The Anti-Tourist

I like to beat new paths for myself.

The only way to understand someone's love for Turkey is to just go. Literally, book a flight, pick a city or region and get exploring.  

I realise that may not be the best introduction ever for a post on why you should visit Turkey, but it's true! Everyone I've met who has been to Turkey has told me the same thing - when they go back home and tell their friends about how wonderful it is, they're met with blank faces and disbelieving looks. But a journey in Turkey can take you from busy beaches to quiet mountains, urban cities to hidden villages, and everywhere you go, a welcoming smile (and a hearty lunch) is guaranteed. 

A while back, I flew over to the Thrace region with Go Turkey and the Thrace Development Agency to explore this relatively unknown area of Turkey. Although we did the main cities like Edirne and drank our way through the Thracian wine route, it was the really unexpected stops during our roadtrip that stuck with me the most. 

The Thrace region, or Trakya, is about an hour's drive away from Istanbul, and borders with Greece and Bulgaria. The main regions are Tekirdag, Edirne and Kirklareli, but the drive between these regions will take you through some gorgeous villages, beaches and views. Take some time to stop, take some tea with the locals and enjoy the experience. 

Scroll down to take a look at my favourite stops:

Have you ever been to Trakya? What are your favourite hidden spots? Share in the comments below! 
As far as cities go, Istanbul is by far one of the busiest, most inspiring, chaotic and yet welcoming cities I've ever been in. The city can go from traditional to hipster in one turn, and there's something new around every corner. 

I really believe in not judging a book by its cover - in this case, I think we shouldn't judge a city by the media reports that have been drowning it. To this end, I've compiled a list of beautiful things to see and do in Istanbul, because sometimes, remembering that this city and its people are to be celebrated may get a bit hard. 

This list barely scratches the surface of the city, but hey - that just means you'll have to return again and again!

1. Wonder at Hagia Sophia

If you want to understand the evolution of Istanbul, make Hagia Sophia your first stop in the city. Over the centuries, Hagia Sophia served as a Greek Orthodox basilica, a Roman Catholic church, a mosque, and finally, a national museum. It has been rebuilt three times, the previous structures being burnt down during bloody revolutions. Today, the building is a unique meeting place of faiths which are so often at loggerheads.

You can visit Aya Sofya every day except on Mondays, at a fee. For exact visiting times and fees check out the official website here.

2. Take a Bosphorus cruise

The Bosphorus is the natural strait that splits Istanbul in two: the European side and the Asian side. It's also one of the busiest waterways in the world, and is the lifeline of the Turkish city. Hop on a boat just before sunset and you're guaranteed one of the most magical views in the world. 

3. Cross to the Asian side

With so much going on in the European side of Istanbul, visitors sometimes forget that there's a much quieter side to the city. While you're cruising the Bosphorus, take a minute to look around the Asian shoreline, which is much more residential and peaceful. There are also a handful of lovely restaurants to try out too! 

4. See the whirling dervishes

Dervish, or Sufi, whirling, is a form of active meditation performed in spiritual ceremonies. The aim of this ritual is to spin until the source of all perfection, the kemal, is reached. In this process, the ego and desire is dropped through the intense focus on the music and spinning. 

Although far from religious, I found this experience incredibly moving and thought provoking, and would recommend anyone who gets the opportunity to see it to do so. 

5. Try Turkish coffee (and meze. and baklava.)

Food is a huge part of Turkish culture, and is a ritual in itself. From sharing meze, small platters of food, together with friends, to enjoying a strong cup of Turkish coffee, stay away from Western food in Istanbul, and stick to what the locals eat and drink. 

6. Experience Hammam
A hammam is the Turkish version of the ancient Roman bath. First, you get hot in a very humid room, until you sweat profusely, then you are washed with cold water, scrubbed down, massaged, and cooled in a different room. This may seem highly unpleasant at first, but I've never experienced a better bath in my life, and came out relaxed and with skin that's softer than a baby's butt. 10/10 

7. Step in Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Known as the Blue Mosque due to its Iznik-covered walls and domes, this mosque is one of the largest in Turkey, and is still in regular use today. As always, tread carefully and with respect when visiting a religious centre.

7. Shop at the Beyoglu area

Crossing the Galata Bridge from the old centre, you'll find yourself in Istanbul's young area, Beyoglu. It's one of the busiest zones, but also one of the coolest. Shop at Istiklal avenue, see the traditional red tram cross over to Taksim, and buy delicious street food from any corner. 

8. Visit the Spice Market

The first time I was in Istanbul, I visited the Grand Bazaar, and was really disappointed by it. The second time round, I hopped through the Spice Market, and I fell in LOVE. Forget the Bazaar, the Spice Market is where you want to be for great deals on spices, meats, cheeses, herbs, perfumes and anything you might want to get your hands on. The sellers there are friendlier too, though if you're a woman and travelling unaccompanied, be ready for marriage proposals around every corner. 

9. Walk through Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi palace is possibly one of the largest palaces in Istanbul, and served as the Sultan's home for over 400 years. Today, you can stroll or take a picnic in its many gardens, enjoy a number of museums and most of all, the amazing views of the Bosphorus from the southernmost tip of the palace estate. 

10. Go down to Istanbul's sunken cisterns

The Yerebatan Sarnici, or underground cisterns, are a hidden gem in the heart of Istanbul. Right under the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, these sunken cisterns date back to the ancient Roman empire. Today, they are called home by hundreds of fish and a handful of visitors, who visit the silent, echoing cisterns during the day. 

What's your favourite place in Istanbul? Share it with us in the comments below! 
What are your travel essentials? 

Chances are one of the things you always pack is a set of headphones and some kick ass songs to listen to when you're on trains, buses, departure lounges, the works. Music has the power to bring back some really blissful moments and memories, and together with a few travel bloggers, I've put together a list of songs that either inspire us to travel, or bring back some great memories from abroad. 

Headphones on? Scroll down, kick back and enjoy the ride - and don't forget to comment below and tell me your favourite travel songs! 

1. Africa - Toto
Classic or what? This song makes me homesick for places I've never been, but sorely want to visit. Only a really powerful song can do that, right? 

2. Costa Rica - Vince Vaccaro
Heather from Extra Adventure is all about the next journey: 

"Costa Rica by Vince Vaccaro gets my travel spirit. In my mind, it's all about resetting your path and choosing a new adventure."

3. Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz
I play this one at least twice a week - it just reflects my state of mind so perfectly, especially when the day at the office is a super long or dull one.

4. Someone like you - Adele
While Adele may not be your first pick for travel songs, travel blogger Joanna from The World in My Pocket tells us why this ballad means so much: 

"I love this song because it reminds me of my trip to Vietnam. The funny thing was that I found this old iPod in Hong Kong filled with a lot of random Chinese songs and, among them, Adele’s first album. When I boarded the night train to Vietnam I was so tired that I need an incentive to sleep, so I started listening to the album, for the first time. I loved it so much that now every time I hear Adele’s songs I think of how much fun I had during my two weeks of exploring Vietnam."

5. I Was Here - Beyonce
With this song, the Queen herself sums up what it feels like to stand before a beautiful landscape, a gorgeous beach, with the waves gently lapping at the sand, or an iconic building or square. I Was Here is the exact bittersweet feeling of happiness because you're seeing these beautiful new places, but sadness because you know you probably won't be there ever again.

6. Great Escape - Mike Dignam
Natalie from Why She Lives to Run knew that it was fate when she heard this one: 

"He was the opener at an American Authors concert where I was with my friend. Just that day we had decided to drop everything after our bachelor's degree and to travel the world together. He introduced the song with "have you ever wanted to pack your things and just go? This song's for you!" During the 18 months we spent on the road, that was our anthem because in a way, it was our 'great escape'."

7. Holocene - Bon Iver
Lia from Practical Wanderlust reminds us of her roadtripping days with Bon Iver:

"We have a whole playlist for driving through our home state of California, and this is the song we listen to when we drive through tall, majestic Redwoods. There is nothing like a thousand year old tree the size of a house to remind you that, in the words of the song, you are not magnificent. It's the same feeling I get when I travel."

8. This is the Life - Amy Macdonald
Lisa from Losing your Feet knows that travel is freedom: 

"This song was on nearly constant repeat during a 3-week road trip across the south coast of Australia with two other girls.We had only a loose plan and no real itinerary, finding campsites along the way, and each day began with "where are we going to sleep tonight?" To me, it sums up the kind of perfect freedom and confidence you feel when you're in your 20s and experiencing spontaneous travel." 

9. Run like Hell - Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd's album, The Wall, will always take me back to Rome, and the magic, magic night we got to see Roger Waters perform the album live. If you've ever been to a live concert, you'll know the electric atmosphere of being in the pit, jumping and screaming to your favourite songs with another thousand people or more. It's an incredible feeling that gets me everytime, and no one does it quite like Mr Waters.

10. Let Go - Paul van Dyk
A bit of an oldie, but this one is just all my teenage travels (real and wishlisted) wrapped up in a three minute song. From driving around late at night in fast cars (sorry mum) to backpacking trips and meeting the most awesome people from all over the world, Let Go is the song to listen to.

For the travelers, I hope this playlist becomes part of your happiest memories. For those who are staying home for a while, here's hoping it inspires your future travels. 

Disclaimer: I adore Turkey, and even that's an understatement. I love its people, its architecture, its food (duh) and its variety of landscapes across the country. But this year hasn't been an easy one for the state, with terrorist attacks happening almost monthly, and a coup attempt only two months ago in the heart of Turkey, Istanbul.  

When Turkish Airlines invited me over to Istanbul for a couple of days earlier this month, I leaped at the opportunity of going back to one of my favourite cities, but when I told my friends and family about my trip, they weren't quite so enthusiastic. The frequent attacks in Turkey, particularly Istanbul, are seriously damaging the country's reputation in the West, and my traveling to Istanbul only confirmed this. 

The last time I visited Istanbul, as a solo traveler nonetheless, the place was packed. Entering museums and mosques meant endless queues, the bazaars were constantly buzzing with activity, and the streets were full of foreigners. The city was, simply put, alive. Istanbul during my latest visit? Not so much. I was dismayed to see the streets almost empty, though still equally pretty, and I got into the Blue Mosque in two minutes flat.

Do I blame travelers that are currently avoiding Istanbul? Hardly. Most governments are recommending avoiding Turkey, since attack threats are still high, and many warnings are being issued. However, after visiting Istanbul again, I simply have to recommend Istanbul to you again, for a number of reasons: 

1. Because of past attacks, security has been amped up. Walking through the streets, I could definitely notice an increase in patrol cars driving in the city centre and more security guards around traveler zones. 

2. Despite all the negative events, life in Istanbul has definitely moved on. Locals go about their daily business and normal life has resumed. I have no doubt that the events of this summer have had a huge impact on the people of Istanbul, but the daily routine seems relatively uninterrupted. 

3. I firmly believe that travel can be an act of solidarity. Yes, the situation in Turkey may change at any minute, and yes, tragic events have happened, but why should the citizens of Turkey suffer even more because of them? A decrease in tourism means a plunge in any country's economy, which then means a tougher life for the guys like you or me. The people in Istanbul are still as friendly and still as welcoming as ever, and I for one will not refuse to visit. 

4. Istanbul is still as beautiful as ever. Its mosques, palaces, the bridges connecting Europe to Asia, its young quarters - these things have not changed, and you should experience them at the first opportunity you get.    

Of course, you should always be alert when traveling - the usual precautions apply. Stay in safe areas, ideally where there are people you can call to, avoid showing off any jewelry, try not to look too lost, don't follow strangers anywhere. Simple stuff that can avoid possibly dangerous situations wherever you are in the world. 

Have I convinced you yet? What are your thoughts on Istanbul and Turkey right now? 

Before last week, I had never flown business class, nor had I ever dreamed about it (hello, broke uni student life). So when Turkish Airlines invited me over to fly to Istanbul in luxury on one of their two daily flights from Malta to Istanbul, I could hardly say no, could I?  

If you're following me on Instagram, you'll already have seen a ton of photos from Istanbul - I love the city and there's definitely more to come, but today I want to share the absolute treat that flying with Turkish Airlines is. I often fly with them in economy, but business class is another world entirely! Starting off from the surreal VIP lounge at Ataturk airport, equipped with gourmet buffets around every corner, massage parlours (I KNOW right?), beds, showers, a movie theatre, Play Stations, a mini golf, self playing piano, a gorgeous library and pool table, electric race track... I could go on, but I'll let the photos speak for themselves:

In case you can't tell, leaving that lounge was very, very hard, but on the plane, the party definitely didn't stop! Upon boarding, we were greeted by fresh fruit juices and warm towels to freshen ourselves up while we settled in in our comfy seats. The moment you strap yourself in, the charming staff hover around, catering to your every need (not that there was anything missing). Once the plane reaches a stable height, the menu comes around... for your three course meal, freshly prepared by Turkish Airlines Do&Co. Pampered is an understatement here! 

My flight back home flew (excuse the pun) by, being in absolute comfort and peace (no crying babies in sight, thank god). I managed to work, relax, read and enjoy the view from the two windows each seat gets in business class. 

Is business class worth the extra $$? Definitely, especially for long haul flights where you need every ounce of energy you can save up, or when you just want to live it up a little bit. Signing up to TK's Miles & Smiles program is also great for building up points and getting upgrades - brand loyalty when flying always pays! 

Disclaimer: The Anti-Tourist was invited over to Istanbul by Turkish Airlines. Opinions, however, remain my own. 

Turkish Airlines flies from Malta to Istanbul twice daily. 
Notte Bianca is possibly September's most awaited event, and closes the summer off with a bang. For one night every year, Malta's capital city becomes a lively hub of music, art, poetry, and naturally, food! The event attracts thousands to Valletta, and it's a popular date with locals and travelers alike.

Here are, in no particular order, a few of our favourite shots from this year's event. When you're done, share this post with a friend who needs a little push to go with you next year!

1. This shot of Parliament House from the top floor

A photo posted by Joe Grima (@joegrima88) on

2. This adorable paper boat installation

3. This shot of our amazing National Library

4. Valletta's streets, all lit up

A photo posted by Rhiannon Paine (@rhiannonpaine_) on

5. This incredible ice sculpture

6. St John's Co-Cathedral, shining as always

7. The majestic Upper Barrakka

8. Chilling at the Bridge Bar

A photo posted by Claudia Hernaiz (@monkey.clau) on

9. One of Valletta's many churches

10. This classic candy, a staple during Maltese festi

A photo posted by Bernard S Sammut (@bernardmalta) on

and 11. A globe, made out of Maltese lace! 

Tag a friend who needs to come to Valletta ASAP with you, and send us a Tweet with your picture there too! 
Have you ever been walking around, reading, chatting with friends, when suddenly someone says something that hits you right in the feels? It can be the smallest, silliest thing, but suddenly your brain goes back ten, fifteen years, and you're reliving whatever memories that thing brought up. (Does this happen only to me? Please tell me it's not just me)

That feeling is what Te fit-Tazza is presenting with its beautifully minimal depictions of Malta. Founded only last year by Andrew and Craig, Te fit-Tazza (the name itself is evocative of the only way you should drink tea - from a glass accompanied with half a dozen pastizzi) has so far produced its first series of this sort, together with a set of "elements" - the little things that instantly take you back to simpler times, and represent Maltese identity like nothing else.

As everyone knows, our islands are plentiful in identity and culture, and over the years we've amassed a number of things that scream Malta. It was relatively easy, therefore, for the guys at Te fit-Tazza to get inspired by their surroundings and produce a unique product that is instantly iconic and inherently Maltese.

So far, Te fit-Tazza has blessed us with the most modern and minimal depictions of Malta I've ever seen - their Series 1. From Filfla to the Valletta bastions, the portraits are all exquisite depictions of Maltese landscapes, and would blend in perfectly in the most stylish of homes. Priced at 60 Euro per piece, they're surprisingly affordable too. 

My favourites though have to be their Elements of Malta. Smaller (and cheaper!) portraits of the little things that make our nostalgic hearts burst, they're equally minimal and beautiful, with an added touch of fun. They represent the small things that sometimes go unnoticed, but are little gems of pure Maltese nostalgia. I can already picture them dotted around my house!  

You can tell that both elements and series are a labour of love - the prints are printed with the highest quality standards, yet both Andrew and Craig decided to keep their prices down to give everyone the chance to purchase them. Customer service is also quick and efficient, and they ship worldwide! Christmas presents for my uncles in Australia = sorted. 

All this is why I'm so happy to announce that I've been working with Te fit-Tazza to give you guys the chance of owning a complete set of elements for yourself - the Tal-Linja set! Winners will be getting three elements, unframed, depicting the different buses Malta has had over the years, making a perfect set to own and cherish. The prints are all 30cm by 30cm, printed on Decor Smooth Art 210gsm paper, and together are worth 90 Euro. Find the blue, green and yellow tal-linja on their shop here.  

 Participating is easy - just follow the steps below: 

1. Like Te fit-Tazza on facebook and follow on Instagram
2. Like The Anti-Tourist on facebook and follow on Instagram
3. Share this post with your friends
... and that's it! The giveaway will run for one week (until the 27th of September) and is open worldwide, and the winner will be announced on The Anti-Tourist facebook page, so keep your eyes peeled :)
This is your chance of owning a slice of Maltese nostalgia forever - what are you waiting for? 

The Anti-Tourist would like to thank Te fit-Tazza for sponsoring this awesome giveaway!