The coronavirus pandemic has deprived everyone of our many habitual occupations. For many years we have been completely deprived of the opportunity to travel around the world. And here, now, when different countries have started mitigating the quarantine measures, reopening flights, it is possible to think about where to travel this summer. My long dream, which has already come true, was Turkey, and for the most part, its treasurer, Istanbul. I really wanted to see its narrow streets live, to feel the aroma of the famous ancient markets of this ancient city and the glory of the great city.
But I could not imagine that I will have such a chance exactly during the coronavirus pandemic period, when people are afraid to leave their houses, not speaking of their country. But Istanbul was a safe city in this context. All quarantine and sanitary measures are strictly observed in the city, and the whole country has already moved to the Safe Tourism system for the first time in the world.
Turkey has always attracted millions of tourists from all over the world. As the guides tell, the local authorities do everything possible so that even in such a difficult period, tourists could enjoy all the cultural and natural riches.
Istanbul is probably leading in this list. But I want to warn you in advance that a couple of days is not enough to fully immerse yourself in the spirit of Istanbul.
Istanbul is probably the most diverse in terms of architecture and cultures of the city of the world. Separated by the Bosphorus, the city is not just a place of encounters of civilizations, but a city that combines the traditions and culture of the vast historical layer. This ancient city has preserved the monuments of history and culture of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. This merger led to the formation of a completely unique and fascinative image, which you would not want to part with.
Everyone can find something for himself in this city. The most important thing for me in the city is its spirit. In this sense, Istanbul has completely justified itself. Grand mosques and churches, synagogues, markets, spacious seaside promenades, and of course, the Istanbul cats, of which there are really many in the city.
Istanbul is traditionally divided into European and Asian parts connected by four bridges and an underground tunnel. Every part of it is interesting in its own way. In the European part, you feel a more alive and boiling life. A large part of the historical monuments and attractions of the city are also located in its European part. "Asian Istanbul" is best known for its relatively calm coastal and elite quarters, prices for which often start from a few million US dollars.
The views of Istanbul can be admired not only from its beautiful coastal ridges but also from the famous Galata Tower, which is more than 60 meters high. On its last floor is a circular viewing platform, which opens an unforgettable view of the whole of Istanbul. You will see the stunning beauty of the famous Hagia Sophia, the mosques of Sultan Ahmed and Suleiman, as well as dozens of other attractions that have become the architectural landmark of Istanbul.
The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque is a world famous architectural monument, protected by UNESCO. Once an Orthodox cathedral, it was founded in the 4th century AD during the Byzantine Empire. And already in the 15th century, with the transfer of Constantinople (Istanbul) into the hands of the Ottomans, the cathedral received the status of a mosque until 1935, when it became a museum.
Many were worried about what will happen to Hagia Sophia after the status of a mosque was returned to her in 2020. In fact, the status of the mosque does not prevent everyone from visiting this ancient temple. And the entrance to it became completely free. When entering, it is imperative to take off your shoes and leave them in a designated area. Now, namaz (divine services) are performed here five times a day, only during which the staff of the mosque slowly ask women to go to the part of the mosque allotted for them.
This is a truly mystical place filled with pure energy. And the fact that divine services were resumed in this shrine seemed to have returned its soul to Hagia Sophia.
Shopping in Istanbul
Shopping in Istanbul is perhaps a reason for a separate visit to Turkey. There are countless shops and shopping centers for every taste and pocket. Of course, you cannot visit Istanbul without seeing two probably the most famous and oldest markets in the city - the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Market. In the first one, you will find almost everything you need, and while the second is good for buying Turkish sweets and spices. Both markets are charming and colorful. In the Grand Bazaar alone, there are about 4,000 stores. The time spent there will leave lots of positive impressions on you. Just don't forget to try a cup of Turkish coffee in the Grand Bazaar.
Things are more complicated for lovers of modern shopping because walking around numerous shopping arcades, streets and centers, you can easily get lost in Istanbul for a week or even more.
From Istanbul to Canakkale
One of the closest destinations from Istanbul, which are definitely worth visiting, is the Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Peninsula and Canakkale city. The way to Canakkale takes on average 4-5 hours. If you are connoisseur of wine, and generally like to visit wine lands and take a break from the bustle of the city, don't drive past the vineyards in the vicinity of the small town of Tekirdag. On the territory of the winery, in the middle of the vineyards, there is also a restaurant where you can taste exquisite local wines without exaggeration. Sunsets in this area are a topic for another conversation, of course, over a glass of red or white wine in an atmosphere of complete relaxation. By the way, I will warn you in advance that alcohol prices in Turkey are higher than in Azerbaijan. The average price per bottle will cost in the region above 100 Turkish liras (about 25 manats). But rest assured, their quality and taste fully compensate for the price difference.
Continuing to Canakkale, on the way, you will be able to observe the construction of an ambitious new project - the Canakkale 1915 bridge, which will unite the European part of Turkey with Asia Minor through the Canakkale Strait (the Dardanelles). The bridge under construction will have the world's longest central span - 2,023 meters. The total length of the bridge over the Dardanelles will be 3,563 meters. The height of the bridge towers supporting the central span will be 318 meters. The head of the Turkish state, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself stated that the distance that the ferry has to cover for an hour and a half can be covered by car across the bridge in six minutes. According to the guide, it is planned to commission the bridge by 2023.
Honestly, the absence of a bridge and overcoming the strait on the ferry didn't upset me at all. On the contrary, watching the stunning views of Canakkale itself from the ferry is an invaluable pleasure. Canakkale is a small port city, but with a very famous history. It was in this area that the famous and decisive battle of Canakkale took place in 1915, the outcome of which was the defeat of the Entente forces and the preservation of Turkish statehood. In the port of Canakkale, there are very cozy and colorful cafes serving delicious Turkish coffee. Here you can wait out your ferry (on average, they run once an hour), or just enjoy an unforgettable view of the Dardanelles from the shore.
Not far from Canakkale, on the shores of the lagoon at the entrance to the Dardanelles lies a legendary place with an ancient history, which was written about in the epics "Iliad" and "Odyssey." The ruins of Troy are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Canakkale, where the paths of many important leaders, generals, warriors, artists, philosophers, researchers and poets crossed throughout history, is famous for the wooden Trojan horse, a symbol of the legendary Trojan War. By the way, in the port itself there is also a Trojan Horse, the same one that was filmed in the famous film Troy. Immediately after the completion of filming in 2003, the authors of the film presented the horse to the city. In 2018, the Art Nouveau museum of the same name was opened next to the ruins of Troy. In the Museum of Troy and in the ancient town itself, you can see unique exhibits and artifacts found as a result of archaeological excavations.
Ancient city of Assos (Behramkale)
In an hour's drive from Troy on the shores of the Aegean Sea, there is another ancient port city - Assos. It is located south of Canakkale. It is said that Aristotle himself lived in this particular settlement. Therefore, Assos is also known as the city of philosophers. Interestingly, a significant part of the 4-kilometer-long walls surrounding the city has survived to this day. The Temple of Athena, located in the Acropolis, is one of the oldest Doric temples in Anatolia, built in the Archaic era. This temple offers a magnificent view of the Edremit Bay. On the territory of the ruins of Assos, a very peculiar mosque of the XIV century has also been preserved. Almost all buildings in this town are built of local, very ancient andesite stone, which has a dark color, which gives a unique majesty to this place.
Summarizing everything and thinking about if I would like to visit Turkey again, I will answer without hesitation - yes. That's because I'm sure that Turkey hasn't fully revealed itself to me. Every corner of it keeps countless traces of history, bright colors, and unforgettable adventures. This is a country that gives you the opportunity to relax all year round. Here everyone will find his or her own unique Turkey.