With over three thousand stores and 61 streets, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is unlike any place I’ve ever been. It’s one of the world’s largest covered markets, and a visit is guaranteed to leave you exhilarated, frustrated and, above all, disoriented.
Although the glory days of the Turkish mustache might have exited with the Ottomans, Istanbul is still a Mecca of facial hair. Turkish men have the innate ability to grow a lustrous beard, and most emerge from the womb with a thick baby-stache already plastered across their upper lip. That, my friend, is a fact.
After hiking up Istanbul’s biggest hill, the Büyük Çamlıca, our tired bones had earned a reward. So we made our way to the gorgeous Çınılı Camii, Üsküdar’s Tiled Mosque, and ended the day in a hamam.
An afternoon spent exploring Gülhane Park reached an unexpected conclusion when we discovered an abandoned baby kitten and attempted to reunite it with its mother. “Attempted” being the operative word; nature, we were bitterly reminded, is not a Disney movie.
It’s hard to imagine that we could have found a better place for our first Turkish bath than the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı. This historic hamam in Tophane is one of Istanbul’s most beautiful, reopened in 2012 after years of restoration. We were invited to visit on a Sunday afternoon.
Run by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts since 1982, the Istanbul Film Festival brings excellent movies from around the world to the city’s theaters, with a special focus on home-grown cinema. And as we’ve learned since arriving, there is plenty to celebrate about Turkish cinema.
We had been suffering through some rough weather for weeks, but spring finally arrived toward the end of April. The bad weather had us a bit of an emotional rollercoaster — overcast days are not normally our thing, but somehow the clouds struck a melancholic note appropriate to Istanbul.