One of the great cities of the world is Istanbul, a city I have always wanted to visit. This massive metropolis of nearly 16 million people is incredibly fascinating and captivating. Every street and neighborhood has a different vibe and character.

I took an early evening boat ride on the Bosporus Strait separating the city in two sides, one side in Europe and one side in Asia. With the work day over, the waterside cafes were filled with people as daylight was fading and the lights of the city began illuminating buildings, monuments, and mosques. The city is as intriguing at night as it is during the day.

After the boat ride I walked to the nearby spice market. The colors, tastes, and smells were a delight. Pungent and sweet spices filled dozens of straw baskets alongside trays of Turkish candies and nut-filled treats. As I walked the brightly lit aisles of the market, shopkeepers were sipping Turkish coffee or tea, which I also tried, both a delightful way to relax and people watch. 

On my second day in Istanbul, I visited the Blue Mosque. Before entering everyone must remove their shoes and ladies must cover their heads with scarves. Once inside, beautiful plush carpets and rugs covered the marble floor.

A ten minute walk to the next stop, Hagia Sofia, meaning Divine Wisdom, once a church, later a mosque, now a museum, is a huge building with chandeliers, mosaics, stained glass windows, minarets and Byzantine icons. The square outside the museum was dotted with food carts offering baked goods, pretzel-like pastries, and other Turkish delights, I sampled a few items. So delicious, Different but not strange.

Then a visit to Topkapi Palace, the 15th century residence and headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans.

It is now a huge museum, The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers including the Ottoman Imperial Harem and the treasury, called hazine where the Spoonmaker’s Diamond and Topkapi Dagger are on display. The museum collection also includes Ottoman clothingweapons, armor, miniatures, religious relics, and illuminated manuscripts.

Architecture enthusiasts would be enthralled with this city. Every street and corner features a different style, Byzantine, Islamic, Alpine, English, Greek, French, German or Asian. There is so much to explore. I dream of going back someday. 

John Werner

As a 45 year veteran of the travel industry and the President of MAST Travel Network since 2002, John’s career has included 14 years as a travel agency owner. He has served in various capacities on the Board of the Midwest Chapter of ASTA including Treasurer and Vice President. John has also held several positions on the Board of Directors for MAST including Vice Chairman and Board Chairman during the years he owned Travel Group International, a MAST member during the 1990s.