Tony and Larry’s Awesome Istanbul Adventure

Tony and Larry walking the Theodosian Walls

Sometimes, you just have to grab your dad and go have an adventure, right? This trip was something special, something very different. In my years of travel blogging, this stands WAY out as one of my favorite travel moments. Because of the way it began, and the epic dad & son experience it became.

So how did we end up in Istanbul?

In 2013, Thomas and I joined a group of friends from Berlin in our favorite city on the planet, Istanbul. I had been to Istanbul twice before and had seen most of the tourist attractions there, but there was one thing I had never done, one thing I insisted we do: I wanted to walk the entire length of the Theodesian Walls, the legendary walls of Constantinople.

My dad in front of amazing Hagia Sophia

On my previous visit, I had set out to complete this task with friends, but it turns out that not everyone has the same level of dedication to walking city walls as I do. (I admit it, anyone who follows our blog knows that I am a bit psycho about city walls. It’s even in my bio here.) Halfway through that walk, attention spans ran out and my goal of finally walking the entire length of the 6-kilometer walls was not achieved. The whole thing ended in a bit of a fight with Thomas, and I vented a little on the blog, subtly acknowledging:

On our next trip, I intend to walk the entire wall. (Since we were with friends this time, there was a limit to how far you can push the wall fetish.)

My dad read that post and he could clearly see that I was disappointed. He left a comment on the blog saying:

Ok Tony, this post has peaked my curiosity. I’m ready to meet you at the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus for that 6 kilometer hike to satisfy your wall fetish, however you have to buy the baklava with kaymak before we head out!

He was referring to a picture in the post of the SPECTACULAR baklava at Karaköy Güllüoğlu. Uh, you don’t have to ask me twice!!!

Baklava with kaymak at Karaköy Güllüoğlu

Two years later, we met in Istanbul to fulfill that promise. We had baklava at Karaköy Güllüoğlu (did I actually pay?) and headed out to walk the length of the walls from beginning to end. We took the ferry to the Ayvansaray, wound our way up the backstreets past the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, took a quick side trip to the Byzantine Chora Church, and then we walked  along the outer walls past a series of gates, towers, and bridges that have survived the onslaughts of some serious history. Our final destination brought us to Yedikule Fortress and the Marble Tower. Success, my goal was achieved! One sign of current events that I should point out  was the large number of Syrian refugees camping in the shadow of the walls.

Walking the walls of Istanbul with my dad

The Theodosian Walls

“We walked along the outer walls past a series of gates, towers, and bridges that have survived the onslaughts of some serious history.”

The Theodosian Walls

The walls of Yedikule Fortress

But our Istanbul adventure took us well beyond the walls. We explored my favorite building in the world, Hagia Sophia, and ventured into the city’s greatest treasures including the Blue Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque. We cooled off in the shadows of the Basilica Cistern, explored the ornate halls and gardens of Topkapı Palace and gazed at the Byzantine mosaics of Büyük Saray.

Dad entering Topkapı Palace

Interior of the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

Istanbul is one colorful attraction after another. We dove into the Grand Bazaar, the most famous of Istanbul’s markets, and fished through the sea of treasures searching for discoveries. Carpets, lamps, sweets and spices. Gold, diamonds, and Turkish delight. Hidden deep within the bazaar, we found one booth full of curious items: brass sextants, telescopes, anchors, military pins, brooches, cameos, even Soviet and Nazi badges. Strange glittery items that had piled up into one very historical find. Dad and I lingered in a bazaar tea house and people-watched as local salesmen and tourists crisscrossed the labyrinth of stores. It’s a tourist staple, but the Grand Bazaar will always be one of my favorite places in the city.

Dad in the Grand Bazaar

The bazaar literally sells everything

Dad exploring the Grand Bazaar

Eager to see beyond the city limits, we hopped a ferry up the Bosphorus and floated past the massive fortified walls of Rumelihisarı to the tiny enclave of Anadolu Kavağı. We stuffed ourselves with fish in the village, climbed up to the fortress overlooking the Black Sea and gawked at the EXTRAORDINARY half-constructed bridge hanging over the mouth of the strait. On the way back to Istanbul, we floated along sipping the classic ferry tea.

Sailing up the Bosphorus

Rumelihisarı

Lunch at Anadolu Kavağı

Food and drink were a big theme on this trip. My father couldn’t get enough of Turkey’s fresh-squeezed orange juice. We squished into the crowded, water-side tables at the fish boats in Eminönü and indulged in their famous fish sandwiches doused in lemon juice. We sampled pide at Şimşek Pide Salonu and crossed the Bosphorus to try stuffed artichokes and savory eggplant at Çiya Sofrası. Despite my skepticism, my dad urged us into The Han in Sultanahmet and he was rewarded with a truly delicious fish dish – his favorite in Istanbul. (He gets the credit here because I was quite skeptical about the restaurant until I tasted his fish, and then I really wished I had ordered the same thing.)

Turkish food is awesome!

Gorgeous Istanbul

My breakfast at our cafe

My dad seemed to love everything he tasted, but hilariously, he seemed to love breakfast more than anything. My dominant memory from this trip will always be breakfasts at our corner cafe in Cihangir or at Karaköy Güllüoğlu. (Sorry Özgür and Leonie, sometimes I just can’t wait for my baklava with kaymak.) I don’t think anyone has ever expressed so much enthusiasm for breakfast as my dad at the corner cafe. These meals will last in my memory forever.

Breakfast

And that was really the point of this trip, sharing my favorite city with my dad and experiencing it through his eyes. I have visited Istanbul several times now, but this adventure with my dad was like rediscovering the city for the first time. It was about exploration and eating, laughing and enjoyment. It was ten days of talking and discovery. I can’t express how much I loved this trip – it truly was Tony and Larry’s awesome adventure.

I suggest that everyone out there in Internet land get up right now, call their dad, and start planning your next adventure together.

The best trip ever!

Go have an adventure!

9 responses to “Tony and Larry’s Awesome Istanbul Adventure”

  1. avatar Gina Lee says:

    This is so good! I’m totally jealous. Istanbul would be so out of my dad’s comfort zone he would probably pass out if I suggested the idea. I don’t think I could get him to even leave San Jose.

    • avatar Tony says:

      Gina, Don’t underestimate your dad. Maybe he is up for an adventure that would take him out of his comfort zone. Why not ask him?

  2. avatar Dad says:

    Tony,
    I know we were both speechless at the airport when we were heading home after this trip…..it is the best trip we have done….so far…you have captured it so well here in words and photos! Thanks. What do we do…next?

  3. avatar Leonie says:

    This is such a great post! Without ever having met your dad I can perfectly picture the two of you in this wonderful city! Makes me long even more for our next visit in spring…
    (Did you really go to Güllüoglu for breakfast?? That’ real dediication!)

  4. avatar Leonie says:

    Uups: That’s real dedication 🙂

    • avatar Tony says:

      Leonie,

      Well, you know how we feel about Istanbul. We hope to go back a hundred more times. And eat, eat, eat.

  5. avatar LYNNE WIDDISON says:

    I WORK WITH YOUR DAD AND LOVE THAT HE DID THIS, THE ENTHUSIASM COMES THROUGH AS HE TALKS OF THE TRIP (EYES LIGHT UP). I TOO HAVE BEEN TO ISTANBUL, LOVED IT, FASCINATED BY IT AND TALKED A LENGHT WITH LARRY AND CARLIE ABOUT IT. GREAT BLOG

  6. avatar Tony says:

    Hi Lynne,

    How great to hear from you. Dad told me about you and also mentioned that your comments on Istanbul helped convince Carli that she wants to visit Istanbul as well. Yay.

    Thanks for writing to let me know just how much the trip meant to my dad. It’s always great when someone else says it too, so that I know he isn’t just being nice. 🙂 Although I had a pretty good idea that he was enjoying himself by the way he was smiling so much.

    Tony

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