48 hours in Istanbul.
About enjoyment, alleys and spices.
We start the day at sunrise on the Galata bridge in Karaköy, in the company of numerous anglers who are quietly staring at the water waiting for something to bite. Breakfast consists of fresh Çay tea and Simit sesame-seed cakes as we enjoy the morning calm and the fantastic view of the Bosphorus. After this improvised breakfast we take the narrow alleyways up to the Hagia Sophia Museum dating from the 6th Century, the symbol of Istanbul and a witness to the city’s eventful cultural and religious history.
We then continue to the bazaar in the Fatih quarter, which is already busy. We follow the narrow alleys deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of stalls. After a few hours the intensive aromas of the spices and the vivid colours of the fruits and textiles mix with the loud calls of the stallholders to produce a spectacle from which we decide to escape by visiting the public baths.
Like in a fairy-tale.
The afternoon we spend at the historic Tarihi Galatasaray Hamami baths, where we treat ourselves to a traditional soapy bath and an oil massage, is a mixture of relaxation and new experiences. Not only the skilled hands of the Hamam masters, but also the fairytale oriental architecture of the baths make this wellness interlude something very special. Pleasantly relaxed and in a buoyant mood, we leave the Hamam in the late afternoon to check-in at our hotel. Built in 1892, the Grand Hotel de Londres in the cosmopolitan area of Beyoğlu impresses us with its eclectic and unusual osmanic-cum-Victorian interior design. As we learn from a cinema-loving guest, the hotel was once used as a backdrop by film director Fatih Akin for his film “Head On”.
On tour with Volkan Yildirmaz.
Next morning we take to Istanbul’s best-known and liveliest street, İstiklal Caddesi, and go with the flow from Taksim Square to Tünel Square. In Karaköy we take the ferry and cross over to the Asian side of the city, heading for the quieter Kadiköy district to meet the Istanbul painter and sculptor Volkan Yildirmaz.
He guides us through the cobblestoned alleys, passing countless antique shops on the way to his studio where we enjoy tea and cakes while looking at his latest works.
Karaköy: heart of the capital.
Back in Karaköy we discover the former harbour area, in which the Istanbul Modern Museum is located as the city’s hotspot for contemporary art. The neighbourhood has a wealth of things to see, with the restaurants and cafés increasingly being joined by galleries and boutiques. On the recommendation of the two designers Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Çağlar from the design studio Autoban we visit one of their design projects, the Müzedechanga restaurant.
This is an annexe of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, whose displays include calligraphic and osmanic works of art. The food is outstanding – modern interpretations of classic Turkish dishes, and expertly prepared. But the highlight of our visit is the breathtaking view of the Bosphorus from the terrace.
A sea of lights at the Bosporus.
Replete and satisfied we leave the Müzedechanga and drive across the city’s enormous main artery, the Bosphorus Bridge, to reach Istanbul’s highest hill named Büyük Çamlıca.
From here we see the last rays of the setting sun and enjoy the view of the endless expanse of shining house roofs before it is time to say goodbye. Teşekkürler Istanbul. We will return.