Istanbul (Not Constantinople) Part II
This past spring break, I took an unforgettable trip to Istanbul, Turkey. Missed the first part of my story? Read it here.
The second full day in Istanbul began surprisingly sunny, and we started the day, as all good days in Turkey should start, with tea and coffee. Then, we climbed the Galata Tower, a medieval landmark that offers a stunning view of all of Istanbul — the Bosphorous waterway, Black Sea, and Sea of Marmara, the Asian side of the city, numerous mosques, and an array of buildings ranging from ancient to modern. From there, we crossed the bridge into the center of town and purchased ridiculously cheap simits, Turkish bagel/pretzel-like food sold at carts throughout the city’s streets.
Next on our list was the Topkapı Palace, built in the 15th century as a home to the Ottoman Sultans. The huge property features intricately tiled rooms, views of the water, Muslim artifacts, courtyards, and a harem. Beautiful and fascinating.
We stopped at a tiny, authentic-looking café for lunch. There, we made friends with the silly, friendly server, and three locals at the next table over began chatting with us. They worked at a publishing house that also sells books translated to English, so, being incredibly kind and hoping to practice their English a bit, they invited us to tea at their store. We talked to them for a while about Istanbul, the U.S., their publishing house, and teaching in Spain. One member of the group was an author of many of the books published there, and he gave us all a button, calendar, and signed copy of his books.
Getting to spend this time with such generous, warm Turkish people was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and something I won’t forget. There’s really nothing quite as fantastic as spending time with friendly locals when you’re traveling. Also something I won’t forget about the publishing house: being introduced to the wonderful world of just-a-hole-in-the-ground toilets. Man, American toilets are pure luxury.
From there, we continued our tea overdose at a place called Çorlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi, recommended by one of Cat’s student’s mother. To find the place, we had to ask local kebab makers for directions, pass through a cemetery straight out of a horror film, and make our way past shops and vendors selling all kinds of Turkish trinkets, until we were seated beneath an outdoor sea of colorful lamps, surrounded by Turkish men sipping tea and smoking water pipes. If you’re ever in Istanbul, don’t miss this place.
We began our trek back to the hostel, getting rather lost along the way and passing through some secondhand markets and dark, sketchy, deserted streets. But we eventually made it back to a part of town we knew and bought honey-filled, churro-like street food as we crossed the bridge. Amazingly delicious. Street snacks in Istanbul are to-die-for. On the hostel side of town, we hiked up the steep hill back to the area we were staying and stopped for — guess what — more tea at an outdoor café near the Galata Tower overlooking the sparkling lights of the city.
For dinner, we got some cheap çorba, delicious Turkish lentil soup, and then we found a bar to listen to live music. Aside from the obnoxious drunk Canadian frat bros creating a scene in the bar, the music, which sounded traditionally Turkish yet also modern and rock-like, was fantastic. Have a listen below. I set the camera down on the table, so the visuals aren’t exciting, but the music is fun.
Continue on to the third and final installation of my Istanbul trip recap here!