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Modern Istanbul

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Istanbul is most famous for ancient mosques and a starring role in world history, but there’s another side to it. One that most tourists never bother to see. It wasn’t until our last couple weeks in the city that we ventured into modern Istanbul. On the outskirts of the city center, new skyscrapers are springing up like weeds, and the focus is squarely on business.

Bomonti was an interesting neighborhood in which to begin our excursion into Istanbul’s modern side. Here, the human cost of rapid growth is readily apparent. Across the street from a brand new, luxurious development called the Anthill Apartments, there’s a collection of ramshackle dwellings. They might have been here first, but these are not exactly the kind of neighbors which the new, luxurious Bomonti desires, and the poor old homes are being swiftly removed.

It’s all rather depressing, so we were eager to leave Bomonti for the adjacent neighborhood of Sisli, where we sat down at a corner cafe and watched life in modern Istanbul whiz by. With gray concrete, busy shops and sharply-dressed people in a big, important hurry, we could have been on a street corner in any country… except, perhaps, for the giant posters of Atatürk draped across most of the neighborhood’s buildings.

After tea, we made our way to Kanyon, in the business district of Levent. This large mall, opened in 2006, was designed to resemble a canyon and the effect is pretty cool. The mall itself is upscale and pleasant… and though I find it hard to lavish praise on malls, I’ll say that, as far as malls go: not bad. We got a drink on the “canyon’s” floor, and took stock of those around us. Clean-cut businessmen and women typing into MacBooks or tapping on their phones. Not many beards, nor headscarves.

It was educative to see this very different side of Istanbul, but not an experience I would be likely to repeat or recommend. Jürgen enjoyed it for the photo opportunities which contrast so sharply with the city’s more well-known sights, but both of us were equally ready to get back to the ancient Istanbul we’ve come to know and love.

Locations on our Map: Anthill Apartments (Bomonti) | Kanyon

High Res Images Of Istanbul

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June 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm Comment (1)

Lost in the Grand Bazaar

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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.

Main Entrance Grand Bazaar

In the Grand Bazaar, it’s not so much “whether” you become lost but “when”. The jam-packed streets curve confusingly and the shops all look the same. There’s no sky or sun to point the way, and the mad jumble of people, whether they’re shoving by or trying to win your business, will spin you around until you’ve lost your bearings. Enter a store, engage in a bit of haggling, spend too long admiring an oil lamp, and it’s already too late. Good luck trying to remember the direction you came from, or where you were going.

Immediately after the Conquest of Constantinople, the victorious Ottomans set about Turkifying their new capital. The Hippodrome was razed, churches became mosques, and the Grand Bazaar was established near the newly established university in Beyazit. Despite recurrent earthquakes and fires, the bazaar grew and thrived, and was soon famous across Europe as the Mecca of shopping.

Today, an estimated 400,000 people visit the market daily. Over 27,000 people are employed within its walls. The bazaar, in almost every meaningful sense of the word, is a city unto itself. There are restaurants, barbers, banks, a police station, even a mosque — everything a decent-sized town of nearly 30,000 might need to sustain itself.

Souvenir Shopping Grand Bazaar

We love the Grand Bazaar, and invent an excuse to dart inside anytime we find ourselves nearby. Of course, in the wrong mood, or on a Saturday when the number of visitors increases dramatically, it can be stressful. And though the great majority of vendors are respectful, a few are unbearably pushy. True bargains are very hard to find, if they exist at all; we found identical nargiles in nearby Tahtakale for less than half the price as in the Grand Bazaar. And if you’re not proficient in the art of haggling, you’ll leave with either empty hands or an empty wallet.

But somehow, none of that subtracts from the experience of visiting. You don’t have to buy anything to have fun, and we almost never entered the gates with the intention of shopping. We’d go to explore the hans, have lunch, watch gold-makers and silver-smiths ply their trades, and lose ourselves in the maze. Photo opportunities are everywhere, and many of the shopkeepers are happy to chat even if you’re clearly not planning on buying. We were once invited to try some çiğ köfte one guy’s wife had made for his lunch. And a carpet seller took us to the top floor of his shop for a view of the roof. Turkish people, in general, are friendly and welcoming to strangers, and this seems to be even more the case within the Grand Bazaar.

Location on our Istanbul Map

Rent An Apartment In Istanbul

James Bond Roof Grand Bazaar
Taking A Nap Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Stairs Grand Bazaar Roof
Dach Großer Bazaar Istanbul
Lost Grand Bazaar
Street Art Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Grand Bazaar Mood
Birds Eye View Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Old Par Grand Bazaar
Shop Owner Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Grand Bazaar Lamp
Arches Grand Bazaar
Mosque Inside Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar Ceiling
Main Street Grand Bazaar
Secrets Of The Grand Bazaar
Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Lamp Spiral Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Stores Inside the Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar Istanbul Souvenirs
Sindbad Shoes Istanbul
Weird Store Grand Bazaar
Old Watches Istanbul
Gold Inside The Grand Bazaar
Main Attraction Istanbul
Old Gramphone Store Grand Bazaar
Camel Oil Lamp
Hard At Work Istanbul
Zincirli Han Istanbul
Empty Street Grand Bazaar
Bargaining Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Carpet Store Grand Bazaar Isrtanbul
Carpet Seller Istanbul
Hand Bag Tree Istanbul
Secret Tiles Istanbul
Secret Tiles Istanbul
Old and New Minaret Istanbul Grand Bazaar
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June 9, 2013 at 8:37 am Comments (7)

The Çarşamba Market and the Fatih Camii

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Çarşamba is a neighborhood in Istanbul, and also the Turkish word for “Wednesday”. Now, what do you suspect might be the best day to visit Çarşamba? You get one guess!

/Istanbul-Budget-Travel

Held since Byzantine times, the Wednesday Market (Çarşamba Pazarı) was already woven so immutably into the neighborhood’s fabric, that the conquering Turks just named the entire area after it. Today, Çarşamba is a highly devout section of Istanbul. The market occupies the narrow streets surrounding the Fatih Mosque, and brings the locals out in droves, the great majority of them covered women going about their weekly shopping.

The market concentrates on cheap clothing, household wares and food; nothing of touristic interest, besides the sheer spectacle of so many people. Jostling through the jam-packed streets, and getting mercilessly shoulder-checked by the no-nonsense, and surprisingly solid, local ladies, Jürgen and I were equally exhilarated and exhausted by the market. It was with a sigh of relief that we finally emerged into the courtyard of the Fatih Mosque.

Fatih-Courtyard

This massive complex is one of the great mosques of Istanbul, built on the destroyed remains of the Church of the Holy Apostles. It was raised 30 years after the conquest of Istanbul on the orders of Mehmet the Conqueror, who was less than satisfied with the result. Angry that the mosque’s dome was smaller than that of the Hagia Sophia, he had the architect put to death. You don’t want to disappoint the Conqueror!

We think Mehmet over-reacted. His mosque is a marvel, with gorgeous interior calligraphy and design, and a pleasant courtyard. We sat down inside to listen to a little preaching, and take in the atmosphere. The mosque was surprisingly crowded. A few kids were laughing and chasing each other around the carpeted room, while their fathers looked on in annoyance. There was a lighter, more frivolous atmosphere in this mosque than others we’ve visited, probably thanks to the shopping-festival just outside.

Walking around the grounds of the mosque, we found the mausoleum of Mehmet the Conqueror himself, his turban atop an absurdly large coffin. Many people were seated inside, reading from the Koran, and praying for the former Sultan. We were tempted to sit down, ourselves, if just for the excuse to spend some extra time in this beautifully-tiled mausoleum.

Location of the Fatih Mosque on our Istanbul Map

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The Çarşamba Market
Carsamba-Market
Istanbul-Street-Market
Olive-Overdose
Olive-Dealer-Istanbul
Market-Dude
Striking-A-Pose
Wednesday-Market-In-Istanbul
Carsamba-Market-Istanbul
Shopping-In-Istanbul
Secret-Shopper
Crazy-Market-Istanbul
Fashion-Overdose
High-Fashion-Istanbul
Strings-Attached
The Fatih Camii
Fatih-Camii-Istanbul
Fatih-Mosque-Istanbul
Fatih-Festival
Ottoman-Sun-Clock
Mausoleum-Fatih-Camii
Tomb-Fatih
Mehmet-II-mausoleum
Fatih-Clock
Fatih-Gate
Fatih-Camii
Istanbul-Fine-Art
Ottoman-Fountain
Fatih-Moschee-Brunnen
Not Korea
Fatih-Mosque-Entrance
Fatih-Camii-Entrance
Amazon-Travel-Blog
Ottoman-Art-Design
Ottoman-Ceiling
Praying-Inside-Camii-Mosque
Fatih-Camii-Inside-Fountain
Turkish-Pigeons
Feeding-Pigeons
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May 14, 2013 at 7:59 am Comments (9)

The Historic Arcades of İstiklal Caddesi

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I’m beginning to think that we could have dedicated 91 days to just Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district. In fact, a blog devoted entirely to the city’s main shopping street isn’t inconceivable. İstiklal Caddesi For 91 Days. The number of bars, restaurants, shops, theaters and galleries along “Independence Street” is overwhelming. We spent an entire day exploring just its historic arcades. What follows are short descriptions of our favorites, with links to their exact locations.

Flower-Flower-Passage

The most famous of İstiklal’s arcades is the Çiçek Pasajı, or the Flower Passage. This is one of the prettiest locations in Beyoğlu, and among the most popular with tourists. As such, its prior function as a home for florists has long since vanished, and the passage is now monopolized by expensive restaurants. [Location | More Pics]

Atlas-Pasaji-Bar

The Atlas Pasajı dates from 1871 and centers around a cinema of the same name, where we attended a screening during the Istanbul Film Festival. Apart from the excellent theater, the arcade is a good place to shop for affordable alternative clothing. [Location | More Pics]

Avrupra-Passage.

The Avrupa Pasajı (Europe Passage) is ornamented by classical statues and topped with a round roof that allows in plenty of light. Most of the stores here today focus on jewelry and upscale souvenirs. This arcade runs parallel to İstiklal Caddesi and is a little difficult to pinpoint without assistance. [Location | More Pics]

Hazzopulo-Best-Tea-Istanbul

Perhaps our favorite spot of the day was in the courtyard found at the back of the narrow Hazzopulo Pasajı, which was packed with students drinking tea and playing backgammon. As soon as we emerged into this very cool corner of the city, we felt ourselves leveling up. Drinking tea in Hazzopulo advances you from Istanbul Level 3 (beginner) to Level 4 (novice). [Location | More Pics]

Aslihan-Books

The hardest arcade to find was the Aslıhan Pasajı, but it was worth the effort. This long, narrow, multi-floor passage is dedicated entirely to second-hand books and comics. I enjoy comics, and especially browsing through stacks of old, used copies. I’ve noticed that, in Istanbul, the most popular comic by far is Conan the Barbarian. Do Turks have a thing for Conan? [Location | More Pics]

Suriye-Vintage-Cloth

Found at the southern end of İstiklal Caddesi, the Cité de Syrie was built in 1908. Hidden within this arcade’s basement is an incredible second-hand clothing and costume store called By Retro. Otherwise, besides a single sofa sitting alone in the hallway, this beautiful arcade is almost entirely empty. [Location | More Pics]

Other arcades we visited on İstiklal Caddesi were more forgettable, but still fun to hunt down. Rumeli has a great cafe called Mona Lisa, decorated with posters of old film stars. Aleppo is home to another cool theater, and Aznavur feels very dated and has shops selling handmade trinkets. Pasaj Markiz was our least favorite of the day; behind a lovely facade, it’s occupied entirely by a Sears-like department store called “Darty”.

High Res Travel Photos From Istanbul

More pictures from the Çiçek Pasajı and 1 video

Cicek-Pasaji
Flower-Fancy-Restaurant
Flower-Green-Dome
Flower-Passage
Flower-Pasaji
Flower-Window

More pictures from the Atlas Passage

Atlas-Pasaji
Atlas-Box-Office
Atlas-Shopping
Atlas-Overdose
Atlas-Dogo-Store
Atlas-Cupon
Atlas-Tram-Art

More pictures from the Avrupa Pasajı

Avrupa-Pasaji
Avrupra-Carpets
Avrupra-In-Istanbul
Avrupra-No-Happy-Day
Avrupa-Ceremic-Balls

More pictures from the Hazzopulo Pasajı

Hazzopulo-Passage-Entrance
Hazzopulo-Shopping
Hazzopulo-Tea-Boys
Hazzopulo-Turkish-Ball
Hazzopulo-Turkish-Dandy-Boys
Hazzopulo-Passage
Hazzopulo-Door

More pictures from the Aslıhan Pasajı

Aslihan-Lady-Passage
Aslihan-Sexy
Aslihan-Sexy-Underwear
Aslihan-Sexy-Village-People-Cruisin
Aslihan-Comics
Aslihan-Retro-Tapes
Aslihan-Used-Records

More pictures from the Cité de Syrie

Suriye-Pasaji
Suriye-Model
Suriye-Passage
Suriye-Doggy-Hang-Out
Suriye-High-Fashion.
Suriye-Vintage-Heads
Pictures from the Rumeli Passage
Rumeli
Rumeli-Store-Front
Rumeli-TKP
Rumeli-Cafe-Mona-Lisa
Rumeli-Mona-Lisa-Bling
Pictures from the Aznavur Passage
Aznavur-Passage
Aznavur-Lady
Aznavur-Waiting-For-Costumer
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May 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm Comments (2)
Modern Istanbul Istanbul is most famous for ancient mosques and a starring role in world history, but there's another side to it. One that most tourists never bother to see. It wasn't until our last couple weeks in the city that we ventured into modern Istanbul. On the outskirts of the city center, new skyscrapers are springing up like weeds, and the focus is squarely on business.
For 91 Days