ISTANBUL — Waking up the sun was rising, my final day abroad in Istanbul came faster than I had expected, but was going to wear me out.
Carl Holtman, managing partner for Turca Solutions, who was guiding us around the town, told us that we needed try out one of his favorite breakfast places, which was only a thirty-minute walk.
When I heard the time that it would take, I immediately thought that I have never walked that far for breakfast, let alone any meal.
Arriving across town in the old banking district, Dr. John Barthell, provost for the University of Central Oklahoma, Holtman, and I sat down at a small table inches away from the street.
Karaköy Özsüt is known for its water buffalo cream topped with honey and a traditional egg and tomato dish, which was one of my favorite meals so far and worth the walk.
While there I was able to speak with the owner of the shop and hear how business is over there and if the recent bombings and refugee influx had affected his business.
He gave a different answer than I was expecting and will provide a great perspective in a future article.
After spending over an hour at breakfast we made the trek up to the Topkapı Palace, which was an absolute wonder, filled with ancient relics and amazing architecture.
Every turn through the palace was full of early Islamic and Christian relics, with some being from the Prophet Muhammad and other prophets.
After touring the Topkapı Palace, we left and went to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Blue Mosque, which incorporated some of the best design and engineering works I have ever seen. The interior was full of bleu tiles lining the ceiling all the way up to the top dome, 140 feet of the ground.
We then walked over to the Hajia Sophia, which was only a few hundred feet away, and went into one of the earliest Christian Orthodox Churches, before the conquest of Muslims in 1453.
The inside of the building was filled with construction and relics from both Islam and Christianity. When entering the main area, I was overtaken by all of the mosaics that went up the walls, which were all recently uncovered.
Seraphim, an angel identified in the Bible, and Jesus Christ could all be seen on the walls, including many other prophets and Islamic calligraphy.
After touring the Hajia Sohpia, Barthell and I went off to the Grand Bazaar, which is one of the largest street vendor places in the city.
We were constantly being bombarded by salesmen, asking us to come inside or even give them our ear, which we even said one word they had won.
I was able to buy up my share of gifts and other things that I never knew I needed, however it was an experience of a lifetime. We spent almost two hours wandering the Grand Bazaar and then decided to sit for tea, which is something I had become accustomed to.
After tea and buying several things from the grocery store, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for dinner. I was even able to get in one interview Muhmut Deniz, managing partner for Turca Solutions, in between regarding the situation that is happening in the region.
We all went to dinner at Kösebasi, a great restaurant only a block away from our hotel, where I had some of the best humus I have ever had and it was even served warm with a cooked pastrami on top.
During dinner we had some of our final plans cancel, and decided instead to go to the honey market, which was a “short” walk in Holtman’s terms, though ended up being longer.
I was able to get two jars of honey, which was some of the best I had tasted and then we went back to the hotel, where I began packing to leave a place that I had enjoyed considerably.
We left our hotel at 6:10 a.m. on Sunday and said our goodbye to Holtman, who had done an excellent job and gave one of the best tours I have ever had, even though he is not a tour guide.
Once the goodbye was said, I had to quickly unload some of my luggage from buying too many gifts before we arrived for check-in.
On a final note, the trip to Greece and Turkey was a once in a lifetime trip and look for articles soon about the issues facing the area and the studies that the scientist are conducting.
Continue to check my Instagram account at @eriechatapia for pictures and The Oklahoman for articles relating to the trip.