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Around Turkey on a Portakal Tour! First stop: Istanbul

Over the next few weeks I endeavour to take you on a virtual Portakal tour of Turkey. While I’d planned and promised to do this while actually on tour in Turkey in September, it didn’t happen as we were simply having too much fun!

East meets West. Asia meets Europe. A city of contrasts. A juxtaposition. A melting pot of cultures, food and history. Every cliché you hear about Istanbul is true!

Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, and throughout history, every civilisation has swept through this city, leaving their mark on art, culture, religion and food.

You could spend 3 weeks in Istanbul and not see enough. I’ve been coming to Istanbul for 6 years, including having lived there for 2 years, and still have barely scratched the surface! This year, while walking down a street I thought I knew well, in the old Greek and Armenian suburb of Kumkapi, I noticed a gold cross towering above a building. Taking a closer look, I’d just found a Greek Orthodox Church dating back to the 16th century. This is why I love Istanbul!

St Kyriaki Church, Kumkapi

We spent two days at the beginning of the tour in Sultanahmet, the old town, exploring the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace. Below are some of the highlights of our first two days in Istanbul.

The ceiling of the Blue Mosque

A dinner table filled with endless mezes.

Aya Sofya – finally the scaffolding has been removed to reveal it’s beauty!

A vendor in the Grand Bazaar

A trader’s lunch of lamb durum in the Grand Bazaar.

Inside the harem section of Topkapi Palace.

Signing off on Istanbul – next instalment is Gallipoli!