Ten things to do on a tour of Istanbul
In winter, in Istanbul, peacefully and a little sad, in the fall – multicolored, in the summer – hot, in the spring – fragrant. But good and honestly romantic is always here. In the spring, this strangely sensual city, where Tarkan and Ataturk are in charge, acquires magnificent forms and smells of a timid, but self-worthy girl for extradition. The air mixes warm moisture, virgin freshness, pinkish pollen, aromas of flowering chestnuts, almonds and all kinds of loquat, and the contents of the street vendors’ carts are replaced from gray pistachios to blood-red strawberries and cherries.
1. To live somewhere in the Sultanahmet area – there are cheap guesthouses and reputable hotels. This is a tourist area in a good way. Hence the views of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and if you’re lucky, also on the Bosphorus. Here, for some reason, calm and quiet, which is important in this crowded city. Having breakfast on the roof of the hotel and looking at tankers and swivel gulls sticking to one another in the bay is a separate pleasure.
2. Wake up with the first shout of a muezzin and go out into the city. Confused, to be and get lost again. Nowhere to take the time – to see even one hundredth of the treasures infused here is still impossible. Walk until your legs fall off. Then take a table in meykhane directly on the street and look at the crowd.
3. At the very beginning of Yerebatan Street, find a homely door and flop into the 6th century Basilica Cistern. Do not believe your eyes, finding himself in this huge vaulted vault, where water drips from the ceiling, fish rush underfoot and echoes live. Then go to Saint Sophia and find the golden mosaics under the dome. To make a promise not to be like American tourists – they stupidly put a finger in the recess in the post, where in the 15th century a priest allegedly hid, fleeing from the janissary. Do not hold out and, while no one is looking, make a wish and stick your finger.
4. Ride along the Bosphorus on the ferry. You can take a private boat, you can settle down to some excursions, but it is better to take an ordinary ferry boat at the Eminonu pier. Crash at the entrance, sip tea, bought from the ubiquitous barman, stare at some very serious and focused Istanbul people and, wandering in the wind, wander around the deck. Get to Asia and sit down in one of the coastal cafes overlooking the Bosphorus. Try out apple and grape hookahs. If you have time, swim to the Princes’ Islands (an hour on the ferry) – there is peace, quiet and not a single car.
5. Every day, cross the Golden Horn Bay on the Galata Bridge. Recount fishermen who go there as a service and cost from call to call. Buy from the old hippie fishing rod, hook and sinker, settle in with the fishermen and catch the sardine. Feed her one of the local cats.
6. Get on the Galata Tower and look at Istanbul. From here, the city with its endless markets and mosques, winding cobbled streets, randomly stumbled shacks, bluish haze and the ubiquitous water makes a very touching impression. Here it becomes clear that in Istanbul there is not a single straight line – completely curved and inclined planes.
7. Fearlessly try street food – this is the main Istanbul entertainment. Cups with marinades and paper bags with mussels, roasted hamsa and red mullet, cavurma, lahmajuna and kokorechi taste just as unusual as the sound. Do not miss any pastry. Halva, lokum and baklava are half the problem, but there is a bul-bul-yuvasy — a roll of nut paste, a tavuk-hexyu — vanilla-rice pudding with chicken and asura — a kozinaki of nuts and fruits. Among this disgrace, do not miss the simple greenish pistachio rolls – this is the most delicious Istanbul sweet. Acidify the sensations of juices that are tight on every corner.
8. In the evening, keep to Beyoglu and Ortakoy districts – all the best clubs in the city are there. Enter the giant Laila and Reina in the open air right on the Bosphorus, where the main Turkish stars sing. Tired of loud music, return to the hotel, open the windows wide and uncork a bottle of local wine under the quiet rustle. Yes – it is disgusting, but yes – you will love it. Olives and sheep cheese are good for wine.
9. Promise yourself not to succumb to the annoying persuasions of street vendors and not to buy anything at all. Hold out for a couple of days, and in the end go to the Grand Bazaar, break off and buy carpets, pillows, lamps and bags. Bargaining with foaming at the mouth, and then letting yourself fool – there is still no choice: even if you think that you have cheated, you still have a lot of fun.
10. Go to the Egyptian bazaar and, having doused the smell of the local, to collect spices for eight years ahead. It is already at home to remember that after a year the spices are exhaled and there is no use for them. Understand that next spring will again have to go to Istanbul. Or maybe already next weekend, because everything is so simple: you buy a ticket, a couple of hours – and you are there.