Istanbul 101

by Selma Sevkli

Whirling Dervishes 2

What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the name “Istanbul”? Hagia Sophia? Bosphorus Bridge? Blue Mosque? Or something else? Some cities are identified with one typical image like the Eiffel Tower for Paris or the Colosseum for Rome. Istanbul has many of them.  Like the landmarks, everyone’s experience of the city will differ. Some love the sheer energy of the city, while others won’t forget the food. Istanbul has a history of 8,500 years, serving as capital to many empires.  It is physically and culturally in the middle of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and hosts a diverse 15 million people today.

Grand-Bazaar Shop

The city is alive, and thrives 24 hours a day. It is impossible to get bored. You can always find something to do, food to eat and people to talk to. It is welcoming and addictive – some come for a visit and cannot leave.  It is huge, covering 5400 square kilometers – there is always more to discover. It is diverse – there are many different communities and individuals as well as religions and ideas living here. It is fun, hectic, intense, adventurous and beautiful. Everyone could find some joy in Istanbul.

Seeing Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar are must-sees for sure, but the city has more to offer:

Let your eyes and nose have a feast in the Spice Bazaar, which has been around for 350 years.

Change continents in 15 minutes, take the local ferry from Europe to Asia, feed the seagulls on the way.

Go to Pierre Loti Hill for a cup of Turkish Coffee by cable car overlooking Golden Horn.

Turkish coffee in Istanbul

Climb up to Galata Tower and see what Istanbul looks like from a 664-year-old tower.

Treat yourself and have a dinner at Maiden Tower, literally in the middle of Asia and Europe, on the Bosphorus.

Spend at least a full day on Istiklal Street, get lost on side streets, check out the flea markets, eat in a random place, visit churches, watch people.

Have a real Turkish bath at Cemberlitas Hamami, let the steam and massage relax you, appreciate Architect Sinan for his work one more time.

Watch whirling dervishes, let them take you to a world of peace and serenity.

Walk on Galata Bridge, see people fishing, and have some fish on either side of the bridge.

Try simit, grilled chestnuts and boiled corn when you want a snack, on almost every street.

?stanbul 4228

Go to Ortakoy, see Asia from Europe at the closest distance while enjoying the best stuffed, baked potato.

Take the ferry to Kadikoy, see the fish market, have another cup of coffee, walk to Moda and have some cay.

Check out Uskudar with its nostalgic local life, walk to Kuzguncuk along the Bosphorus.

Take the metro to Levent to see the skyscrapers of industrial Istanbul.

See the latest designer stores in Nisantasi.

Feel free to ask directions, ask opinions, enjoy the Turkish hospitality and warm people. Take advantage of the rich cuisine, make every meal different.

And get ready to change plans and have an adventure.

Welcome to Istanbul…

Selma Sevkli is a cultural orientation trainer for refugees and a freelance writer living in Istanbul.  We met Selma through Couch Surfing and hosted her and a friend in Bali, Indonesia.  Besides writing, she is also inspecting, photographing and recruiting apartments for us.  The first three Istanbul apartments we’ve added to the site can be seen here.

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