Weekend in Istanbul (Part III)

October 22nd, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Earlier I  wrote about my Weekend in Istanbul:

          Part I – Where we stayed,  What we visited, What we ate

          Part II – Where we  shopped, Where we went

Here is my  final post about my weekend in this complex, multi-layered city.

What  We Saw

To me,  Istanbul was tidy and charming (at least the areas that I saw). The city was  full of clean streets, green boulevards and hills. (Think San Francisco.) Here  is one of many winding cobblestone streets that I saw.

Istanbul  is a colorful city in many ways.

 

Even the  buildings are colorful. On some streets, every building is a different color.

When the  weather is nicer, Istanbul would be a fabulous place for sitting in sidewalk  cafés. (This photo was taken by someone else on a sunny day.)

What Surprised Me

I knew  that Istanbul is famously divided by the Bosporus strait which cuts the city into East and West, Asia and Europe. What I hadn’t considered was the Golden  Horn, which divides European Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara, which provides water to the south. All this meant that Istanbul has miles and miles of waterfront and so many beautiful views of water, boats and bridges. I loved this.

One can  get right up close to the water in the many cafés and restaurants that line the waterfront. This photo was taken from a place where we ate lunch outside (Assk  Café). Luckily there were heaters.

I was surprised by how darn cold it was. First, I thought it would be a “nice change” from the sun and warmth of Dubai. Then the rain made me homesick for Seattle. After that, I was just cold, wet and a little bit miserable. Even though I had  the proper coat and shoes (for once), I was freezing.

We spent a lot of time riding in taxis, waiting for a taxi or searching for a taxi. Also, we had various communication breakdowns with drivers. I only knew one word in Turkish: merhaba, which means “hello.” I relied heavily on this word. (It’s the same word in Arabic.)

There were a lot of stay dogs in Istanbul. What surprised me was how healthy, well-fed and docile they looked.

What I Bought

Aside from  too much Turkish delight, this is what I bought. I love the handmade tiles of  Turkey.

Here’s a  detail of the hand of Fatima trinket. These types of things were very cheap.

I also bought a Turkish teapot. The top is for strong tea that is slowly brewed over the hot water below. The tea is diluted with the water from the bottom. This tea-brewing method creates a unique taste. I used to think this was a samovar. No, it’s just a teapot.

This is a  samovar. (We didn’t buy it. It was in the Ritz-Carlton lobby café.)

What I thought

I found the Turks to be a smiley, cheerful people (except for one guy). This is what I noticed coming from a place that’s not particularly smiley.

Also, at first glance, Istanbul appears truly secular. Of course, there were gorgeous mosques all over the city. But from my perspective (coming from the UAE), it didn’t have the feel of a Muslim country. I realize there’s a reason for this, due to Turkey’s own unique history and Ataturk’s reforms and laws against the hijab. I also realize it’s a different story outside the city.

Above all, Istanbul felt like Europe. Well, according to the map, we were in Europe.

Lonely Planet calls Istanbul one of “the  world’s great romantic cities.” I believe that. In fact, what I saw of Istanbul reminded me more of Paris than any other city I’ve been to.

So, my first  impression as a weekend visitor was that Istanbul is more European than Middle Eastern, more secular than Muslim. Also, the city is so old, complex and layered, so rich with history, architecture… well, with everything. I got the impression one could spend a lifetime there and still not explore everything.

May my next trip to Istanbul be longer and filled with sunny weather and lots of time spent antique-shopping and sitting in sidewalk cafés.

Question: What are your impressions of Istanbul? 

  1. October 22nd, 2011 at 08:41 | #1

    Hi Holly,
    You should be there in winter, truly like a West Scottish winter, wet, chilly, wet, snow, wet!

    Do try my second link on your next visit, go inland and you will see real Istanbul, not the touristy as by the water.

    Also the metro/tram system is superb, I ditched my car and taxi’s in favour of public transport, when I lived there, and still use when I return as a visitor.

  2. October 22nd, 2011 at 08:44 | #2
  3. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    October 22nd, 2011 at 12:59 | #3

    @@rupertbu Thanks, Rupert, for reading, commenting & sharing the link. The UAE & Istanbul are so different. It would be very easy to long for Istanbul while living here.

  4. deborah mustafa
    October 22nd, 2011 at 13:52 | #4

    Salaam and welcome back Holly!

    Your pics are fantastic!
    Turkey is on top of my list of “dream places to visit”, inshallah someday I’ll get there. They say it’s best to visit in the spring. How about a girls trip? Are we reading anything related in Book Club?

    Thanks for sharing.

    Deborah

  5. Danielle
    October 22nd, 2011 at 17:56 | #5

    Thanks again, Holly, for sharing your stories! I too noticed the difference with the Muslims there…our super-friendly waiter sat and enjoyed a glass of red wine with us, and when we asked him if he was Muslim, and if drinking wine was ok for him, he gave a good European shrug and said, “Well yes, I’m Muslim, but what? I’m not going to drink wine?”

  6. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    October 23rd, 2011 at 04:20 | #6

    @deborah mustafa Would love a girls trip to Istanbul in the spring. We could read Orhan Pamuk & quote from his books while we are there.

    @Danielle Great story!

  7. October 26th, 2011 at 16:59 | #7

    I envy you that teapot!!!! Fantastic, Holly. Took me back to Istanbull and all its literal Turkish delights. :)

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