HOW ISTANBUL STOLE MY HEART
Every once a while, I find myself in a city that mesmerizes me, intrigues me, demands my attention, but at the same time showers me with warmth & a feeling of familiarity & comfort. Cue Istanbul, the city that has formed an integral link between Europe & Asia over the course of history, a city well known for the beautiful architecture, the sumptuous baklava & the mouth watering ice cream, the Turkish bath & its very popular films & drama. It’s a city that is as traditional, as it is modern.
Istanbul, due to its very strategic location has attracted hordes of invaders – from Greeks, to Romans to Persians & the Ottomans – each left behind a rich cultural legacy that stands tall even today, lending the city a very beautiful character. Every nook & cranny in the city is nothing short of a marvelous experience.
It doesn’t take more than a few hours to fall in love with this city. As you walk through the cobblestone streets, layers of history just unfolding before your eyes.
The locals are warm & friendly, always ready to chat with a cup of Cay Tea (or Turkish coffee, if you must) & lots of conversations.
I happened to visit this city during April, & I was greeted to gardens upon gardens of beautiful Red, Yellow & Orange Tulips, swaying majestically in the sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy weather.
While there are many things one can do, in this beautiful city, these are some of my personal favorite experiences.
- Ride the nostalgic Tram to Taksim Square for some old world charm
Make sure you hop onto this red beauty, for some old world nostalgia. Built in the 19th century, it is the one of the two remaining tram lines, running between Tunel Square & Taksim Square, bustling through one of the busiest area – the Istiklal Street. It costs less than 1 euro to buy the tram ticket & is available with the operator.
- Taksim Square
Taksim Sqaure is the modern city centre of Istanbul, a majestic square dotted on all sides by cafes, restaurants, pubs & movie theatres. It is also a place where people gather on New Year’s Eve, concerts or any other street demonstrations. You will find small carts serving the most delicious Simit (Bagel Bread dotted with sesame seeds) & freshly grilled kebabs on charcoal. If you’re lucky you might also find some musicians stringing their guitars or playing their violins, with such flair that it would put some very famous musicians to shame.
The highlight of Taksim Square is the Independence Monument that you would find at the beginning of the pedestrian walkway (or the place where the tram would drop you off), opened to public in 1928, it was built by an Italian Sculptor (Pietro Canonica) depicting Ataturk, along with other leaders, representing the Republic & a soldier holding the Turkish flag depicting the army.
- Stroll along the Istiklal Street (Caddesi)
It is a 3 km pedestrian only walkway, located in the Beyoglu district on the European side of Istanbul. Colorful neo classical buildings, bustling people, shops, cafes, book stores, concert halls, you name it & you will find it here. It is the best place to snack, stroll & shop – or simply people watch. Make sure you stop by for some Cay Tea & conversations, or browse through some music CD’s or buy the traditional Turkish Evil Eye bracelets & key chains.
- The Short Circle Bosphorous Cruise
A visit to Istanbul is incomplete without the very popular Bosphorous cruise – they generally run throughout the day & night. There are two types of cruises available – Short Circle Bosphorous Cruise, The Full Bosphorous Cruise during day & night. I took the Short Circle Bosphorous cruise, that takes about two hours. It is an ideal option if you’re hard pressed for time, but still want to see the Sultanamet & the Bosphorous bridges connecting the European & the Asian sides of the city. The approx cost is 10TL per person, but it is better to check the rates once you get there.
- Make sure you take out time to eat Baklava at Karakoy Gulluoglu
While every restaurant in the city serves some amazing baklavas, this one sort of takes the cake (or baklava). No matter how busy you are, make sure you take time out to visit this baklava shop, located about 15 minutes from the Spice Bazaar. Opened in 1949, it serves one of the tastiest baklavas in the city – plain, pistachio covered, cream filled & even chocolate baklava. Their baklavas can be packed in beautiful boxes, to take home. It can get quite crowded at night, so if the weather’s nice, you might want to visit this place for brunch (or a late afternoon snack).
There is absolutely no end to the various things that you can do in Istanbul. What are your best memories of Istanbul do leave your thoughts in the comments below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org