Istanbul is formerly known as Constantinople and Byzantium. Those names remind many of us of fairytales and the Arabian Nights. We only ever thought of the overwhelming number “15 millions“ because that is how many citizens Istanbul has, upward tendency. For an European city 15 millions sound very impressive. This is a sound reason for us to evade the vivid metropolis. In addition to this is our nonexistent need of carpets, handbags and watches.
But when Istanbul is offering to be a stopover, even we cannot say no to that. We decide to stay for one week in lively Istanbul, a city between tradition and modernity. We get to know the city in the most beautiful sunshine and it surprises us a lot with its mixture of occident and Orient. Thanks to a very nice Turkish photographer, who also worked for National Geographic, we were shown around the “other” Istanbul for one day. He showed us an Istanbul from earlier times, when merchants passed with their caravan to the market in the city. Today precious metal is processed here, valuable antiques are prepared and handmade ceramic glass chandeliers are produced and shipped to Japan. The walls, which are rich in history, impress us just as much as the friendly people who work in close quarters behind those old walls.
Of course we also indulge in the pompous side of Istanbul, in company of a few thousands of other tourists. The abundance of palaces, museums, churches and mosques seems nearly endless.
Despite the rush, we spend a full day at the Topkapi palace, residence of former sultans and their harem ladies. The Palace is situated on a land tongue and offer a matchless panoramic view of Istanbul, the Bosporus and the Golden Horn. In the afternoon the stream of visitors thins out and we have the chance to let the wonderful palace atmosphere sink in.
During a stay in Istanbul it is a must to take one of the numerous ferries. It is inevitable to resist the charm of the Bosporus and the Golden Horn. In a ten minute cycle the ferries operate between the European and the Asian part of the city.
We go on board on one of the ferries and rock from one berth to the next, as we observe the passengers getting on and off the ferry. Drinking Turkish tea we enjoy the relaxing atmosphere for hours, as a mild breeze blows around us. Particulary striking is the trip upwards the Bosporus to the mouth into the Black Sea and back.
Even if you do not need carpets, handbags and watches like us, you should not miss the huge bazaar Kapali Carsi with ist 4,000 shops.
Shopping is one thing, but even more interesting are the backyards and backstairs of the old bazaar.A guaranted tourist-free zone. You can climb up to the old roof of the bazaar and enjoy a fantastic view of Istanbul and its waterways.
After one week in Istanbul with its often hectic hustle it is not easy for us to part. At the end we are convinced that Istanbul offers something for EVERY taste. Places like our liking were away from the touristic attractions.