A heavyweight city wedged between two continents, Istanbul is a heady concoction of several flavors all from not just different parts of the world but also from different timezones. The main part of the city or the old part of the city, the areas of Sultanahmet, the Beyoglu, Karakoy, Bebek and Taksim in the European side, and the areas of Dogancilar, Icadiye and Nakasteppe in the Asian side make up the city along with the lovely Bosphorous in the center. The entire city is a mixture of the old and the new, the touristy and the business, the avate garde and the day to day. Apart from the historic limits that includes the mosques, the palaces and the bazaars, the new zones of the city are those of Beyoglu, Karakoy and Bebek. Beyoglu is extremely modern, with shopping in Iskitlal caddesi forming the main spine of the new age shopping. Karakoy on the other hand is the city’s art district with fun cafes and galleries showcasing Turkish artists. The Musuem of Innocence in Beyoglu is a hallmark of the Nobel prize laureate Orhan Pamuk’s novel by the same name. The fact that Pamuk curated all the things used by his characters and made a museum out of it is quite something. The man has gumption, but to charge a 16 Euro entry fee is just quite fanciful. Am told the museum sees visitors all around the year, going on to show how really random life is and people are.
A walk through the hilly climbs of Beyoglu brings one through hammams, shops, homes, restaurants and leisure spaces that make it the pulse of the city. A part of Beyoglu connects to the Taksim Square, an urban space that offers a punctuation, a breather to the dwellers of the city. A multitude of restaurants serve up Turkish fare suited to the average tourist. The fun Taksim square is buzzing with activity any time of the day! Warm roasted chestnuts for company, one can read into the multiple uses of the square, uses that are sometimes cultural, at times political and other times sheer leisure. One of the diagonals from the Taksim square connects to Iskitlal Caddesi,a heritage toned shopping destination with boards of great alacrity selling brands found literally all over the world but with a Turkish twist. The brands of H&M and Zara, popular globally find their Turkish application in cuts and designs. The average Turkish men and women seem to be fashion conscious with an eye for detail. The food places in Iskitlal are also very international serving up all kinds of food. The Turkish Baklava is very popular though as is the Turkish delight. Ahead of Iskitlal is the galata tower and there are many cafes across the Galata tower that serve the adorable cheesecake called Sans Sebastian, another win on the trip if one does not mind waiting about 45minutes for a table!
Karakoy on the other hand is extremely artsy. The galleries here curate work by Turkish artists and present a very vivid and happy picture of the general vibe of modern Turkish art. The streets are also fun, one of them covered in upturned umbrellas, to simply be! The gentrified neighbourhood also boasts of vintage and antique shops, some probably wares of sunken ships in the Turkish straits, obviously none are got for a song. The vegan restaurants in these zones cater to different food and lifestyle choices that one may make in their lives. Bebek on the other hand is highly upmarket and we visited the Bebek park early in the morning just to see a lady dive into the Bosphorous in her gaiely decorated swimsuit, another few doing their morning runs while a group began to blast zumba tunes for their morning workout. The houses in Bebek and in effect the streetscape are very upmarket, but as the city goes, no junction is complete without paying an ode to the father of modern Turkey, Mr Ataturk! The transportation systems in Turkey are plenty, with the metro, the tunnel, the funnel, the ferry, the tram, the taxis and the pavements ensuring that the city is easily commuted through. After all Istanbul is touted as one of the most walkable cities in the world! A feat that probably beats all of its otehr feats, even over time!