It's snowing in Turkey
12.29.2015 - 12.30.2015 30 °F
We flew into Turkey from India. When we had researched the weather in Turkey this time of the year, it looked like it would be 50 to 60 degrees and cloudy. When we arrived it was hailing and snowing....surprise! When we planned the trip we purposefully selected locations close to the equator such that the December whether would be mild. That way we wouldn't need to bring in our luggage clothes for both snowy and warm weather.
Excited with being in a new country, we rolled with what we had and started putting on all the layers in our bags. We had only planned one day in Istanbul. Through our star alliance around the world ticket, routing with Turkish Airlines was the best way to get direct flights to Northern Africa. Our plan was to get just a taste of Turkey and to come back again on a different trip. We had planned to see at least the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofya, the Basilica Systern, and the Grand Bazaar. Due to the snow, we got to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya. Both are stunning and must see locations. Because we stayed in the old city, we could walk easily and quickly to the historic sites.
The Blue Mosque is a Islamic mosque adorned inside with many blue-colored tiles. There are very high ceilings with low hanging chandeliers suspended by cables. It was beautiful and peaceful inside. As for all mosques that we visited, women had to cover their heads and wear conservative clothing (no shorts or short skirts), everyone had to take off their shoes, men can't wear shorts either. This is a must see in Turkey, and is free to view. Note that non-Muslims have a special entrance on the side.
The Hagia Sophia, now referred to as the Aya sofya, was built and functioned as a christian church. Then Constantinople was conquered by the Muslim Ottoman Turks who decided while they pillaged the city to take it and convert it into a mosque. Now one can see murals of the Virgin Mary and Jesus next to scripture from the koran. If you go, make sure to make your way up the spiral ramp where you can get a view from the higher floor. It's quite beautiful.
We stayed at the rose garden suites in Istabul. Our hotel was super cozy and had a fun view during the snow storm. They put us in the top floor quarters that had low ceilings and a small balcony, similar to the maids' quarters at the top floor of historic Parisian homes and buildings. By the end of the night we could see all the snow capped homes and the sea beyond.
In terms getting around, we walked everywhere because we spent our one day in the old city where we stayed. Getting a cab from. The airport was easy and costs around 50 Lyra (US $ 16). Getting to the airport from our hotel in the snow was a little different. The guy didn't even run the meter and gauged us for twice the price because he knew we didn't have any options.
We really enjoyed turkey and wished we had had more time to explore and check out the new city. We will very likely go back as part of a different Europe trip.
Easy to get cab from airport - costs about 50 lyra (16 usd).
One last note is that the Turkish Airlines business class lounge in Istanbul is ridiculous. Someone had mentioned it to us, but I don't think we appreciated it until we got there and we only had a short time to enjoy it before our flight. We almost wish we had come earlier to get more time to explore. There are two floors with multiple kitchens, buffets, coffee/tea/drink islands, etc. There is a full golf simulator setup for anyone to use, multiple Xbox and PlayStation areas, masseuses, and there's probably more we're leaving out. A stark contrast to move from that lounge to taking a bus through a snowstorm to our plane and slowly moving up icy stairs to board just a few minutes after leaving. We wanted to look cool so we didn't take too many pics here.