Maya is 13 years old, and lives with her family in Bangalore, India. She wants to tell us a bit about Istanbul, and show us the parts of the city that she loves.
Warning – this article may make you want to jump on a plane to Turkey!
As soon as I stepped out of the airport, all of my five senses were overwhelmed. Literally. Istanbul is brighter, bigger, better and more vivid than any other place I have ever seen. The city isn’t just beautiful and scenic, full of intricate architecture and detailed mosques; it also has those little touches that make it such a great place.
Purring cats pad here and there, being fussed over and petted, while flocks of plump pigeons eat out of children’s palms. Vendors sell hot, crusty, fresh, simit(the Turkish version of a bagel) and lively, cheerful music hangs in the air. As you stroll along the cobbled, quaint streets lined with tiny trinket selling stalls, you realise Istanbul is a perfect blend of modern and traditional, old and new. This city has managed to preserve its rich culture but still develop, grow and keep adapting.
With crumbling, ancient ruins on one side and high rise glass and steel skyscrapers on the other, there is always something to capture your attention. The main attraction of downtown Istanbul, of course, the famous Blue Mosque. The most striking feature are the unusual, striking domes and many spires, that almost cascade down from the great central dome. Outside, it is not really blue, but more a grayish colour. The name ‘Blue Mosque’ comes from the colour of the tiles inside the building. Galleries of delicate, intertwining carved leaves, flowers, and fruit encircle the domed high ceiling.
The other awe-inspiring, prominent mosque is the Hagia Sophia, my personal favorite. The exterior isn’t as fancy and decorated as the Blue Mosque, but the interior is nothing to be sneezed at. The first impression you get as you step through the wide doors is one of vast space.
Hagia Sophia is beautiful because of the light rays that stream through the numerous stained glass window panes, reflecting off the gold and emerald embellishments, giving the dome the appearance of hovering above the structure. Marble pillars, covered with gold leaf, dot the hall and a wishing column, engraved vases and ivory calligraphy enhance its beauty.
The Bosphorus Sea is another of Istanbul’s sights. This sea, which my mother later described as a “little slice of heaven”, is a brilliant, startling blue. The longer you stare at it, the more you’ll notice how its colors change from azure to turquoise to aquamarine. What’s so great about Istanbul is that you glimpse a bit of the Bosphorus wherever you go.
Tiny white fishing boats bobbing on the water, seagulls swooping and diving, green hills with little wooden houses perched upon them, the glistening , shining view of the sea – it’s hard to describe how pretty being by the Bosphorus actually is. Tourists, and even natives flock to seaside cafes to eat steaming hot kumpir (giant potatoes with lots of toppings) and haggle over turquoise and jade trinkets in the nearby markets.
Ice cream vendors sporting bright red and golden costumes cry out “Dondurma! Dondurma!” Dondurma, a type of Turkish ice cream with mastic gum mixed in, is extra gooey, chewy and utterly delicious. My fondest memory of my holiday here is a strawberry and caramel sundae. If you make a visit to Turkey I suggest the first thing you do is grab a bowl of ice cream- trust me, it’s definitely worth it.
The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. One of the significant things to see in the cistern are the bases of two columns, mottled green with age and damp, carved with the face of Medusa. These long columns are surrounded by dimly illuminated pools of water, filled with massive carp, making for a mysterious and spooky effect. Legend has it that if you throw a coin in these murky depths, good fortune will come to you, and you will return to Istanbul one day. I certainly hope I do.
The featured image of Hagia Sophia is by photographer Moyan Brenn. Mr Brenn allows others to use his photographs, and requests that in return a small donation is made to a charitable organisation. We are happy to comply with this request, and have donated, in the name of Jump! Mag, to this charity, which aims to create a girl-centred storybook for children in Sri Lanka.