Holidays in Turkey most often mean a boring vacation on the beach in an all-inclusive mode. But here is one of the most incredible cities on Earth. If you have not been to Istanbul, pack your bags immediately!
Modern Istanbul is similar in style and atmosphere to Berlin, but with an oriental character. Just as the capital of Germany used to be, Istanbul (which, incidentally, is not the capital of Turkey) is divided into two parts – European and Asian – by the Bosphorus Strait. It even has its own informal area like Kreuzberg – Karakoy, with graffiti, countless bars and art galleries, living mostly at night. Turks don’t scream after blondes in “Natasha!” Shorts (don’t even hope), and calmly drink craft beer, sitting in trendy burger and coffee shops with barbershops.
What to see
First of all, all tourists go to the Sultanahmet district, located in the European part of the city between the Golden Horn Bay, the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara – there are so many historical sights on the small territory that the area has even been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site status. At the place where, in fact, the future city was “founded”, now there is the Hagia Sophia with an amazing history – it began to be built already in 324 under the Emperor Constantine! At first it was a wooden Christian church, but two hundred years later, Emperor Justinian decided to build a grand temple on this site, which would be the main one in the country: all the most expensive materials were brought here – gold, silver, ivory, and marble columns were brought from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Temple of the Sun in Rome.
But in the XV century, the Turks captured the temple and turned it into a mosque – Muslims prayed in a luxurious Christian cathedral for 500 years – until 1935, when Atatürk signed a government decree on the creation of a museum in Hagia Sophia that still works: you can see how it is being restored murals and restore columns. Also in the Sultanahmet area is the Blue Mosque, the ancient underground reservoir of Theodosius Cistern, Hippodrome Square with an ancient stele from Egypt and a snake column from Delphi, Arasta Bazaar, which is called the open-air museum bom because of its scope and abundance of goods, as well as the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Carpets.
Topkapi Palace deserves special attention, and not only fans of the series “The Magnificent Century”. It was the main residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire until the mid-19th century, when a more modern Baroque palace Dolmabahce was built in another part of the city. After the fall of the monarchy, Atatürk settled in the palace after his death, Dolmabahçe turned into a museum. The Turks themselves call the palace the Ottoman Louvre, because it collects “all the best and immediately”: from crystal to gold. The most valuable exhibits are the Bohemian glass chandelier donated by Queen Victoria, weighing almost five tons, and a collection of paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky.
Istanbul at night
The daily program can be devoted to visiting museums, mosques and historical sights, and the evening is best left for gastronomic entertainment. Firstly, Istanbul at night is absolutely safe and friendly Europe + city, unless, of course, by your behavior you provoke the Turks into conflict. Secondly, in the evening in the city all the fun begins.
The first and main route of tourists with good taste is from Taksim Square down Istiklal Street. There are many cafes, restaurants, shops with various delicious specialties and just stalls with street food. Be sure to try the mussels with rice (1 piece – 1 lira) – a brilliant idea in its simplicity and practicality. Mussels are taken out of the shells in advance, cooked with rice, and then the ready-made “pilaf” is laid out in each shell. The fact that on the counter looks like fresh mussels turns out to be a deliciously prepared snack – merchants still generously sprinkle it with lemon.
Fans of acute gastronomic sensations can drop by the cafe, which cooks kokorech – a dish of mutton entrails. Chopped offal – the liver, kidneys, lungs, heart – is wrapped in lamb intestines and fried on a spit. Then cut even finer, mixed with herbs, spices, tomatoes and served in pita or shawarma with sauces. It turns out a very aromatic and satisfying dish. Turks generally like offal very much – even in an ordinary restaurant you can find fried brains or a liver in Albanian menu.
After strolling to the Galata Tower – one of the most famous sights of Istanbul, which once had a lighthouse, go to Nevizade Street. The most popular bars and eateries, working until dawn, are concentrated on it and in the adjacent cozy alleys. They are called meihan (a place for a drink), and there really is something to drink here – the range of traditional Turkish brandy vodka is extremely wide. There are also fish restaurants where you can order fried fish: sea bass, sea bream, anchovies, mullet, turbot, tuna, haddock, etc. Then walk to the Karakoy district, which also lives a nightlife. The bars and stylish cafes are full of young people, musicians play in the narrow streets – everything is very welcoming and friendly.
Make yourself a kumpira
One of the most popular Istanbul street foods – kumpir – a huge potato baked in foil with different toppings. In Ortaköyest quarter, there is a whole street with kumpirs, however, only the design of the stalls is different, and the fillings are the same for all: peas, corn, red cabbage, olives, peppers and cucumbers. The fixed price is 25 lire (260 rubles), regardless of how many toppings and sauces you want.
The most used seasoning in Turkish cuisine is paprika. In general, many types of pepper are used here, including pickled, and ground. Istanbul even has an ancient spice market where you can find seasonings for every taste.
Another popular evening walk route is the promenade in the Arnavutkoy district. Here you can just walk around, staring at the luxury moored yachts, or get a horn with the most delicious ice cream in the city, standing in line at the tiny Mini Dondurma shop, but fans of the Turkish butcher Nusret Gökçö, who is famous for his ability to salt “from the elbow”, are waiting a steak with gold in his Nusr-Et restaurant.
From left to right
Crossing the Bosphorus on one of the many boats and ferries, you will find yourself in the Kadikoy district – this is the oldest part of Istanbul, located in the Asian part of the city. It is not so touristy, there are fewer attractions, but there is a large fish market. Be sure to try the popular Turkish fast food – Balyk Ekmek – a sandwich with fried fish, just caught from the sea.
There are also many cafes and restaurants in the area, for example, there is the world-famous restaurant Ciya Sofrası, which was opened 20 years ago by a Kurd named Musa Dagdeviren. Musa in Turkey is very fond of, and is called a culinary anthropologist, because he collects recipes of national dishes throughout the country and publishes his own culinary magazine.
About him, they even shot a series for the fifth season of Chef’s Table on Netflix. In his restaurant, everything is very, very simple, and I can read it as an encyclopedia of Anatolian cuisine: it describes in detail what dish from which area. Try a variety of meze, kebabs, dolma, lahmajun, pide and other local dishes. And if you’re lucky, you will see the owner.
In restaurants and markets you can find white cups that look like large champignon hats – this is an enginar, which translates from Turkish as an artichoke. Pickled peeled cups of artichokes are especially good in stuffed form, for example, with rice or edamame beans. Be sure to take the time to drink Turkish coffee in one of the cozy coffee shops. It is cooked in a Turk on charcoal, served in small cups with sweets: baklava, Turkish delight, dates in chocolate. And always bring a glass of water with coffee – this is the rule!
You can get not only gastronomic, but also aesthetic pleasure on the largest terrace in Istanbul, from where a breathtaking view of the Bosphorus, the Asian part of the city and the Sultanahmet district with Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque opens. It is located on the roof of the famous Istanbul hotel CVK Park Bosphorus (near Taksim Square), whose history dates back to the late 19th century. . The terrace combines four gastronomic concepts under one roof. The Midd restaurant serves gastronomic Turkish dishes: a variety of meze, meat, kebabs, Mezze Mave specializes in fresh fish and high-quality seafood, Hitode Japanese Restaurant serves sushi and Izaka Bar serves views. Only here a traditional Turkish three-course dessert is served: ice cream from roses, akytma (flour dessert) and Turkish delight in rose petals.
What to try?
- Lahmajun – Turkish pizza with minced meat and tomatoes *
- Simit – Turkish Bagel with Sesame Seeds
- Mutabel – Baked Eggplant Pasta
- Antep esmesi – a very spicy snack of tomatoes, peppers and onions
- Writing – the sweetness of the thin threads of halva
What to bring?
- Turku and other copper dishes
- Elegant coffee set
- Painted traditional ceramics *
- Real mohair from Ankara
- Sweets: chestnuts in glaze, dates in chocolate, Turkish delight, halva.