When I saw the Galata Tower on the cover of this year’s May issue of TRAVEL & LEISURE magazine, I dreamed of seeing it in person one day. Having missed this landmark on my first trip to Istanbul, I wanted it to be the first on my agenda on my second trip. Fortunately, I was blessed with good weather on my first day. The cobble stone streets leading up to the tower are on a romantic hill, and the quiet morning streets were so picture perfect which reminded me of beautiful, old-world European photographs showcased in glossy travel magazines. When I took the small elevator to the top of the 14th century 9-story tower, I was rewarded with breathtaking views of the entire city skyline of Istanbul. Although it was my very first morning and my very first day, I felt so fulfilled that for a second I had to remind myself that my trip was just beginning and not ending. The satisfaction and fulfillment made me feel so complete for that moment, high above the Galata Tower, that there didn’t seem to be a need for more of anything. When I came back to the logic that my trip had just BEGUN, I smiled even more which I did not think was possible. I was high…on more ways than one. Although I wanted to stay at the top of the tower forever, logic nudged me to start heading back down.
There was a restaurant in the tower with spectacular views but I couldn’t get the table that I wanted. It’s such a shame that solo diners don’t get the courtesy as a couple or a group would. The entire restaurant was empty with only one table full, and they refused to allow me to sit at a table by a window. I don’t like to dine at a place with no customers anyway as it usually means that the place isn’t very good, especially during prime hours such as when I was there. I was blessed to have been rejected at the restaurant in the tower because I found a quaint restaurant right outside the Galata Tower called Güney. The host was amazing to me as soon as I walked in, allowing me to be seated exactly where I wanted–looking out onto the main square that was great for people watching. Because it was especially sunny at that hour, I was in such a happy mood. For my entreé I had the special of the day which was some sort of stuffed eggplant along with some rice and potatoes on the side. I’m not sure if it was the royal treatment I received along with my general euphoria but when I took the first bite of the eggplant, I felt guilty as if I had sinned because it was so damn delicious. The most tender, buttery-soft eggplant melted in my mouth, and the flavor of the spices just blew me away. Then when the euphoria of my first glass of Turkish white wine made its way into my veins, I was so high above the clouds that gravity and logic were so completely envious of me.
When I touched earth again it was time to take a walk. I decided to walk toward the Süleymaniye Mosque, the largest mosque in Istanbul. Set on the third hill of Istanbul, it was a nice climb for my legs. Approaching the mosque was so pictureque, again, because the sky was so blue, and seeing the white architecture against the clear blue sky was nothing less than stunning. Once inside, the beautiful colors of the Iznik tiles were decorated in warm tones, and as with all places of worship, the silence allowed me to fully engage in the beauty. I wanted to stay longer, of course, but it was time to move on.
When I walked outside of the mosque at one side entrance, I saw a sign for a café boasting of views. I was insecure about the quiet street that I saw below, having to take a set of stairs down, crossing the street, and then going up a somewhat dark set of stairs up to the café that supposedly had views. I was insecure because I didn’t see many people, if at all, in the street below. But my curiosity about the café at the top of a building (as I could make out that people were there) made me go further. As I ascended up the quiet, dimly lit set of narrow stairs, light was certainly at the top. The panoramic, open air, rooftop café and its views were absolutely astounding. The Süleymaniye Mosque was behind me with the sun almost setting, and in front of me was Istanbul heaven. The colors were so vibrant, I believe, because I was so in love. The Turkish tea, at least two cups, maybe three that I had, made the experience more delicious as the orange hue of the impending sunset was about to reveal its beauty. I decided to get moving again as I didn’t want to walk in the dark on my first night in Istanbul.
The downhill walk toward my hotel was pleasant, especially when at one point I looked up at the sky. I saw little puffs of white clouds against the blue sky, and it reminded me of my childhood when I would lie on the grass looking straight up at the never-ending sky. I felt so truly happy. I was getting hungry as it was dinner time, and at the recommendation from my hotel, I ended up going to a seafood restaurant called Galatali Balik. It’s a restaurant with great views, only after a glass of wine I got really, really exhausted that I almost fell asleep when my entrée arrived. Plus, with the jet lag and all, I really thought I was going to pass out so I had to pretty much bolt out of there. Although I hardly remember the fish that I had (it was the daily special so I’m sure it was fresh), the hummus and the salad was extremely delicious.
I’m not sure how I ended up in my hotel room as I was so completely exhausted. I do remember the comfort of the cool, white sheets. I know I must have smiled as I fell asleep because I didn’t have any plans at all the next day. The complete freedom I had was so liberating, and that is one of the reasons I keep falling madly in love each time I travel solo. WanderLust was waiting for me in the morning, and I knew I would experience another day full of wonder and awe.