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The Cats of Istanbul

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It was a common sight in Istanbul. You’d be standing in front of some amazing building like the Hagia Sophia or the Galata Tower, and all the tourists would be completely ignoring it. Their cameras were trained on something cuter than some ancient old structure: a playful pack of mewling kittens.

Istanbul Cat Blog

Istanbul’s street cats are a phenomenon. They’re everywhere in the city; balancing on windowsills, cowering beneath cars, slinking between gravestones, sunning on benches, even relaxing in churches. And despite yourself, despite having sworn that, today, you would not be taking any more cat photos… that the 50,000 pics you’ve already snapped are quite enough… and that, to be honest, your cat picture obsession is starting to alarm you… you see another! And it’s chasing a butterfly, or making a grumpy face, or wrestling with its equally cute little sister, and you just can’t resist.

The city loves its cats. Almost as frequently as the animals themselves, you’ll find little plastic containers of food that people have set out for them. You’ll run across tiny cat houses built to provide shelter during storms. In many other cities, they’d be considered a pest and “dealt with” in some nefarious way, but Istanbul focuses its efforts on caring for them.

During our three months in the city, we must have photographed hundreds of cats. We got to know our neighborhood crew fairly well… there was Stink Face, Whitey and Scab Licker. In May, kittens started appearing, and we even rescued a baby who’d been abandoned by its mother. We have so many cat pictures, we started a Tumblr photo series called Daily Cat Istanbul.

The cats were an unexpected highlight of our 91 days in Istanbul. If you’re in the city, make sure to play with a few… and if you swing by Çukurcuma, say “hi” to Scab Licker for us. He’ll be the one licking his scabs.

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July 12, 2013 at 11:13 am Comments (21)

Emirgan Park

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With its trees, chalets, ponds, waterfall and jungle gyms, Emirgan’s park is one of the best in the city. Of course, since it’s also one of the only parks in the city, it doesn’t have much competition. Istanbul may have a lot of things to recommend it, but an abundance of green spaces is not one of them.

Big Istanbul Sigh

But Emirgan Park is excellent by any standard. Perhaps a bit too hilly to get a game of soccer going, but that doesn’t concern the hordes who turn out for a day in the sun. We visited on a Sunday afternoon, along with seemingly every family and every piece of picnicking equipment in Istanbul. Grills, coolers, cutlery, card games, blankets, radios, pillows… when Turkish families go for a picnic, they bring more stuff than we even own.

Emirgan Park is not for the weak of leg. To even arrive at the gate, you have to complete a wearying ascent, and once you’re inside, the hills just continue. But you’re rewarded for the workout with beautiful views of the Bosphorus. And if you become overly exhausted, you can sit under a tree on the grass, or grab a seat in a cafe at one of the park’s three Swiss-style chalets, painted pink, white and yellow.

In picturesque Emirgan Park, the only group found in greater abundance than picnicking families is bridal parties. This is apparently the top spot in Istanbul for wedding portraits, and the sheer number of couples being chased around the park by photographers was absurd. At one point, we found ourselves trapped on a narrow bridge, between two bridal parties posing for pictures at either end. Not willing to risk trampling a dress, we escaped by hopping over a fence, and received a shrill reprimand from a nearby guard. (Whistle-armed guards patrol the grounds ceaselessly, and are comically aggressive in enforcing even the most minor regulations.)

Despite the hills, brides and guards, we loved our visit to Emirgan Park. It’s hard to to think of a better spot in Istanbul to while away a lazy, sunny Sunday.

Location on our Istanbul Map

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PLayground In Istanbul
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Wedding Photos Good Photographer Istanbul
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June 25, 2013 at 10:54 am Comments (4)

Kitten Drama at Gülhane Park

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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.

Kitten Gülhane Istanbul

Gülhane Park surrounds Topkapı Palace and is one of the few green areas in the old city. It’s a lovely place, particularly in April with the blossoming of Istanbul’s famous tulips, and we had a nice time here, sitting on the bench in the sun, visiting a museum dedicated to the History of Islamic Science, and drinking tea at Set Üstü Çay Bahçesi, which has a view that overlooks the mouth of the Golden Horn at the very tip of the peninsula.

Leaving the park, we were detained by an insistent and desperate cry from above. About ten feet up the wall which borders the Archaeology Museum, a kitten had trapped itself on a ledge. It was clinging on, but would eventually fall. Using Jürgen as a stool, I managed to clamber up the wall and grab the kitten by its scruff. The mewling, terrified thing was no more than a couple days old, and couldn’t even open its eyes.

It must have fallen from above, so we carried it to the gates of the Archaeology Museum. The staff immediately agreed to help us and, together, we located the kitten’s mother. She was on a different ledge in the wall; about fifteen feet below us, and ten feet above where we had found her kitten. And she was nursing other babies. “Now”, I thought, “comes the joyful reunification scene!” We fetched a rope and a bucket, and placed the kitten carefully inside. “Are you excited to go home?” I whispered into its ear. “Mommy will be so happy to see you!”

Mommy, though, was not happy. Mommy was a cold-hearted beast. We had managed to lower and overturn the bucket, but after taking a brief look inside, Mommy turned away. I couldn’t believe it. Here was her baby, still blind, mewling its head off just a foot away, and she remained absolutely unmoved. After ten minutes, we lost hope and hoisted the kitten back up.

It wasn’t the cheerful ending we’d been expecting, but a guy working at the museum was happy to bring the baby to his office and raise it there. On reflection, we concluded that the kitten, who was too young to walk, must have been carried to the ledge by its own mother and deliberately dropped. Maybe she didn’t have enough milk, or maybe she didn’t like the smell of this one. Who knows? Only one thing is for sure: nature is awful!

Location of Gülhane Park on our Map

We dedicated a whole blog to the Cats In Istanbul

Cat Blog
This ratty-looking tomcat was also paying careful attention to the mewling kitten
Istanbul Cat Blog
The kitten clinging to the ledge
Kittens In Istanbul
Cat Tumblr
Istanbul Katzen Blog
Non-Kitten Related Pics of Gülhane Park
Istanbul Gülhane Kitten
Parks In Istanbul
Tulips In Istanbul
Travel Istanbul
Bosphorus Gülhane
Spring Gülhane Istanbul
Gülhane Articles Istanbul
Gülhane Travel Blog
Gülhane Tulip Festival
Istanbul Blog
Istanbul
Istanbul Travel Blogg
Reiseblog Istanbul
Tourist Istanbul
Istanbul Info
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Istanbul Travel Book
Gülhane
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May 26, 2013 at 6:51 am Comments (4)
The Cats of Istanbul It was a common sight in Istanbul. You'd be standing in front of some amazing building like the Hagia Sophia or the Galata Tower, and all the tourists would be completely ignoring it. Their cameras were trained on something cuter than some ancient old structure: a playful pack of mewling kittens.
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