Istanbul: Never Boring, Always Special

Istanbul: Never Boring, Always Special

People come to Istanbul for many reasons – some for shopping only, some for culture, some for “check! been! done!”, some for chasing opportunities in this rapidly growing metropolis.

Not sure if I have my main reason. Twice I came here for big football (and it was very successful), once for sea and fishbread at Eminönü station only, and this time my main reason was EMITT, a big international tourism fair, where I was representing… Georgia, here you are right.

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Actually working on a fair is not a supereasy thing (if compared with sitting on one’s butt in the office): it’s running around, talking, explaining, answering questions like “Do you really have snow in Georgia?”, “Are you Georgian?”, “You have 33 letters in the alphabet? Ha, we also have 33 letters, our languages are so similar!”

But I was lucky to have a couple of hours outside of fair building and bus (one way trip from our hotel to fair was around 50 km and took more than 1 hour without traffic jams), and to give in to my favorite things: sea, museums, seafood and drinking tea in small authentic places.

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This time I managed to see Dolmabahçe palace: a great example of Ottoman baroque. A short tour through harem part first made me envious, because the Sultan’s family lived in a really great conditions, but then I asked the guide about what the wives could do… Well, they had more rights that in earlier times of Ottoman Empire, but just picknicking, learning languages without using them live, being jealous about the Sultan having fun with a more lucky wife didn’t sound like perfect life.

In the harem part of the palace also stayed Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He died on one of the beds in one of ex-apartments of sultan, and this bed is covered with the Turkish flag now in his honour.

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Clock museum and Crystal palace also look nice, but if you don’t like posh rooms and world history of watches and clocks, maybe you shouldn’t really go there.

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But the palace and area around are really beautiful. And in the fine arts gallery they have more than 20 Aivazovsky paintings! I was so proud. The rest of the painters exhibited there are Turkish, and what has also made an impression on me, is the special school of painters which was army-based. Really, there are a lot of good quality paintings made by soldiers in XIX-XX centuries. That’s what comprehensive military education is…

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After, I was also impressed by amount of people with sad faces and selfie-sticks.

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And then I went on exploring some nice things in Old Istanbul. It is easy even if you’ve been there already.

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It was such a pleasure to feed seagulls with pieces of sesame bread and smell this awkward mixture of salty water and gasoline…

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And there was also fish: in some restaurants, and at Eminönü as well. But I strongly recommend to avoid that area on Sunday. Just don’t show up there and leave your hope for balik ekmek (fishbread), if you want to keep trust in humanity.

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Also managed to run around Sultanahmet Mosque (because there was no time for walking). Even though it’s touristic, it’s incredibly gorgeous. Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı) is a must see place as well, so tour guides don’t basically lie. But running around Medusa heads is still pointless. I like those wet lighted corridors much more. There are some event and concerts at this venue from time to time: I wish I could attend one of them…

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Photographing cats in Istanbul is inevitable…

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Grand Bazaar… Well, it’s better to go there, if you know what you need, and if you are still not fed up with HEY EXCUSE ME, WHERE ARE YOU FROM, BUY THIS! Despite of this I managed to buy a nice scarf for my mum, something tasty for me and some friends, and also to drink tea with a Turkish guy who lives in Japan and has a Turkish shop there.

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So, here are my touristic basics. If you still haven’t been to Istanbul, I might leave you some pieces of advice just here:

1. Doesn’t matter to which airport you arrive: to reach the city center, take the Havataş shuttle (paying by the driver 11 or 13 lira to reach Taksim sq. from Atatürk and Sabiha Gökcen airport correspondingly).

2. As you get into taxi, check out if counter is on zero.

3. I stayed in Style Hotel Şişli and Safran Suites. Both are good, but have different concepts.

4. Buy Istanbul Card for using public transport including ferryboats. One way with bus, metro, tram or ferry is 2.15, metrobus is 4 lira. If you are changing transport, you should pay too, but 1.85.

5. Must eat: çiğ köfte, mussels (but please don’t buy them near the roads, I beg you), aşure (kinda pudding with dried fruits on it), calamari, olives and if you didn’t get my idea yet, BALIK EKMEK 🙂

And please keep in mind that price on bazaars can be four or five times smaller, all the burberry and armani bags are fake, and just air, sun and good mood is real and for free 🙂 I hope you enjoy all these things right now. Take care! Stay tuned!

About Dariko

Born in Ukraine, now Tbilisi-based. Love seeing new places.