At the moment of writing this blogpost I got an message from Nevzat telling me to not go out because of unknown threats. We soon learned that a coup attempt was going on and ever since Istanbul is just not the same anymore. We are all fearing the worst and we don’t know what the future will bring. I hope that everything turns out okay, because I really do love this city and my life here in Turkey, in Istanbul. Istanbul is not only the only city in the world that spans two continents; Europe and Asia, it also is definitely one of the most beautiful city’s in the world. Juxtapositions and contradictions crop up nonstop and everywhere you look. And even after years of living here, this city still gives me that feeling of awe and wonder. With a population estimated from 13.5 to 15 million it’s needless to say that it’s chaotic and stressful at times and I sometimes wish I lived somewhere in the woods or on a uninhabited island. Yet, I do love this wonderful, magical so much and I can promise you that you will fall in love as equally beautiful well too if, even if you spend here just a few days. Today I’ll share my top 10 reasons why I love Istanbul so much.
The Bosporus is absolutely breathtaking in every possible way. The Bosporus Strait connects the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea and separates the European side from its Asian side. Its magnificent waterways, which are constantly busy with crisscrossing boats and ships of all kinds gives Istanbul a calmness that is impossible to describe. My favorite spot is either on a boat or between the districts Bebek and Ortakoy, at night and with a cool sea breeze, when the city is quite and calm. Here you can enjoy the atmosphere of Istanbul with its fishermen, streetfood sellers and population that goes out for a night walk while you have view over the Bosporus itself, but also on the two most important illuminated bridges. I just love it.
I love the city life, the craziness, the crowds, the sounds, the lights.. I just can’t handle the silence of a small town. But all this chaos makes me mad at times. Luckily we are surrounded by the sea. The sea might be even the best part of Istanbul, but I must say that I might as well want to be a mermaid if only possible. The water brings this city peace and tranquillity and is an integral part of life in the city. During summer we can take a boat trip, go to one of the many beaches or take a trip to the islands (and combine both a boat trip and a visit to the beach).
Not only the Bosporus is responsible for breathtaking views, the whole city is covered in scenic views. There are countless places such as the hills, parks, hotels, rooftops, terraces, bars, restaurants and priceless apartments to have an unforgettable view on this amazing city, all equally beautiful and breathtaking.
I think this is the most hectic, chaotic and crowed neighbourhood of Istanbul, located on the south side of the Golden Horn, it’s a major transportation nexus for trains, trams and buses and the ferry docks are always busy. You can also find quite a few sights here such Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar, the Yeni Cami (New Mosque), Central Post Office (Merkez Postane), Rüstem Pasha Mosque and Sirkeci Station here. Also Turkish most famous coffee, Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, is available in this bustling neighborhood- be prepared to stand in line. Among expats Eminonu is known as the place to go if you can not find a product anywhere else, because you can find here literally anything you need.
Keyif is a Turkish word that is impossible to translate, but is so much as the art of doing nothing. It reflects a certain mood that is important in Turkish life and culture and took me a while to get used to. After all, I am coming from a country where we are always in a hurry and we never seem to have time to just relax. It’s difficult to describe what it exactly means, especially in just a few words, so I suggest you to read this article that I found when trying to look up what keyif in English means. I can highly recommend you to read this and then add keyif into your lifestyle, it’s very relaxing.
Food, food, food.
Although I am always complaining about the lack of food, Turkish cuisine is really good. It’s just not fun the way I am dealing with it; every day, year after year. If you are here just for a holiday or stay here only for few months you can really enjoy the diverse Turkish Cuisine. Turkish breakfast, köfte, menemen, mercimek köftesi, dolma, mantı, pide, lahmacun, börek, İmam bayıldı, pilav, kumpir, baklalı enginar and balık ekmek are some of the dishes that everyone should try. And I haven’t even spoken about the desserts yet!
Turks are the most welcoming, helpful, friendly, hospitable and non-judgmental people I’ve ever met. They are extremely curious though, can be annoying at many times, but other then that I love them. Turkish people will do everything in their power to make you feel comfortable and once you get to know the people in your neighbourhood you’ll be sure to never be bothered by anyone. Whenever I go to the bakery, I only have to tell what I want when the baker is in a funny mood and want to make a joke on me. Otherwise, he knows what I want and start cutting my bread the moment I enter. The same goes for the shop where I buy my water. Usually I only scream to the back of the store: “I’m taking water”, leave money on the counter and just leave. And once in the supermarket it happend that a cashier gave me 100 lira to go and get exchange. They make you part of your community and you won’t feel as an outsider. Turks never make you feel bad for not speaking their language and love it when you know no more of four Turkish words. It’s has made me a bit lazy with my language, because it’s enough to speak Turkish in a way to be able to look after yourself and there is no need to perfectionize it. They will help you whenever they can, in any way. I have never felt unsafe in this country, in contrast to my hometown Amsterdam. I don’t mind walking home alone at midnight at all in this crazy city. Forget about your private space here, because they like to touch one another a lot. They are always hugging, petting and leaning up against good friends. But when they get angry they’re just as fiery. They yell and discuss very loudly and in a typical way. If you aren’t familiar with this you might think they’re fighting, but once you get to know the Turkish culture you know that there is actually nothing going on. Gosh, I could go on and on about them..
Shopping in Istanbul is better then any other city in the world. We have a lot malls, really a lot. Just within walking distance from our apartment you can find four malls whereof one is the biggest of Europe. But we have malls everywhere. Istanbul is truly a shopping heaven for everything you desire. You’ll find high end stores, small cute boutiques, thrift shops, great markets and lots of street vendors. Before I even moved, I just to do all my shopping here, but as a local it’s even better. Especially when you learn to barter, haha.
The Istanbul life
It’s impossible to describe properly and something you must live. Istanbul is like love on first sight. The city is dramatic, mysterious and pure madness. You’ll love it and you’ll hate it, both at the same time. It a city full of
contradictions and differences, between people, districts and basically everything you can think of. Its mosques calling to pray, shoppingmalls covered in Christmas decoration, fashion girls in miniskirts, businessmen in fancy cars, children playing football on the streets, people searching through garbage, women in veils, refugees begging for money, fancy nightclubs, children selling roses at night, traditional tea houses, moms with oversized sunglasses and children and chihuahuas in matching Louis Vouitton outfits, young boys on motorcycles, sexy policemen. You’ll feel at home, you’ll feel you’re an expat, you’ll feel you’re a foreigner, you’ll feel you’ve become a Turk and you’ll feel all of them at once. Istanbul life changes you, and teach you many lessons. Living abroad makes you more social, stronger, happier, smarter, standing easier and life and above all it makes you richer. Richer in the sense of experiences and memories. All those emotions, all those special moments and all those special people change you forever.
Ah well, that’s what “they” call it. We call it home.