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This is the first of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

After a holiday hiatus in the States, Mrs. Selfish and I started planning our next big international trip. Having only visited Morocco during our Selfish Year abroad, Mrs. Selfish and I decided an African safari trip in Tanzania was in order.

With the United devaluation looming, we burned our stash of United miles for two tickets to Africa in business class. Prior to February 2014, these tickets cost 120,000 miles each, but once February hit the price jumped to 140,000!

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120,000 UA miles in January, 140,000 miles in February.

Since United has a rather generous award policy, allowing for a stopover and an open jaw or two stopovers, we determined we should stop somewhere on the way to recover from jetlag. Having always been fascinated with Turkish food and architecture, Istanbul seemed like the perfect location.

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Ahhhh, Istanbul.

Partly European, partly Asian and utterly Turkish, Istanbul is a gorgeous, cosmopolitan city filled with modern conveniences, awe-inspiring architecture, and mouth watering meals.

While you need a visa to visit Turkey, the Turkish government has gotten out of their way to make it as painless as possible. The application is entirely online and will take you roughly 5 minutes to complete, including paying the $20 fee online. You then print out the visa document and show it to the immigration officers upon arrival. Istanbul itself is just as modern and convenient.

Since this was only our second Muslim destination, I was expecting to see more signs in Arabic. However, Turkey converted to the Latin alphabet in the late 1920’s, so we had no difficulty reading signs. Easier still, nearly everyone we encountered spoke English.

Mrs. Selfish and I spent 5 days wandering around Istanbul’s old town, giving us ample time to take in sights like the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia.

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We also spent a fair amount of time wandering Istanbul’s markets, including the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market.

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My one regret with our 5 days is that we didn’t eat nearly enough meals. Turkey has a massive food culture, equally rivaling (if not surpassing) many European and Asian countries. Coming from the States our range of Turkish food options is mostly limited to kebabs, pides, and babba ganoush, so I was impressed by the sheer amount of food options we encountered in Istanbul.

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5 days is NOT ENOUGH to eat your way through Istanbul.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the first stop on our Istanbul tour, the luxurious Park Hyatt Istanbul.

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