We’ve settled down in the middle of the Karakoy neighborhood in Istanbul, not far away from Taksim Square or the main strip of Istiklal, where western shops line the pedestrian strip with H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, and Burger Shack. It’s become standard affair to come across these strips of western chains; Wenceslas Square in Prague, Alexanderplatz in Berlin. Sometimes it takes a while to get away from the familiar multi-national conglomerates and get a chance to check out the local scene of a city, but Istanbul seems to have an interesting flair for taking it’s local flair and throwing you unsuspectingly right into the middle of it.
As we attempted to dodge the shoe sales and buy 3 pay for 2 t-shirt deals of Istiklal, we found that every side street was luring us back into a glittering darkness of music, hookah, and food. As we skirted the maze of back streets lined with restaurants hype men pitched their venue swiftly attempting to decipher our country of origin, preferred language, and which of their specialties would capture us for a meal. What was truly alluring though was the sounds, it seemed every restaurant, cafe, and bar had it’s own musical performer bellowing from inside. Which at first, leads to some confusion, as there appears to be no stage or corner packed with cramped performers, instead as your eyes focus in past the flashing lights into the warm dimly lit caverns you discover musicians comfortably sitting at a table singing in tandem with the surrounding patrons.
In spite of the welcoming back streets of Kararoy, we still felt as though we needed to get a bit further away from the familiar, and what better way then to head over to Asia! The city of Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus, a body of water that makes up the dividing line between Asia and Europe, which for us means a $1.25 20 min ferry ride to the other side of the world. I’m not sure that we were expecting that significant of a culture shock taking a twenty minute boat ride to the other side of the city and in all honesty things aren’t that different, hell we traveled from a neighborhood called Karakoy to Kadikoy. What didn’t change too much in looks definitely changed in vibe. Kadikoy felt more like a neighborhood, still the hustle of people buying and selling, but many more people just spending time smoking hookah, drinking tea and catching up. The best comparison I can make is the vibe shift from Manhattan to Brooklyn. You have your area where you go for the cheap deals and then walk a few blocks and you're surrounded by artisanal wares, tattoo shops, and well hipsters.
We stopped and bought a handful of socks at $1 a pair, wonderful timing as two months in has left us with about half as many socks as we started... wear, tear and forgetfulness! Then we stopped at a cool little restaurant where we got to dig into a delicious dish called Lahmacun, which is basically turkish pizza. Lahmacun is a super simple delicious flat bread topped with an onion and red pepper mixture tossed into what looks like a pizza oven then garnished with a bit of lemon juice and parsley; Oh, the simple things in life!
As it became late in the day we decided to hop back on the ferry and make our way back to the Euro side of Istanbul which offered us one of the most beautiful views of our lives as the sun slowly dipped behind the Fatih district. Surrounded by water we watched the golden silhouette of seemingly countless Mosque minarets. I deeply recommend the public ferry from Eminönü to Kadikoy, well worth the $1.25 admission. I’m sure we’ve barely made a scratch in the offerings of this city and we can't wait to see what else we come across. Till next time!