Few places we’ve been made us instantly fall in love with them. Istanbul is one of those precious few. We like it so much that we wonder if there’s something not to like about it.
The thing is Istanbul is not an easy place to sum up. It’s first and foremost a city of contrasts and contradictions and that’s what makes the city so special and unique.
In a city with such an historical heritage, with so many sights to take in, the streets and its people will make the longest lasting impact on any visitor. The people of Istanbul seem to be literally living in the streets. Everybody is selling, buying, eating, drinking or looking at something. The strange part is that this never ending and sometimes chaotic buzzing doesn’t make you tired. Somehow this stream of energy manages to keep you connected and relaxed at the same time.
Here’s a simple and interesting experiment: enter the Spice Bazaar and you’ll feel like swimming in a sea of people. Get out of it after you have rejoiced your senses with all the amazing smells, colors and textures, head 100 m towards the Rüstem Paşa mosque and, once there, you’ll feel as calm and serene as in a secluded Buddhist temple. Amazing, isn’t it?
This bustling city once ruled by dynasties of sultans who built thousands of mosques all over it is nowadays ruled by legions of spoiled and pampered cats. However the cats of Istanbul are no ordinary cats. They are aware of their status and privileges and like nothing more than to relax in the weirdest places imaginable.
Eating in Istanbul is perhaps the most contradictory and contrasty experience. On one hand you have traditional Ottoman cuisine which you can savor in lush and sultanesque places. It’s something everyone should try. On the other hand the best food in the city is found in the streets and in the most unattractive places. Grab a fish sandwich at the fish market near the Galata Bridge and you will know what I’m talking about. Don’t be afraid to go in rather horrid and unsanitary looking places and you’ll be rewarded with the best kebabs served with a side dish of vegetables and a glass of ayran. Rest assured: you won’t get sick afterwards!
The city wouldn’t be the same without it’s thousands of mosques. They come in all sizes and range from overcrowded with tourists – Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet, Beyazid, – to often forgotten gems hidden in plain sight in the middle of the city – the Rüstem Paşa mosque near the Spice Bazaar. In between these, in every part of the city, an arsenal of minarets reaches for the sky.