It was a nice ride from Selcuk to Istanbul. The city had its share of tourists, but it was a far cry from the usual numbers that come in due to the recent blasts at the Taksim square and later in the capital.
Tourism is a key industry for Turkey and the recent attacks have created quite a dent in numbers. This kind of worked to my favour as I was able to swing a good deal. I spent around six days in Istanbul and I have to say I had a really enjoyable stay owing to the perfect balance the city had to offer – the mix of old and new, the traditional and the trendy.
Sultanahmet is the hub of its historical timeline. It is a more peaceful place when compared to the more nightlife heavy Taksim. All the major attractions and landmarks sit majestically in this district that is often called the heart of old Istanbul. The first thing I was told as I checked into the hostel was that Istanbul is the capital of fraudsters and to be extremely cautious while mingling with locals. True, every touristy city has its share of fraudsters. So being extra cautious in Istanbul is something I would advise as well.
I had planned to take it easy as I was spending a couple of days and this was a good break after the long rides in Iran and the rest of Turkey. I ended up spending a day in a cafe in Sultanahmet, savouring a Turkish tea, whilst talking to tourists and locals, really enjoying my conversations with people from all walks of life. The Grand bazaar is a must see. Everything you can possibly imagine is there right in front, and a smart negotiator can grab a good deal. Just being part of the hustle and bustle is an experience in itself. Besides the normal tourist attraction, I was also venturing into the small lanes near the serene Bosphorus river and found these cool streets with small pubs tucked in playing genres from the classics to the latest rock. If street art is of interest, there is enough to keep you on your toes the entire day through the neighbourhoods, both in the Asian as well as the European side. In fact, there is also a street art tour. If time is a constraint check out Istiklal Avenue, Şişhane, Karaköy, Kadıköy and Moda areas where you will get to see a fair share of street art. Istiklal street and its surrounding can be a destination where one could spend days and still remain intrigued with something new at every corner. I was surprised by the collection of antiques which have been sourced from all over Turkey. The brief stops here and there to listen to gypsy musicians and the overall vibe got me completely glued to the ambience I never felt the time pass by.
Raki is the traditional Turkish drink, and the Raki drinking sessions are something you don’t want to miss! The drink made in Anatolia and known as Turkish Raki has a history going back 300 years. Due to the aniseed it contains, Raki changes colour and becomes a milky white when water is added and a glass of pure water to go with it gives a distinct pleasant taste. Rakı is commonly consumed alongside Meze, a selection of hot and cold appetisers, as well as at a Rakı Sofrası (“rakı table”), either before a full dinner or instead of it.
I headed to the Istanbul Modern, it’s a private museum which exhibits modern and contemporary art. Set up in a warehouse along the shores of Bosphorous, it can be easily accessed through tram. The walk off the beaten tourist track did give a different perspective and the more explored, the more I discovered. Istanbul has a lot to offer especially for the inquisitive traveller. The popular attractions can be visited in two days and the well connected metro and tram makes it easy to move within the city. But I feel the best way to explore this fascinating city, like any other, is by foot.
It’s the people you meet that make the adventure what it is…
I was never exposed to life in hostels or dorms as this was my first travel experience outside India on
Warrier's Trail is a crazy dream of a simple guy that was inspired by a desire to travel, meeting people, see places and live life full of uncertainty.
The dream is to travel 40 countries, in over 500 odd days in 5 regions (S.E.Asia, Australia, Middle East, Europe & Africa)
A journey of exploration!