Merhaba Türkiye’den! I’ve been in this country for two weeks now, and wanted to share with you from my time in Istanbul last week. I visited this cosmopolitan city four years ago, and on that trip saw the major attractions; the Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. On this occasion I stayed with friends who recently moved to the city, and I got to see it from a more local perspective, which I really enjoyed.
Day One: Moda and Kadikoy
The sun was out and it was great to be back in Istanbul in warmer weather – it was pretty chilly here in February 2013! My friends live in Kadikoy, a busy neighbourhood on the Asian side, which was familiar to me from my first visit. As soon as we got off the airport bus we were surrounded by commuters and traders aplenty! Kadikoy has a wide variety of street stalls, local shops and inexpensive restaurants for you to try out.
We went from Kadikoy on a walk through Moda, which is a quieter, primmer neighbourhood that seems to be developing a buzz to it. It has a developing a street art scene – there are some nice pieces towards the coast. The region also has a beautiful coastal park which was being fully exploited because of the nice weather; the streets were packed as locals were going out for strolls, ice cream and picnics. We finished our walk with a generously topped waffle at Kemal Usta Waffles in Moda which I’d highly recommend.
Day Two: Çamlıca Hill and Kadikoy
My friends took me out for a traditional Turkish breakfast the next morning. It was a decent journey to get there, first by bus and then on a healthy trek up Çamlıca Hill to The Çamlıca Social Facility. This place is subsidised by the government, so the food is pretty cheap but really tasty. Breakfast is served in a traditional Turkish tea room and includes a variety of meats, cheeses and jams. Whilst the breakfast is delicious, you really go up the hill to see the 360 degree view of the city, which was pretty fantastic on the clear day that we went.
We returned to Kadikoy for the rest of the day, and I had some time to myself to do some work in a local specialty coffee shop, called Montag. The place has a nice atmosphere, middling wifi and a decent variety of coffees. I treated myself to a Guatemalan filter coffee and a tasty piece of lemon cheesecake. Later on I met up with my friends and we had a nice meal out at Leman Kultur – quite a busy place, but good food, which included the “Arnold Schwarzenegger Burger” and the tortilla chip-topped pizza.
Day Three: Karakoy and Taksim
On my final morning I explored Karakoy, on the European side, by myself. My first goal was to buy the best baklava in the city. After a few detours I ended up at Karaköy Güllüoğlu which does a fantastic range of baklava, including chocolate-flavoured. After picking up baklava for myself and as gifts, I decided to go up the Galata Tower, a medieval stone tower built by the Genoese in 1348.
This tower once was used to spot fires across the city, until it was damaged by two fires in the 1800s. There are still great views of the just how immense this city is from the Galata Tower. I spent more time after this working from a decent coffee shop called Coffee Brew Lab near Taksim, where I had a delicious Kenyan blend. I finished my final morning off with a cheap and easy lunch at Beyoğlu Halk Döner before saying goodbye to my friends and heading to the airport!
Istanbul is such a cosmopolitan city, and like London it will take a long time for me to explore it fully! I look forward to more trips to this city, exploring it from a local’s perspective.