Historic, Lively Trip through World History
I happened to find myself in Istanbul shortly after a bombing in Taksim Square back in 2016. It was so close to our trip that, like most travelers, we considered cancelling altogether. But luckily, unlike most travelers, we did not and had the GREAT privilege of touring the city with mostly locals. Outside of the toll COVID might have taken on tourism, this is not likely to be the case when you go. Expect long lines and crowds for most historic sights but they are well worth it. Istanbul was great for self-touring - my sisters and I didn’t find the need for even museum guides in most cases, although because of the enormous dip in visitors, the locals were willing to help us in any way they could. Being in Istanbul was like having a direct line of connection to the history of the world; every church, mosque, museum, palace and market representing the waves of different cultures and religions that passed through this city over centuries. If you have an interest in where history meets religion, you’ll really enjoy things like being able to see where they keep the real items of Muhammad the Prophet, etc. We were hesitant to approach Taksim but don’t be! It’s the most Western, lively area, where you get to see tourists and locals popping from a bar to the Nike store. It was a refreshing and heart-warming to see that the people didn’t skip a beat even days after a major bombing. If you get a chance, take a break, drink some tea, shop teas and spices at the Bazaar, and stop for some shisha and shepherd’s salad somewhere. We stayed at the W Hotel, where the concierge and complimentary breakfast really held us down. I would go back just for the custom fragrance they spray in the hallways - very comfortable stay.