Wanderings: Istanbul city life

New Mosque and a chestnut vendor

New Mosque and a chestnut vendor

One of the main reasons I travel is to experience life in a different place.  Some people like to focus on history and spend all their time in museums, but I am much more fascinated by modern life.  I want to find the places where the real citizens go, eat what they eat, drink what they drink, shop where they shop.   Before a trip, I try to read up on all the customs and habits of the place I am visiting: which way does traffic go on a sidewalk; do they look each other in the eyes; how to they greet each other; thank each other; what is the proper way to order food.  Then, when I get there, I try to blend in.  Some places its easier than others.

Some people think trying to blend in is silly, but I think it leads to a lot of nice surprises.  Maybe I get into the modern art museum for free because I look like a citizen.  Maybe the handsome men at the next table buy us dessert because we admired theirs.  Maybe the shopkeeper sends me to his favorite restaurant, or the fruit seller gives us a few pears as a gift.

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New Mosque

New Mosque

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Now that the Mister and I travel together, we rent apartments in neighborhoods, instead of hotels in the city center.  In Istanbul we stayed in the Karaköy neighborhood, which is across the Golden Horn from the old city.  We had nice views of Galata and the old city, but when we went downstairs the street was full of appliance and light fixture stores.  We could walk to İstiklal in ten minutes to party with the locals, or stay in our apartment to drink wine and play games as the gorgeous Galata Tower loomed over us.

Beyoglu apartment near Galata tower

The apartment we rented.  Look at those brick ceilings!

Galata Tower from our bedroom window

Galata Tower from our bedroom window

Sunset from our balcony

Sunset from our balcony

I love people watching.  So does the Mister.  We spent so much time in Istanbul sitting in cafes, sitting in parks, watching people, wandering around, watching, listening, tasting.  We explored back streets and fish markets, rode the ferries and the trams, peeked into workshops and stores.  We got lost so many times, but stumbled on cafes and antique shops and schools and cemeteries, and it was really all so wonderful.

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Anadolu Kavagi

Anadolu Kavagi

Simit vendor

Simit vendor

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Cemetery

Cemetery

Fortune telling bunny

Fortune telling bunny

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Looking out over the Bosphorus

Looking out over the Bosphorus

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5 Comments on “Wanderings: Istanbul city life

  1. I usually read fiction that takes place in the countries I’ll be travelling to and I learn a little about customs there. But I like your approach of really researching facts before going. I’ll have to try that next time I travel; thanks for the tip!

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    • For me it’s often after a trip that I want to read all the fiction about that place, but in this case, it was actually reading the book The Historian that inspired me to go to Istanbul. That book was so engrossing and hopscotched all over Europe, but the parts set in Istanbul were so amazing I couldn’t stop thinking about the city.

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    • First you pay him. Then they hold up the tray of colored papers and he picks one for you. That is your fortune. Mine said I would be prosperous and I got a raise not too long after, so I’d say he’s got talent.

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