Trip Report: Istanbul, Turkey

By CrustyCanucks - July 27, 2017

We had been dreaming of going to Istanbul for a long time, and when we spotted some very, very reasonable flights online a few months ago, we simply just had to jump on it. 

Now, as it often is with very cheap flights, we had a couple layovers on our way from Canada to Istanbul. The first one was almost 24 hours long (I know, I know, but you would freak if I told you how good of a deal we got) in one of our favorite cities on earth: London. After booking the flights, we immediately scoured the web for Gatwick Airport Hotels, and the booked in and looked at instead of a layover as a 'bonus holiday'. 

In that one day in London, we got to see a few things we had never seen on previous trips, like the Globe Theatre, Buckingham Palace, and even swung by hip Shoreditch for an oh-so-trendy pour over filter coffee.

It was fun, but it was definitely exhausting. Luckily, Turkish Airlines did their best to brighten our spirits with some of the best airline food we've ever eaten and endless trays of Turkish Delight which we made sure didn't go to waste. 

As we approached the city, even though we were on the opposite side of the plane from the truly amazing views, the approach to Istanbul was still very memorable. In the end, the skyline of this city that straddles two continents was probably the second most exciting to see from above after Hong Kong. 

And similarly to Hong Kong, It was a dream come to true to finally really be in Istanbul, Turkey, and ready to go out and explore the city. 

At the end of a long day, we stumbled into our hotel to find out that they had lost our reservation. They were very nice about though and made quick work of fixing the problem though (but we’re still pretty sure the hotel just stole someone else’s room for us, lol).

We aren't going to lie or sugarcoat it, Istanbul was a series of messy false starts. We had been warned that it was really expensive, but for some reason chose to ignore the warnings. That was not a wise decision. Our plan was to find an apartment when we got there, but after a few days of sticker shock everywhere, we honestly just felt like leaving and even started perusing for a place near the airport so we could catch a flight back to Ljubljana, our favorite hidden gem in Europe. 

In addition, the city’s skyline was visually stunning and all, but it just didn't feel as, exotic, as we hoped and as a result didn't really impress us at all. It just wasn't the city we were expecting. Seeing American chains Caribou Coffee, Shake Shack, and Fatburger were funny and everything, but actually kind of disappointing. 

It all conspired to make us feel like we had fallen victims to an evil hype machine operated by all travel writers, bloggers, and travel television show hosts that had constantly trumpeted Istanbul as a mind blowing, sensory overloading, one-of-a-kind city. We tried our best to have a good time though having some char-grilled fish sandwiches and tea by the water, walking on the Galata bridge, and eating some wonderful kebabs at Durumzade, which had been featured on Anthony Bourdain's show.

But then we discovered a cool neighborhood that became our home for the next few days and suddenly, our whole mood changed. The sun came out each and every day, and we toured the city, seeing all the sites we had dreamed of: The Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, and even the underground tunnels that were featured in Inferno. 

We left thrilled with Istanbul and in the end, realized that sometimes you just have to keep your expectations in check, and that way they can be exceeded! 

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