One of the world’s most historic and fascinating cities, Istanbul was our home for three incredible months. We explored the city’s museums, neighborhoods, markets, and were introduced to a lot of wonderful culture, food and interesting history. Perhaps the world’s most diverse metropolis, Istanbul has it all, and we made a concentrated effort to see as much as possible.
It didn’t seem possible. Had our 91 days in Istanbul really come to an end? I couldn’t believe it, so I opened my journal and counted the pages. Although it felt as though we’d just arrived… although we were still in the process of settling into the city’s rhythm… that was it. Our time in Istanbul had reached its conclusion.
After the sun goes down, the usually lively neighborhoods of Istanbul undergo a transformation. Gone are the simit sellers, the shouting schoolkids and the turbulent traffic, leaving behind empty streets, silhouetted minarets and decrepit houses which look all the more haunting by moonlight. Striding down the cobblestone alleys in search of a stiff drink, with your collar up against the wind, you’ll wish you wearing a fedora: Istanbul at night would be the perfect backdrop for a classic film noir.
Istanbul is a photographer’s paradise. Both colorful and gritty, beautiful but deteriorated, and filled with people who always seem happy to have caught the camera’s eye. We’ve had a fun time browsing through the tens of thousands of photographs we’ve collected during our 91 days here, and have selected some which show off the many facets of Istanbul. It’s probably impossible to define a city with a few images, but this is our best shot.
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.
Before our arrival in Istanbul, we had no idea how much döner we were about to eat… Ach, who am I kidding? We knew exactly. Scarfing down plate after heaping plate of delicious döner meat was our plan from the very beginning. It’s part of the reason we chose Istanbul in the first place.
In a city the size of Istanbul, public transportation isn’t just a nice option, but an absolute necessity. So it’s lucky that using Istanbul’s transportation system can be so entertaining. Whether riding a funicular, subway, ferry, tram or gondola (anything, really, except the bus) we almost always had a great time getting around the city.
We visited a lot of mosques during our time in Istanbul, most of which were centuries-old architectural masterpieces built by the Ottomans. But Islam is very much a modern religion, so we felt compelled to check out a couple of the city’s contemporary mosques, one in Kadiköy and the other in Umraniye.
A hookah pipe is called a nargile in Turkey. It’s a surprisingly popular activity among Istanbullus of all ages, and we partook in quite a few smoking sessions ourselves. You can order tobacco in a variety of flavors, and spend hours lounging around, smoking and drinking tea.
Orhan Pamuk, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature, is easily Turkey’s most famous contemporary author. And one of his books, The Museum of Innocence, is more than just a novel. It’s a real museum, designed to exactly replicate the imaginary museum described in his story. A fascinating project which begs the question: does a thing cease to be fictional when it actually exists?