‘Istanbul is inspiring because it has its own code of architecture, literature, poetry, music’
– Christian Louboutin –
When visiting Istanbul you immediately experience where Christian Louboutin is talking about. It’s a fascinating, one of a kind city. We somehow ended up more than twice in Istanbul. Spending time with friends in this city was amazing, but together is was even more laid back than the previous visits. Because we already knew Istanbul and only had a day this time, we didn’t bring a guidebook. We did it on our own and succeed! With 20 hours to wander around in Istanbul, it was a long but fantastic day. Without looking into a guide we noticed even more its colours, the scents and its culture.
Europe and Asia
Istanbul exists of two parts, divided by the Bosporus; one lies in Europe and the other in Asia. The European side is divided in two parts again; the enormous Galata Bridge connects these two together. From sunrise to sunset you can see many fishermen standing on the bridge. While watching the scenery you can enjoy a nice sandwich with fresh fish directly from the fisherman and it taste amazing! Under the bridge you can find nice restaurants where you can have a Turkish tea, a Turkish coffee or a water pipe and have a good view over the Golden Horn river. The area around the Galata Bridge is an extremely busy and bustling part of the city. While you’re most of the time in the European part, is doesn’t feel like Europe at all. It’s different than all cities we’ve visited before; you will experience an Arabic city with some European influences.
Sweet sweet sweet
A Turkish tea or coffee means it comes with a lot of sugar! The coffee is served according to the following rule: the amount of sugar is equal to the amount of coffee powder, together with some hot water it brings you… a VERY sweet coffee! Surprise! The Turkish style of coffee is pretty strong, and goes with a glass of water. Something very important to remember: don’t be greedy, you will regret it when you drink the last sip. There is always coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup, which doesn’t taste great when it ends up in your mouth! In Turkey they’re fond of sweet things. Next to sweet coffee and tea, they’re speciality is Baklava, an extremely sweet pastry. It could well be that the sweat stuff is something you have to get used to, for us nothing has changed since our travel in Morocco, we thought it was just a ‘little bit’ to much.
Bazaar, palaces and mosques
It’s impossible to get bored in this metropolis, as there are many sights to visit. Something you cannot skip is the famous Grand Bazaar. It’s colourful, busy, you can smell wonderful aromas and taste Turkish specialities. Watch your personal stuff, because it’s pleasantly busy here! You won’t be the first to get robbed, and sadly not the last. Beautiful sights are the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque. Not only from the outside these buildings look amazing, having a look at the inside is not a bad idea, so be sure to visit them! They are all situated in the Sulthanahmet district, the old town of Istanbul. An extra bonus to these sights are the small streets around the highlights. You can wander around for hours, watching the inhabitants and their habits.
There are many food stands throughout the city where they sell fresh pomegranate juice, roasted corn, roasted chestnuts and fresh fish. We ended up drinking juice the whole day, yum yum! In the evening we enjoyed a water pipe and a cloyingly sweet tea. You can, off course, also start your day with tea and a water pipe. Next to all the food stands, there are many small shops and stands with a lot of products per square meter. From souvenirs to daily products for the locals. Every shop is completely packed, to sell as much as possible. They never heard about the term ‘less is more’ like we do and we hope they never do. It gives Istanbul even more character.
Quirky fact: At night, especially during Ramadan, you can find dozens of food stands around the square in front of the Blue Mosque. It’s very crowded and the atmosphere is great. Immerse yourself in the Turkish culture and have a kebab or smoke a water pipe. The night life during the Ramadan compensates for the slightly less lively daytime and is for some even the best time of the year to plan a visit to this marvelous city!
Have a look at more of our colourful Istanbul pics!