On our sixth day of the cruise we found ourselves celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary in Istanbul, Turkey!
Istanbul was hands down one of our favorite places that we visited during our cruise. This was one of the cities that I was able to plan for us to walk off the ship and visit without an excursion, so it was just the two of us exploring the city on our own. I had a set plan on the places we wanted to see, how to get there, how to get public transit tickets, which attraction tickets to buy ahead of time to skip the lines, the whole shebang. With only one day to fit in as much as we could, I refused to have us step off the ship and stand around humming and hawing about what we wanted to do.
I had a plan and we were going to stick to it come hell or high water!
To be honest, I’m quite amazed that we managed to fit it all in, but we totally did. By the end of the day we were both completely exhausted after walking so much (I am pretty sure we walked between 15-20 km after deciding to walk a lot of what I had planned to do on public transit) but it was so worth it. We loved this busy, crazy, beautiful city so much!
Pretty much every single one of these places were cooler and more amazing in person than we ever thought they would be. We agreed that we probably could have spent an entire day in the Bazaar and Spice Market alone if we had the time.
The only things we didn’t see that were marked as “possible, if we have time” on my list were Galata Tower and Topkapi Palace. We weren’t to bothered with skipping the tower, as it was in a different area than the rest of the sites and we just didn’t have time. The palace turned out to not even be open that day, so that made the decision easy. I think it was opened for a few guided tours but we were very happy to have this day free to ourselves to explore. Being solitary animals by nature, we felt we kind of needed the space.
After seeing those sites and randomly walking around exploring, we hobbled back onto the ship with 1.5 kilos of Turkish Delight and a ceramic bowl. Oh, and I’ll have you know, I haggled 50% off my ceramic bowl! I could really get into the bargaining thing if I had more time there.
That evening, back on the ship, we had dinner with another couple and were given a cake while the entire staff sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” to us. Our friend Adam was quick enough to snap some photos and a video, thanks Adam! It was slightly embarrassing, as they sang the entire song and demanded we hold hands and look at each other while they did it. It felt like a very long time with all eyes on us, which was awkward, but looking back it is a great memory to have with us from our anniversary.
It was pretty dark in there but I tried to lighten the pics up a bit.
A short clip of them singing.
We both agreed that while we feel we filled that day to the max and really got to see everything we planned, this is definitely a city we want to return to for a weekend, just to explore a bit more. It felt like a city where you could just put on a pair of comfortable shoes and walk, never running out of interesting things or people to see. I’m hoping we are able to fit it in before we leave Europe, otherwise it will be a nice little side trip someday when we are back on this side visiting family.
A fellow cruiser, who has been there previously on another cruise, told us that the sight leaving Istanbul at sunset is something you’ll never forget and she was so right. There are no words for it. We all stood at the rail of the ship watching the sun set behind Hagia Sophia and the blue mosque as a school of dolphins swam and jumped around in the distance. It was breathtaking. By far, one of my favorite memories of the holiday and a moment that has me sighing and wishing I could go back in time and experience it again right now.
I couldn’t think of a better way for us to have spent our anniversary this year, it was wonderful!
As usual, click on the photos to see larger versions with descriptions!