Turkey & Prague Thanksgiving Trip – Turkey Part 1

Hello! As promised for the next several days I will be posting recaps of our fabulous Thanksgiving trip my mom,  Tommy and I took to Turkey and Prague for the next few days.

The three of us left the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and were headed first to Istanbul, Turkey. (When we first started searching for flights to Prague earlier this year, mom found a great deal Turkish Airlines was offering to Prague with a stop each way through Istanbul (departing and returning from D.C.). We decided to take advantage of the great fare because it enabled mom and I to return to Istanbul for a visit after about 10 years and because it gave Tommy another city and country to mark off his “visited” list.

The flight to Istanbul was uneventful and pretty quick since we slept most of the plane ride – our flight took off at 11pm. Two things to note about Turkish Airlines – their airline food is (shockingly) pretty good and their seats are very compact with barely any space at all to move around. We did each have our own TV set and the television show and movie selection was very good.

We landed in Istanbul around 5pm the next  day -Thanksgiving Day – and waited a bit for our arranged transportation to take us to our hotel for the night, Hotel Nomade, in the Sultanahmet area. Later that evening we were meeting my friend Teresa and her friend Sherin for dinner! Teresa still lives in Cairo, Egypt currently, bu decided to come to Turkey for a few days on holiday which happened to coincide with us being there at the same time.

As soon as we checked into our hotel, we headed out for dinner. As mentioned here we ate at Eleos Restaurant and it was so good!  Our waiter kept bringing us different dishes “on the house”. Everything we had was so, so yummy and fresh – plenty of fish, salads, cheeses, and dips to eat with pita bread. Unfortunately our first meal in Istanbul set the “alcoholic” tone of the entire trip so to speak. Even various cocktails and liquors were given to us on the house, but yours truly had to abstain from partaking.

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Our dessert fruit bowl came accompanied with shots of dessert liquor.

Tommy also decided to order a traditional Turkish coffee since his jet lag was kicking in a bit.

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After dinner we walked around Taxim – the neighborhood where we ate dinner at which can best be described as the more upscale part of Istanbul where a lot of locals live – for a bit. (Our hotel was in the touristy section of the city). Pretty soon we parted ways with Teresa and Sherin and headed back to our hotel and promptly to bed.

The next day we woke up around 7am (this was on account of our jet lag and the fact that the morning call to prayer had woken us up about an hour and a half earlier). We headed upstairs to the rooftop of our hotel for breakfast. We had another incredible buffet-style spread to choose from – different cheeses, breads, pastries, veggies, fruits juices, and eggs, and of course, tea and coffee. We also had some pretty incredible views of downtown Istanbul and the Bosphorus River.

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After a leisurely breakfast, we headed back to our hotel room to shower and change. We had a pretty ambitious agenda for the day before we headed back to the airport to get on a flight to Prague in the evening.

First stop, Hagia Sophia – a museum that used to be a church and later a mosque. It was just as stunning and still jarring to see a blend of Christian and Islamic artistic and symbolic touches merged together as I remembered it when I visited the museum with my family years ago.

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The chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling were very impressive.

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I loved the different kind of murals and mosaic patterns we saw throughout Hagia Sophia on ceilings and walls.

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Mom is standing on the spot where the royal queen would stand to watch religious ceremonies taking place.

Our next stop after Hagia Sophia was the Basilica Cistern not too far from Hagia Sophia. The Basilica Cistern is the largest among several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. Water still flows and drips throughout the cistern to this day.

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There are two Medusa column bases in the cistern. The origin of the two heads is unknown but are thought to have been brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period.

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After the Basilica Cistern we walked around the Sultanahmet area and decided to walk a bit more to the famous Grand Bazaar where hundreds of vendors and shops were located for people to shop to their hearts content. We only had time to walk through the Bazaar to show Tommy just how big it was. I wished we had more time to shop but we were on a tight schedule.

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Things you could buy here are endless – jewelry, rugs and carpets, spices, clothes, ornaments, pottery, paintings, and much, much more.

Before we headed to the airport Tommy wanted to pop into a Turkish Kebab restaurant.

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We also stopped at a bakery shop to buy different kinds of Baklava to snack on.

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Tommy and me outside of our hotel.

Tommy and me outside of our hotel.

Before we knew it, it was time to get in a taxi and head back to the Istanbul airport. We had a flight to catch to Prague!

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