Incentives for your escape from the wheel.
I expected a lot. The number of cats hanging out on the sideways and windowsills were a surprise though. They even have their own carton-box-bed rooms and people around seem to feed them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snack. Not everyone might like that. Well, I ended up with 50% cat photos on my memory card. With a population of almost 14 million people (and 2 million cats), Istanbul is one of the biggest cities in Europe. You would need a year to explore it all… If you don’t have so much time get a glimpse below.
A lot of people – a lot of places to stay. This time you won’t have any budget input in the bed section by reason of travelling as a couple. But that should not bother you considering the place we stayed at was really excellent. Due to the fear of taking the wrong decision concerning hotels, my girlfriend spends ages looking for cosy, family run places. So we ended up in a well run and renovated apartment building seven minutes walk from Istiklal street (pedestrian zone) and the Galata Tower. Good Night Istanbul (90EUR plus/room) has four apartments which are run by two sweet sisters. One of them (Serap) lived for several years abroad and knows what their international customers appreciate. Very helpful and providing the information required. There was a warm welcoming and also great communication prior to our arrival. We only met Serap and she succeeded in making us feel at home from the first moment. On the day of departure our room was not booked so we were allowed to keep it until we were heading to catch the evening flight. That is something you don’t find anywhere else. Go for that one if you have the extra bucks.
Thanks to a hint from a Turkish friend we had brunch at Namli which seems to be a well established chain for delicacies. You might be a bit overwhelmed by both the customer traffic and the offer but be patient and the staff will help you with the order. If are staying at Good Night Istanbul just head down the hill, grab a freshly squeezed pomegranate drink for your lack of Vitamin C, continue to the water and then turn right. You will find Namli on a corner in front of a little square.
As far as the night program is concerned pay Babylon a visit to find yourself in a crowd of locals. There are plenty of bars around in case you get tired of the late live performances.
If you have some time off you could visit Tarihi Galatasary Hamami – TRY 100 for a relatively short stay including an almost violent foam massage and a cup of tea. It is not as touristy as the hamam just next to the Blue Mosque – and more budget. Both females and males are being treated. And it’s a relatively awkward experience considering an overweight, topless man/woman (not topless) only covered in a sarong and a mustache is rubbing down your (suddenly) redundant skinflakes. You feel like an old Skoda being in an old car wash. They are a bit pushy as you have to pay in advance. Don’t expect a long stay or a fancy spa. Not convinced? This guide is ranking the best hamams in Istanbul.
Feeling newly born (or like a wreck) after your hamam experience stroll down Istiklal street or even better – discover the side streets. They are much more interesting besides you don’t face so many people. You will find a fish market, bars, grocery stores, urban art and restaurants.
The next day head towards the Galata Kpr. (bridge) and visit the spice bazaar Misir Çarsisi. Have your orders from home organised. Go back to the riverside and look for public (important) transport boats towards Asia or the Bosporus. They only cost you 3EUR (one way) which is 40% less than the guided boats. Besides you can disembark in Asia, spend some time there and get a Turkish experience instead of hanging out with the camera crowd on the sea.
Amongst plenty of people, spices, religions and entertainment you will find a nice selection of street art. Below you see some pics and at the very bottom a video of Berlin’s OneUp crew who decided to invade the city of Istanbul a while back. The building they painted is not too far away from the Galata bridge.
Enjoy your stay and the Turkish delights!