Hi from the seaside!
Me and my boyfriend decided to use the long weekend to fly somewhere for good food and nice views. We chose Istanbul. I thought of going there already several months ago after having visited wonderful Morocco. That mysterious oriental culture has attracted me since childhood and trips around Cairo, and this year I finally looked deeper into it.
Why Istanbul? Real oriental flavor, amazing food, history and traditions combined with safety and good living quality if compared to most of muslim places nowadays. Nevertheless I am still happy I went with my boyfriend. Once I left hotel without him just for several minutes and was immediately hit by a wave of over-attention. Yes, they like girls there. Especially european-looking types. But don’t think that they try to humiliate you when addressing you in their particular way. It’s just a part of their culture, and what seems to be too much and looks like violation of personal space for us is considered to simply be friendly there. I realized that when people were treating Stefan the same way: guys loved him, called him “Beckham”, waved at him and were all trying to have a conversation with us and drag us in any bar. So don’t be scared and don’t take turkish people wrong when they seem to be annoying and making a pass to you. Most likely they really just enjoy having a conversation with foreigners. Our stereotypes about oriental men trying to get any girls might be just a little bit exaggerated. However, if you feel uncomfortable as a western girl who is used to keep the distance, make sure you travel around those countries with men, just how I did take males with me around Morocco and Turkey.
Talking again about having conversations with foreigners: people of Istanbul surprised me with their good English. Literally everyone from a teenager to an old man running a traditional shop speaks fluently. I had been to Turkey twice before this trip, but staff of summer hotels at the seacoast didn’t know the language so well. Maybe times have changed, maybe Istanbul is indeed not only geographically but also mentally european.
We loved just walking there. Enjoyed every moment of watching people passing by, listening to the sounds of this city and looking around at its marvelous views. Istanbul is amazing. So huge, so endless, so uncentralized and yet so well-organized. Surprisingly clean streets, convenient public transportation, all kinds of stores. If not the obvious oriental spirit in architecture and in the air, the city could definitely be called european. Only things that confused us and made a difference were poor homeless people on the streets and limited choice of public catering. You don’t see Chinese or Italian restaurant on every corner here like you would anywhere else. It’s mostly either local food or restaurants with mixed cuisines. But that didn’t disappoint us at all as the local food is just amazing!
I would recommend to try all kinds of meat from Kebab on sticks to Iskender on a hot plate; main courses with yoghurt and special bakery; ayran and of course sweets! Turkish delight with all kinds of lokum are the well-known types, but I go for something more fastidious like künefe or liquid rice pudding. Those were totally new kinds of desserts for me which have my heart now. I am aiming to learn how to cook turkish pudding myself now after my boyfriend ate 3 of those each day.
Now I am getting closer to what makes Istanbul itself so special and unlike any other city in the world. From the history books we all probably know that the city of Constantinople is situated on two continents. Asia and Europe meet here, separated by Bosphorus. The channel does not only serve for navigation but also makes the city more “alive” if you observe it for some time. So fast, fresh, fulgent. The water is just so perfectly blue. The birds ply between asian and european parts of Istanbul chasing boats. We asked ourselves, how many times could they possibly be crossing the channel per day? Life seems to never slow down there.
I decided not to describe touristic places of interest in this post. You can read about famous Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Süleymaniye, Hagia Sophia and other sacred spots of the ancient city in handbooks for tourists. I, on the contrary, want to share only my perspective of how I saw, smelled, tasted it all there. I didn’t consult any resources to plan our routes other than my friend who lives in Turkey and has always been in love with it. And she gave us amazing advice.
Always try to ask the locals where to go and what to try other than reading it online. That’s why I am not giving the directions around Istanbul myself now as I would have given if the post was about some Italian spot. My policy is: first feel it deep yourself, then let the others feel your way. And feeling the oriental culture is not that straightforward. You have to slow down, activate your senses and let it open for you.
My piece of advice concerning Istanbul would therefore only remain: be careful when choosing the district of stay as the city is enormous; try what the locals recommend you, ask, consult and don’t be shy; accept people and their open minds and be open to them, they are much more friendly and easy in Istanbul as in other locations with close culture; be ready for the windy weather, you are in between two seas!
I have a lot of pictures on my camera so does Stefan. I will be looking trough our footages for a long time and will already share something here soon 😉
Travel with the ones you love. It makes the experience of learning and observing much more sensuous and pleasant ❤