Five things in Istanbul

Daughter was five the first time I took her to Istanbul.  Usually we would travel straight through to Adana but as she was a little older it was time to explore her second (now first) home.  I have mentioned to you before that when Daughter and I travel together it is her job to find us 5 things to do together and 3 of them have to be free or a minimal cost.  This encouraged Daughter to want to learn about each city we visited and to have a better appreciation at each location.  It always worked beautifully with her and even now she utilises this skill regularly to learn more about a place or thing.

Daughter’s list of five things to do in Istanbul:

Basilica Cistern  

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This is always number 1 on our list and each year this still is our first stop in Istanbul.  Why?  It is an extraordinary underground water cistern containing 300 plus marble columns to keep the ceiling up.  It’s atmosphere is made more unique with “creepy” lighting, the occasional surprise of really cold water dripping from the vaulted ceiling and ghostly shadows this place is mysterious enough for Daughter to be enamoured with exploring every inch.  Hint: Each time we go there Daughter has to re-discover the Medusa Head in the north eastern corner.  Throw a coin and make a wish.

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Grand Bazaar 

Daughter loves to shop.  Daughter loves souvenirs.  Daughter loves a brand.  And if Daughter can get a name brand without the name cost she will.  With hidden doorways and tiny exotic shops the Bazaar is a mini city in itself and getting lost in the labyrinth and chaos of the Bazaar is part of its charm, especially for kids.  Hint:  I make a visit to the Bazaar a scavenger hunt.  Deciding beforehand what “souvenir” Daughter wants she has to locate the treasure and barter with the shopkeepers.  Originally it was to practice her Turkish but now it is to bag a bargain!

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Constantine Walls

The walls were started by Emperor Constantine in 324AD and extended around the city to protect its people from invasion.  They were often attacked but when you are standing at the bottom looking up that these walls you wonder how on earth they were breached – and they were breached – notably by the Fourth Crusades and the Ottomans.   Start at Yedikule Fortress and you can walk for hours along or beside these gorgeous ancient walls.  Best of all – it’s free!  Hint:  There are so many other things to do along the way with parks, shopping and secret laneways.  Daughter would happily walk for hours and not complain (well not often anyway).

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Suleymaniye Mosque

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I clearly recall the first time I took Daughter here.  She was agog with its grandeur, its size   and its colour.  It was unlike anything she had seen before.  Entering the dome of the mosque she quietly watched the faithful at prayer – again so different to anything she had seen before.  After leaving the mosque we sat in the walled garden and talked about Islam giving her the opportunity to learn a little about their beliefs and lifestyle.  Hint: Returning home we purchased ceramic tiles and created our own masterpiece along the same styling as those seen at this iconic destination.

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Dolmabache Palace

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At 5 Daughter had dreams of becoming a princess and living in a palace and she insisted that we visit Topkapi Palace.  Unfortunately her idea of a palace did not coincide with what she viewed at Topkapi and we only ever visited the Palace that one time.  I did, however, take her to Dolmabache Palace the next day.  This was definitely a more romantic Palace and more to the liking of a 5 year old who expected grandeur and pomp.  Hint:  Viewing this Palace from the Bosphorus gives us an idea of its size and amazing architecture.  Cruising the Bosphorus is also another day trip in itself so give yourself lots of time.  At 11 Daughter’s interests have changed so Dolmabache Palace is no longer on our list.  This has been replaced with a trip down Istiklal Caddesi.  Why?  Shopping, of course.  Istiklal Caddesi is also great with its historic tram.  Don’t forget you need a card to ride it, they don’t accept cash.

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Bonus: Don’t miss the Whirling Dervishes at the Hocapasa Cultural Centre.  Daughter’s first experience watching that was enough to bring tears of laughter.  She was mesmerized and, upon returning to our hotel, tried as hard as she could to whirl and twirl but spent most of her time falling on her bum.

Children love to explore and to learn.  I think empowering your child to do the research gives them more appreciation and understanding of their surroundings.  Daughter is extremely lucky to travel to such destinations but if she does not learn about them, their history and their story, then there is no point in taking her there.  Frankly it would be a waste of my time and my money.

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