What to do in 48 hours in Istanbul (2/2)

After a super intense first day visiting many of Istanbul’s highlights, we had a packed Sunday ahead of us. But first, we wanted to return to the Blue Mosque. We had seen so many other mosques that we couldn’t remember this one :S and hey, it was free! We appreciated its scale and intricate tiled and painted interior even more than on our first day.

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Then it was time for one of the icons of the city: the Topkapi Palace. The residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and the 19th centuries, it is now a museum (TL 30, ~$10, plus TL 15, ~$5 for the harem). The complex is quite large, structured around four courtyards. We walked it counterclockwise, checking out first the kitchens and several rooms that displayed all sorts of objects: porcelain, weapons, etc. The most impressive, without a doubt, is the Imperial Treasury, its collection of gemstones presided by a massive diamond. Known as ‘the Spoonmaker’s Diamond’, this 86 carat rock is the 4th largest in the world… and said to have been exchanged for three spoons by the poor fisherman who found it.

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What to do in 48 hours in Istanbul (1/2)

Since I visited it in 2007, Istanbul has been high on my list of top cities around the world. Back then, it was a first stop in a classic route that would take me to the fairy chimneys and hermit chapels of Cappadocia, the travertine hot springs of Pamukkale, magnificent ancient ruins like Ephesus and the Mediterranean beach of Bodrum. This time, taking advantage of one of Elena’s business trips and with barely a weekend, we devoted ourselves to Turkey’s de facto capital (the actual capital is Ankara since 1923, but Istanbul remains the largest city and economic and cultural heart). 48 hours turned out to be the perfect amount of time to explore all the highlights of Istanbul.

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Visiting St. Petersburg on a day trip from Moscow

St. Petersburg can be visited on a day trip from Moscow – a long but worth it trip. There are several train options, including the high speed but expensive Sapsan (3hr 45min), check out pass.rzd.ru/main-pass/public/en. We chose a slow, sleeper train, which is not only cheaper but also helps you save two hotel nights. The 4 bed compartment at ~$50 per person was functional and clean, even had a few nice details like snacks.

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What to see in 2-3 freezing days in Moscow

Some places are meant to be visited under a certain weather. Moscow is one of them; even though I suffered and complained about the extreme cold during my time there, looking back I’m glad I chose the winter to truly experience this wonderful city. Travelling during Christmas forces you to adjust your itinerary; days are shorter, you have to avoid back to back outdoors visits and reserve time for family commitments. I spent 3 days in Moscow with Elena (and her family!), and got to see all the highlights. You should be able to design a packed 2-day itinerary, if needed. I also highly recommend combining St. Petersburg into the same trip, like we did!

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Madrid as a tourist

I LOVE Madrid, I honestly believe it is the best city in the world. In addition to rich history/art, and the best nightlife in the world, it has my family and childhood friends 🙂

People ask me a lot what they should do and see when they visit Madrid… and it’s always hard for me to answer. The city we live in is usually the one that we explore the least from a traveler perspective. But recently I had a chance to show the city over a couple of days to first-time visitor Elena, with the help of my good friend and fellow madrileña Anna.

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