Destinations

Touristing Istanbul During Ankara Turkey Bombing

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Peace for the world. Peace for those affected during the Turkey bombing.

We were unlucky while traveling to Istanbul. One of the deadliest terror bombings in the country took place while we were there. There was a significant difference in the tone in Istanbul before and then after the Turkey bombing, and it was a totally different experience touristing a city that was in mourning.

What Attack?

We actually didn’t find out about the Turkey bombing until we were out one night, and some locals we had become friends with had told us and showed us the video of the attack, which took place at a peace rally in Ankara.

We were looking for a few specific bars to go to one night (that we had heard about through other travel blogs), but we noticed they were all closed, as well as most of the shops and restaurants along the way. Curious as to why everything was closed, we finally found one that was open.

We began talking with these local girls who shared their table with us, and they explained to us the horrific news about the Ankara bombing that had taken place a few hours earlier that day, which was the reasoning behind everything being closed. She thought it was Turkish government that had set off the bombs, while others in the group thought it could have been the Kurds (the largest group of people today who still doesn’t have their own country), or of course, ISIS. No organization has yet claimed responsibility.

The next day,  many places — tourists spots, restaurants, shops, mosques — were closed. A numbing vibe swept the city. Armed Turkish government officials were everywhere the next few days, and wouldn’t let us walk into some public places, such as the University.

After the Turkey bombing had happened, it was hard to play “tourist”. You could see the depressed looks in the locals’ eyes. A serious emotional tragedy that we’ve all recently revisited with the recent shooting in Paris.

This, combined with the email from the U.S. Embassy and the eerie housesit, made it quite the unusual and sad trip to Turkey. We decided to still do everything we would have normally done, but with extra caution, and a bit of dreariness.

Of course there were happy moments. But then it would rain. And we wouldn’t leave our hotel for a full day.

I’ve been late on writing this Istanbul piece because of the event that had taken place while we were there. It’s hard to write about all the things that we did because of how we felt that week. Which is why I’m just going to list the things we did with a short explanation instead.

I will say though, that Istanbul is such a culturally different city than anything back in the U.S. The majority of women with their heads covered in beautiful scarves, there are grand mosques everywhere instead of churches, and a population of friendly locals who genuinely love to tell jokes.

I ask everyone out there to please go visit someday, and enjoy the many wonders that Istanbul is. Of course I want to say that I’m sure you’d be fine if you go visit now, because bad things happen everywhere. But honestly, I don’t know.

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Wondrous Places

Basilica Sistern (Sunken Palace)

The story of this 2000 year old underground ancient cistern is incredible. There was an explorer that stumbled upon the once forgotten cistern in the 1500s, and it wasn’t restored until the late 1980s. It’s so real looking, when inside you’d think you’re part of a ride at Universal Studios. Or wait, the opposite. Touristing Istanbul During Ankara Turkey Bombing

Topkapi Palace Museum

Where all the OG Ottoman sultans lived back in the day. There are artifacts here that belonged to Moses, and the prophet Muhammad–swords, even his hair–and artifacts from many other prophets/saints from the Bible and Koran.Touristing Istanbul During Ankara Turkey Bombing

Marvelous Mosques 

Hagia Sophia

Touristing Istanbul During Ankara Turkey Bombing

Was a church, then a mosque, now a museum — without museum things. It’s an incredible structure that houses Christian and Islamic holy significances. Opt for the audio guide.

Süleymaniye Mosque

Most authentic mosque experience. No shoes allowed. To all of my lady friends, bring your steezy-est scarf. Otherwise you’ll get these tacky light blue Sham-Wows that they end up handing out to the unprepared tourists. Gentlemen, be respectful, and wear pants — which goes for all mosques. Some argue Süleymaniye is more beautiful than the famous Blue Mosque. One thing is for sure, the view from the top certainly is.

Istanbul, Turkey

Blue Mosque

Beautiful, simple and open with pastel colors. So simple in design compared to European-style churches. No statues, dead people nailed to crosses, naked flying babies with bows and arrows, etc. When I was inside, I couldn’t help but think, Where is all the stuff? Where’s Muhammad’s face everywhere? Where’s the mythological creatures? It’s not like that with mosques. Blue Mosque

Shopping & Entertainment

Grand Bazaar

If you don’t go for the shopping, go for the jaw-dropping rounded ceiling and colorful architecture.Soaps at Grand Bazaar
Spices at Grand Bazaar

Whirling Dervishes

Think less about this being something “entertaining” and more about it being a 45-minute dance that requires intense focus and spiritual devotion. Don’t expect Cirque du Soleil.Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul

Museums Full of Really Old Famous Things

Istanbul Archaeology Museum

Full of ancient artifacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Arabia.
Istanbul Archeology Museum

Istanbul Mosaic Museum

We kind of stumbled upon this museum. Nothing you absolutely have to go see. I thought it was interesting that the mosaics weren’t found until the early 1900s and had spawn across a huge courtyard from the 5th century near the Great Palace.

Great Palace Mosaic Museum

Must-Try Food & Beverages

Doners

Think a pita, with french fries inside.

Turkish Tea

Better than any other tea. They drink it on the regular. It’s kind of rude to say no when offered for free. When we bought our camera from the camera store, the salesman immediately brought us two hot cups of tea. A little different than your typical Best Buy situation.

So that was it. That was the Istanbul experience.

There’s nothing I love more than swapping travel stories. Have you been to Istanbul before? What was your experience like? 

Some photos seen here taken by: @thecolt

Always in search of worldly knowledge and broader understandings, Kaitlyn has been freelancing while traveling since 2015. She's passionate about digital content, being environmentally friendly, and surfing. 16+ countries and counting.

  • Laura Howland

    HI! First off, miss you tons <3 Second, what a crazy experience you had in Istanbul! I haven't done a lot of international travel but my entire mom's side of the family went to Istanbul (mostly, we also went to Bodrum for a few nights) in memory of my uncle who passed away. My aunt was born and raised in Istanbul and my uncle had always wanted us to see where she was from. Anyways… we went right after the US declared war on Iraq in 2003 so a lot of people were scared for us to go at that time because there had been random car bombings etc. although we found everyone in Istanbul to be extremely welcoming to us and luckily did not encounter any danger. Turkey is so incredibly colorful. We did the mosques, grand bazaar, etc. as well. Loved it all. We also took a boat cruise down the Bosphorus straight which was neat since you're in between Asia and Europe. Anywho hope you guys are still having a blast can't wait to read more!

    • Hi Laura! So good to hear from you. Miss you too girl, I hope everything is going well with you and Rabin in PB. That’s so cool that you visited Istanbul before, and that’s crazy that you actually had family that grew up there … Yeah, I can imagine 2003 would have been a craaaazy time to visit with that other terrible event that took place. But I’m happy to hear you were able to enjoy the wonderful people and all the city has to offer 🙂 I’m jealous you were able to do the Bosphorus boat cruise! We didn’t have time to hit that one up during our visit, but hey, gives us a reason to go back some day. Thanks for reading, and sending positive vibes back to you in the States. XOXO. – KS

  • Tania Aurea Perez

    Thank you for sharing your adventures. Thank you for sharing all those photographs and taking us all the way to Istanbul through your words and images. Be very careful have fun and enjoy your journey,which I imagined you are. Take care!!!

    • Tania! Thank you so much for reading the adventures. I’ll never forget my first abroad trip ever with you, Gustavo, and Eli. It was so much fun running around Europe and seeing all there is to see. Great memories. Hope all is well 🙂 – KS

  • Joni

    Wow you are bringing the world to us. I never knew about the ancient cistern which sounds incredible, and to be in a world near Moses, what a blessing!

    • Thanks for the comment Joni, and glad to hear you find wonder in the world just like us!