"Why is it no longer Constantinople?" Istanbul by DSwede
Istanbul Travel Guide: 7,699 reviews and 19,779 photos
Istanbul is an old city, dating back before the Greek and Roman foundations that can be found in the city. Because of its age, it is like most old European cities, the buildings and roads were formed long ago, before city planning or vehicles were common. Therefore streets are narrow, run down, and without pattern. Streets do not commonly have recognizable signs, and most intersections simply point to the cities or town at the other end. Istanbul boasts the first subway in Europe, but it is only a few hundred long, from Taksim to the waterfront of the Bosporus. Otherwise there is no subway; common transportation is by bus, which can be difficult for visitors because there are now posted route maps, or schedules. They are starting construction of a subway, but due to city congestion and archeological findings during their digs, progress is slow.
The first time that I went to Istanbul, it was late January. It was cold and rainy; you know that freezing rain crap that you wish would turn into snow but it wont. I walked around for ~6 hours in a section of the old city. Since it was January and no other tourists where around to take the slack from the vendors, I did however reach my quota of, “hey mister! … How are you? … you look like you could use a rug!! … no!?! … why, you don’t have a floor? … no!?! … do you not have family that would like a gift? … no!?! … you can keep the rug until you do need it, they last forever!! … no!?! … well please come to our shop, and have a tea, it is Turkish hospitality! … no!?! … what you don’t like tea? … no!?! … tea is good for your health, you should drink some! … no!?! … it is cold today, you should have a hot tea to warm up! … “ and it goes on and on. The first time was funny, the second time was annoying. By the 20th I just wanted to hit them. No matter how you ignored them, how fast you walked away, told them you already bought your rug, have no money, what ever you said, they had a counter attack.
My second visit was about 5 weeks later in March. Well once again navigating a city when you cant understand any of the language can be an adventure. It started when the ferry boat across the Marmora Sea that I needed to take was shutdown due to high seas. I had to revert to a bus that eventually got me to Istanbul, but to the opposite side than I needed to get to. A few transfers and a taxi and I finally made it to where I needed to be, and fortunately only about an hour late.
I had planned to go the previous weekend, but over 25cm of snow put the city of over 15 million in a state of chaos. I arrived this weekend to find the snow melted, skies sunny and the temperature near 18C (65F). I went to a birthday celebration of one of the people I met on the Kapadokya tour. We enjoyed it in an authentic Turkish restaurant in the back streets of Istanbul. After the dinner party settled down, we continued to have fun in the bars of Taksim and Ortakoy (neighborhoods of Istanbul) until 5am. Otherwise I busied myself the rest of the weekend by walking much of the city and trying my hand at amateur photography.
Third, Fourth, Fifth... Tenth visits all got much better. Afterall, living in Bursa for a few months made it easy to return at will.
(for more pictures, feel free to visit my Turkey Gallery. If you enjoy the pictures, please leave a comment.)
For some more general thoughts, please visit my Turkey page.
- Pros:One of the most liberal cities in the country and general East.
- Cons:The tourist areas are plagued with hustlers and tourist traps.
- In a nutshell:With history steeped upon history, it would take ages to see everyting.
I stayed at the Plaza on a few occasions when I came up from Bursa for meetings or random other visits. The Plaza is a... more travel advice
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