Istanbul, the only city in the world stretching between two continents, is a destination that has fascinated me for decades. Since I was a child, back in Venezuela, I viewed Turkey as this capti vating country, full of great stories and legends, which fuelled my imagination and made me dream about visiting it at some point in my life.
Having lived in the Middle East for a decade now (yes, in May 2019 I officially crossed the 10 years mark!) my adult interest in Turkey, and particularly Istanbul, was much more about the fascinating historical heritage than about old tales and stories… and after reading Dan Brown’s Inferno, I desperately wanted to go to both Hagia Sophia, the famous Orthodox Church, turned Mosque, turned Museum; and the Basilic Cistern equally.
Whilst many want to shop their life away in the over-4-thousand shops at the Grand Bazaar or relish in the artwork and curiosities in the city’s countless museums, my bucket list for Istanbul was simple:
1. Visit Hagia Sophia – Walk around its ancient corridors, look at the second church’s ruins and take a moment to witness its amazing centuries-old frescos; and
2. Visit the Basilic Cistern – Walk around the dark and humid pathways that once guaranteed water supply for a big art of the city, visit the two Medusa heads and imagine Robert Langdon’s experience in this mysterious location in Inferno.
In all honesty, anything extra that I could tackle during our 3-day tour in Istanbul with 2 boys in tow, was a bonus, since whilst in my heart, I wanted to see it all, I knew that holidaying with children is a whole different ball game.
Before having children I could walk for hours on end, moving swiftly in between alleyways and stopping only for seconds to take photographs of the different things I encountered… tourism with little humans is about compromising, negotiating and constant stops to either take them to the toilet, feed them or let them play for a bit. Not to mention navigating the ancient streets with strollers.
If you, like me, have been fascinated about Istanbul and are planning a trip with your own family, here are the lessons we learned, things we loved and challenges we faced: