Out and About
Some of our best moments in Istanbul were spent quite simply – walking around the backstreets, people-watching on the esplanade and surveying the city from a rooftop bar.
Galata Bridge Fishermen
One piece of time spent on the esplanade really stands out for me. We strolled down to the esplanade one evening just past 18.00 so that Pasha could take some photos on dusk. Like most parts of the city at this time, it was teaming with life.
The Galata Bridge was lined with fishermen that you can find there at any time of day (rain, hail or 35 degree days with a scorching sun). I got the impression that these guys aren’t out to catch anything. Very rarely did I see them with the fruits of their labour. And if they do manage to wind in a small trophy, they quite often just hand it over to a nearby street cat. They just love the feeling of the rod in their hands and the wind (or rain) in their hair. And probably that salty, fishy smell that hits you when you start your journey across the bridge.
Turkish Street Snacks
Beside this very bridge is a small arena-type structure that is surrounded by kiosks topped with red and white striped rooves. Here you can buy a variety of Turkish snacks from roasted chestnuts and corn on the cob to Turkish donuts swimming in sugar syrup. And as it gets darker, the yellow corn becomes brighter and almost starts to glow, like a neon sign leading you to fresh snacks.
Just beyond these kiosks is the edge of the esplanade where the water laps hungrily against the sides of ferries and cruise boats. And even these boats bring something unique to the atmosphere. The exteriors are ornately patterned in golden and blue, and each one proudly holds the Turkish flag. At night time they too light up in neon blues and greens. They bob playfully up and down as if to say, “Come on, let’s go for a ride!” and it is truly inviting.
Of an evening you can see crowds gathered in the small arena. Families and lovers, loners and friends, all seated and enjoying some local entertainment. In the time I was there I was lucky enough to witness a band of young men playing on the guitar and singing and dancing merrily.
When they took a break, a group of young women got up and formed a line, standing side by side and holding hands, and began dancing. The merriment was so infectious that people all around started clapping and singing.
In this particular part of the city the sky seems incredibly vast. And on sunset it turns into a giant canvas of pinks, yellows and purples. The whole scene is topped off by the beautiful song of the Muezzin. It is played from the mosques just behind and echoes throughout the city around this time of evening.
Roof-Top Bars and Seagulls
If you want to totally spoil yourself, you can witness this all from above. Istanbul is full of exquisite roof-top bars that overlook this esplanade, many mosques and they even give you a great view of the suburbs on the other side of the bridge. Of course, it’s especially magical when the sun is setting. You can sip some Turkish tea, puff away at your hookah and soak up the beauty. You’ll almost definitely see some cheeky seagulls perched in odd places. Look out for them – the way they squawk is absolutely hilarious.
Perhaps, after all this lounging around, you’ll want to plunge back in to the thick of it all. Don’t worry. This part of the city is also home to several underground walkways that are an experience in themselves. The first thing to remember is that they are full of shops that sell hats, shoes, bags and toys. It’s like a mini grand bazaar down there!
The booming voices start as you descend, with young men offering you bottles of icy cold water, and finish on the other side exactly the same way. Second of all, there is also a huge variety of pungent smells that you’ll encounter there. Be prepared for an assault on your senses!
And last but not least: during storms the power can go off. If it does, just hold your bag a little more tightly to yourself, grab your partner’s hand and be prepared for a slow and sweaty journey to the end.
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