect way to wind down.

The Grand Bazaar had already reached its current size at the beginning of the 17th century and was one of the biggest trading posts of the time because of the Ottoman Empire’s total control over the route from Asia to Europe back then. It has 64 streets and about 4000 vendors. A lot of them sell kitschy tourist stuff, but some have decent things and a few have art or other things they’ve made themselves.

The Spice Market is similar but a lot smaller, and most of the vendors sell spices, obviously, and also herbs, teas, and yummy Turkish treats. It was built using the tax money collected on the trade of Egyptian spices and herbs, so it’s also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. It’s starting to get overrun with tourist souvenir stalls, but there are still mostly food vendors selling all kinds of delicious Turkish teas and treats. We definitely spent too much money at both Bazaars, but where else better in the world to do it?

After our first day walking around the city and shopping at the Grand Bazaar, we tried out a Turkish bath. They're conveniently open until midnight so it's the perfect thing to do at the end of the day, although I heard it can get quite busy after supper. This time of year nothing is very crowded, though, and we didn't run into any crowds or have to wait long at the hamam. I had heard a lot of crazy things before going in and we were both pretty nervous, but it turned out to be amazing. Mike and I both went for the “traditional” bath, meaning you get scrubbed down and massaged by a little Turkish lady, or huge Turkish guy, in Mike’s case.

The building itself was really beautiful, and kind of looks like a Mosque without the minarets. The bath we went to was around the corner from the Grand Bazaar and has been open since 1584! Coming from Canada, I still can’t get over how old things in this part of the world are. We both had a really great, and relaxing, time. Not at all as horrifying as some of the things I read. I would definitely recommend doing it if you’re ever in Turkey.

The Turkish bath was the perfect way to end off a day of touring and shopping. We had an amazing time seeing the historical buildings and shopping at the Bazaars in Istanbul. The Old City of Istanbul has so much to offer and I think you would need a year to really see everything. We luckily managed to squeeze in a few of the major sites during our short stay, but it was also great to get to check out some other areas of the town.

Posted by kmclean 12:55 Archived in Turkey Tagged cities turkey istanbul bazaar hamam

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