Lovely Mehrotra | Last Modified - Jul 01, 2011, 12:04 PM IST
People say places leave memories in your heart, but I left my heart in Istanbul. Turkey’s largest city which spans over two continents, Europe and Asia, is a perfect blend of cultures for centuries.The city is not only modern and vivacious but, maintains its tradition and history too.
Napoleon once said, “If the world were a single state, Istanbul would have been its capital.” The former capital of three successive empires- The Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul is truly a cradle of civilization.
Recently, I got a chance of a lifetime to explore this ‘city of seven hills.’ The first step into the city, and was amazed with its astonishing skyline, studded to perfection with domes and minarets.Full of modern buildings all around, the deep blue waters of the Bosphorus and the sight of huge ships and small ferries, the view is completely mesmerising
My journey began at one of Istanbul’s most modern city centers, ‘Taksim Square’, which is a busy hub, located on the European side. As I got down from the mini bus to roam around on the streets of Taksim, the first thing that caught my attention, was a huge monument standing on the Istiklal pedestrian street, which I later found out to be the monument of Independence, representing Atatürk, the founder of the Republic.
While I stood analysing the monument, an old tram just passed from the street, taking me to the old Turkey. It added a perfect ancient touch to the modern square, which was full of big and small eateries, well maintained street cafes and a small flower market. Call it the perfect blend of modernity and tradition that can’t be missed!
As if the tram wasn’t enough, the charm of old Turkey flew out of the window the moment I saw a stunning Turkish girl, dressed to kill- in a short skirt and a white Tee, pumped up high heels, with her curly brown hair catching all the attention, every time the wind teased them. She mixed in the aura, a tinge of Turkish modernity. Well that’smodern Turkey for you, where, there’s no place for burqas and the stifled inhibitions that come with them.
It was later that I discovered the fact that, ‘burqas’ are banned here.Just like any other Indian with a pre-conceived notion, I had this perception that in a country where ninety-nine percent of the population is following Islam,females will be covered from head to toe, they’ll be shy and conservative, but to my surprise, things were completely contrary to what I thought.
After checking out the streets, it was time to dig into some Turkish delicacies. Neither an experimental eater nor a foodie, I chose to flow with the tide and opted for ‘Falafel-Hummus Salad’ and ‘Turkish Tea’, as the pictures of both looked great in the menu(something we Indians do all the time).
A large scoop of creamy hummus with lots of olive oil drizzled on it, along with red cabbage salad, pickled carrots, and of course- six pieces of the Humungo falafel balls, arrived along with my tea, in a traditional Turkish cup, beautifully painted in red and blue tulips. They were really cute!
Finally after lunch, it was time to catch a nap.‘The Central Palace’, a big three star hotel, centrally located on the busy street of Taksim was my residence for next three days in Istanbul.The room was spacious and had a spectacular ‘balcony view’ of the city and its nice cozy bed was enough to make me fall asleep.
After catching on some sleep, it was time to explore the nightlife of Taksim. And, as I stepped out of the hotel, I got another surprise of the day. The sun was shining brightly all over me and my clock struck 8pm! Surprised to know that? Well, this is nothing, for in Turkey, the sun shines brightly over your head till 9pm during these months, which means, whenever you’ll have your dinner, the sun will always, accompany you.
Talking about dinner, giving up on my hunger pangs, I chose ‘Cicek Pasaji’, on the Istiklal Street of Taksim, as my dinner destination. The beautiful ‘L’ shape passage was covered with glass roof and restaurants waiting to serve the visitors with open arms.
As it gets dark, the place becomes lively with music. Local men come out with their musical instruments and start playing for the customers. ‘Cicek Pasaji’ is the best place to experience delectable Turkish food along with some live entertainment, as this perfect combination will take you to some other world.
‘Istiklal Street’ is the place to witness the true spirit of nightlife in Istanbul. The streets are full of young couples, who walk hand-in-hand, hugging, kissing and showing their love in public. Full of colourful lights, big and small shops, cafes and restaurants, streets oozing with so much of exuberance that it feels as if, there is a big celebration going on.
The Street offers a great variety in shopping. From souvenir items like key chains, wall hangings, ceramic tea sets, to nice stylish outfits and local fragrances, you’ll find it all. If you wish to shop here then, my only recommendation would be to go for ‘fragrances’. They are not only cheap but, are of good quality as well. With shops giving special offers like, ‘Buy 1...Get 1 Free’, you can get a great deal as well. Trust me, these offers are superb and with a little more bargaining, you can easily get what you want within your shopping budget.
After lots of shopping, I came back to my room completely content with my first day spent here, something you’ll understand only when you walk along its streets, breathe in the richness the city has to offer and witness everything with your eyes that you will begin to believe what I experienced. I was glad that there was more to come…
Image Courtesy: Self Clicked