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Turkey 2023

Istanbul had been on my list ever since I visited Cyprus. I imagined a city full of stunning history, architecture and cobbled streets that I love to walk, so when my boyfriend Andrew agreed to join me for 5 nights in September, it was an immediate yes!

It's a mostly flat city, with some hilly areas where the main attractions were located. The locals of Istanbul were very nice, but I found that few spoke English - good for them! Istanbul is the only city in the world to cover 2 continents, and we decided to not miss out and to stay in both continents.

We began the trip on the Asian side, only staying 1 day as we knew there was a bit less to see there. It seemed to be the greener side, it has many parks and we enjoyed some lovely walks there. We went up the Camlica Tower, the tallest tower in Istanbul, for a brilliant view of the city. 

Next, we went to the European side, which was a 40 minute cab ride away. There was much more to see in European side, and as a consequence there were way more tourists, which is to be expected. The Blue Mosque was beautiful, albeit very busy with tourists. The Hagia Sophia Mosque was even more popular and we queued for 1 hour to get in. Both mosques are definitely worth seeing, but personally I preferred the Hagia Sophia, with its Byzantine architecture, wonderful mosaics and colourful carpet. The Basilica Sisern, an ancient underground reservoir, was very nice and pretty.

Visiting the famous Grand Bazaar was an experience I enjoyed, but I wouldn’t go back. After a few hours of market crowds and Del Boy traders (one quoted ‘lovely jubbly’ when we said we were English), I felt dizzy and absolutely knackered. It's definitely a place to go for the experience, but it is not relaxing! I’m mindful of looking after my mental health when travelling and the Grand Bazaar got quite stressful for me; I was glad to get out. We visited many other markets of Istanbul, which I loved. The Spice Bazaar was especially nice because of the atmospheric walk through the old narrow streets. But I wanted to slap all the pushy dealers by the end of it! 

One evening, we decided to be romantic and went on a dinner cruise along the Bosphorus. It was a lovely experience, and I liked the DJ’s sense of humour in playing ‘My Heart Will Go On’. The landscape from the boat was beautiful too. I wouldn't recommend the cruise to those sensitive to flashing lights, which I have to be aware of with my epilepsy; it became a bit too much like a club near the end. 

When visiting Istanbul, definitely have a Turkish bath if you have the time. It’s such a nice traditional thing to do, and the scrub treatment is heaven! 

We spent our last day exploring Princes’ Islands and had a nice walk around and a swim in the Bosphorous. I wouldn’t say the islands are essential to visit, and I'd have happily saved some cash and had another Turkish bath and shisha, but they are beautiful and worth a visit if you love the sea.

Food in Turkey was a challenge for me, particularly due to their love of animal products and sweet food. I had to be a vegetarian for the stay (I'm usually vegan) as well as fight the ED voice to consume the sugar. Food is always the hardest aspect of travelling for me, but I will not let anxiety win. Turkish coffee was breathtakingly delicious!

Once thing I will say about Istanbul is beware of the roads - I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a city so ignorant about road safety. Every driver was on their mobile phone and there were very few pedestrian crossings. As a fierce campaigner for road safety, I did not like this. I was scared to attempt the roads, but luckily I came home in one piece!

Also, if you’re a cat lover then this is a great city! There are lots and lots of street cats, and I liked how the locals put out food for them and seemed to treat them with respect. A contrast to places such as Athens.

I don’t think I would revisit Istanbul as it is a very busy city. Nonetheless, it was a great experience and I think it would be ideal for traveling solo because there is plenty to do, the locals are perfectly nice, and everything is located quite close together.

When travelling with a hidden disability, it is important to wear your Sunflower badge; on the way home, British Airways offered us seats next to each other and we were allowed to skip the long queues at Heathrow. Travelling with Andrew was great as we share a love of adventure and exploring. He knows exactly what to do in the event that I have a seizure, so I had no anxieties about epilepsy on this trip. I didn’t have any seizures and I’m sure it helped that I felt so relaxed. I will continue travelling solo though, as my freedom and independence mean the world to me. I’ll be heading back to Europe soon, watch this space!

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