Travel Europe: Six things in
Amy Laughinghouse Special to the Star
Although you'll never have time to tour every historically significant building in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque is particularly worthwhile. Some come to admire the intricately detailed architecture. For others, it's a religious icon.
ISTANBUL, TURKEYBeen there. Done that. Bought the rug. Thats what I thought, after a two-day stopover on a cruise four years ago.
Yet so many people rave about Istanbul, I wondered if they were simply smokin from a different hookah, or if perhaps I had missed something during my whirlwind tour of the must see sites: the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace. It was architectural overload, like staring at the sun. If I had been invited to gaze upon one more mosaic, however beautiful, I thought I might bleed from my eyes.
Dont get me wrong. Istanbuls wonders are worth visiting, particularly the Blue Mosque, as its not only stunning; its also an important religious centre where worshipers pray five times a day.
But for the most part, the de rigueur list barely scratches the surface of what I had come to suspect might be the true spirit of this city, where residents respect their history, but live, love, work, dance, play and party in the present.
So I went back. I slowed down. I took time to meet the people and learn how the locals spend their days, and their nights. What I discovered is that this isnt a city you should try to do in two days. Take a week. Take a walk and wander, and let Istanbul weave its web around you.
If youve ever seen Midnight Express, youll know Im not suggesting a dalliance with drugs, unless you fancy an extended stay in a Turkish prison.
To fully appreciate the scope of this city from the spiny minarets that punctuate the treetops to the cascade of blocky mid-rises that tumble down the hillsides like Lego-built lava you need to poke your head in the clouds.
Savour the view from Gaja Restaurant and rooftop bar, atop Swissotel The Bosphorus, or book a room at the adjacent Swissotel Living chic apartments you can rent by the night, where guests can relax beside a rooftop infinity-edge pool overlooking the strait.
swissotel.com, Bayildim Cad. No:2 Macka, Besiktas, Tel: +90 212 326 1100. Main courses from 45 TL ($24); Swissotel Living rooms from about $562.
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