Istanbul - vibrant metropolis between two continents
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
I do travel to Istanbul a lot for business. This city feels like home, people are so friendly and hospitable. There is something incredibly powerful and positive about Istanbul. No wonder city has been inhabited continuously for more than 6000 years.
In Rome Empire times known as Constantinople, today Istanbul it is the only city in the world between two continents: Europe and Asia. Moreover, Istanbul connects two major seas: Black Sea in the North and Mediterranean Sea in the South. Istanbul Ataturk Airport is 4th biggest airport in Europe, with annual passenger number exceeding 60 million, it literally connects East and West hemispheres.
Many people would give capital’s title to Istanbul, though Turkey’s capital since 1923 is Ankara. Istanbul has such a unique history: various religions, nations and cultures have lived in this city leaving traces and signs of their existence. Metropolis is such an attractive place for a visitor. Couldn’t agree more with James Bond Daniel Craig who described Istanbul as “magical and hospitable”.
Shopping in Mısır Çarşısı or Egyptian Bazaar
Egyptian Bazaar is my favorite place to shop. Few centuries ago, this market place was used only for sale of goods coming from Egypt: spices, herbs, essential oils, etc. That is the reason why it’s called Egyptian Bazaar.
Today goods are more international – saffron from Iran, caviar from Russia, tea from China as well as locally sourced products, anything from freshly grounded Mehmet Efendi coffee to rolling device to make yabrak (meal from rice and meat rolled inside wine leaves).
Turkish delight locum means “comfort of the throat”. It confuses shoppers with variety of different flavors on offer: pistachio, pomegranate, rose, mint, date, cinnamon, coffee, orange, etc. Pistachio and pomegranate flavors can’t be wrong!
Market also offers towels, clothes, handbags. No need to give up to pressure to buy and it’s a must to bargain or at least to ask for a small gift.
Maiden’s Tower (Kiz Kulesi)
Maiden‘s Tower is a unique place to visit in Istanbul and Turkey. It is a small tower built on a tiny island very close to Üsküdar district on the Asian Side of the city.
Interestingly, this tower was featured in James Bond movie The World is Not Enough with Pierce Brosnan.
Today 9 meter in height, tower is restaurant and cafe. The only way to reach Maiden‘s tower is by boat, return trip cost 20 TRY per person.
Amazing places to eat and drink
Istanbul is full of hidden germs – places where the best views are paired up with locally priced refreshments.
Amazing view of Galata tower and Golden Horn opens up in Ağa Kapısı caffe in Eminönü district. Breathtaking view, good service and affordable prices. However, pre-booking tables with a view is advisable.
Sea Point cafe restaurant in Üsküdar district is a great place to appreciate the view of European side of the city. Also, here must try Turkish coffee with mastic – resin obtained from mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus). Mastic enriches coffee with a bitter and at the same time refreshing taste, moreover it has health benefits like prevention of digestive problems, skin disorders and many others.
Hatay Medeniyetler Sofrası restaurant in Taksim and Aksaray districts is perfect for special occasions. This restaurant serves traditional dishes from Hatay city in South Turkey. Restaurant’s signature dish is chicken baked in salt and is flamed before being served. Attention to detail, kind waiters and great mood are a combination to great dining experience.
Restaurants on the lower floor of Galata Bridge are perfect places for fish-lovers where freshly caught fish comes straight to the plate.
Also it’s a must to try fish sandwiches Balik ekmek in traditional boats-restaurants in Eminönü.
Swedish cafe Point in artistic Cihangir district is a cozy place to meet friends for a cup of coffee from wooden cups.
Sultanahmet – historic center of Istanbul
Blue Mosque is the only mosque in the world which has six minarets as usually mosques are built with one or two. This place of worship is approx. 400 years old and is part of UNESCO World Heritage. Outside prayer times, tourists are allowed to enter the mosque as long as appropriate clothes are worn.
Ayasofya is a unique place which was a worship place for different religions over centuries. Originally it was built as a basilica for Greek orthodox, later on it was converted to a mosque and today is a museum. By the way, throughout the history, Ayasofya is the only Christian worship place which was converted to a mosque.
Topkapi Palace nowadays gets a lot of tourist attention. To see the whole area at least few hours are necessary and in order to avoid crowds, best time to go is early morning on weekdays.
Basilica cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici) built approx. 1400 years ago was the biggest underground water reserve in Istanbul. It’s featured in Inferno movie with Tom Hanks. Entry fee is not cheap, 20 TL per person.
Ingenious transport solutions
Officially Istanbul‘s population is 20 million, unofficially – 25 million. How come? It is believed that a lot of people come to work from small towns around during the day and population in the day is bigger than in the night. It takes some creative decisions to keep them moving around smoothly.
Best transport is the one which cannot get stuck in traffic such as metro, metro-bus, tram or ferry.
It is said: while being in a foreign country – behave if you are local. Small buses dolmus is a great way to beat road traffic. Small bus maneuvers on the streets and reaches destination quickly.
Most taxi drivers are polite and honest, turns the meter at the beginning of the journey. Minimum fare is 9 TRY. Price is always rounded up for the benefit of the driver who does not always have change. It is advisable to always have destination‘s address and phone number as sometimes driver does not know where to go, but he might not admit that in order not to lose client.