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.
The neighborhood south of the Grand Bazaar, bordering the Sea of Marmara, goes by the entertaining name of Kumkapı. Although it doesn't lay claim to any major sights or fabulous mosques, we enjoyed the quiet Sunday morning we spent here. And now, we can finally strike "Attend an Armenian Apostolic Mass" from our bucket lists. Another childhood dream accomplished!
Art can be found everywhere on the streets of Istanbul. I'm not just talking about graffiti, although there is a lot of that, but the art of architecture, movement, and humanity. Everyday scenes of the city, framed by a minaret or the Bosphorus, changed by the play of shadows, or lightened with a bit of urban humor. Istanbul can be both strikingly beautiful and thought-provoking, simultaneously... just like any great piece of art.
The city is far easier to walk than I'd feared, and public transportation is cheap, quick and efficient (if crowded). Most importantly, most of the major sights are packed closely together in or near the historic center. On one of our first days, we walked along the tram line from Sultanhamet Square (next to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia) to Beyazit: a short, straight walk during which we saw one historic treasure after the other.
The beginning of our stay in Istanbul coincided with the beginning of March, and the slow onset of spring. The temperature was still cold, but blossoms were starting to appear on the trees and every day was milder than the last. And on the streets, we could sense the optimistic, expectant energy which always goes hand-in-hand with the end of winter.