Istanbul in Winter – Part 1- European Side

Istanbul just before Christmas was great Despite having to see my wife go to the airport and wondering if life was going to continue in Turkey for us. World travel, world life. This is it.

The first few days were composed of some rather intense web work and some long walks through Taksim, Sultanahmet, and Beyoglu. I’m lucky in that while I love seeing beautiful sites, I also love just wandering around and people watching. Istanbul TaksimTo me, walking in a city and watching the daily life of the inhabitants is better than going on a tour.

Dolmahbahce BosphorusOf course, it was a pleasure to wander the winding streets around the Galata tower and Galata Mevlevihanesi or to stroll down the waterside around the Dolmabahce Palace. Going up or inside didn’t interest me so much, I can find those pictures on the internet, but walking along the incredibly uncrowded streets of Besiktas and Ortakoy allowed me to really feel what Istanbul is like in winter. I can tell you, it’s pleasant.

Istikal Caddessi in IstanbulI stopped for coffee at a Starbucks in Taksim Square and as I have admitted before, living abroad has made me a fan of this coffee-house killing chain. In particular living in Manisa where a bad cup of coffee is the only option and it costs as much as a great one, made this particular stop a highlight of my days. Sitting and watching holiday shoppers, Chinese tourists, and the predatory young guys looking for love or money from female tourists occupied me for nearly two hours while I sipped a plain, black coffee.

Taksim, Galata, IstanbulWalking down Istikal Caddessi I was charmed to see a bright tram parting the sea of the crowd as they flowed towards Galata or the Cumhuriyet Monument with visions of credit cards in their eyes. Reaching the Galata Tower, I actually considered paying the 10 lira to climb the steps and look at the view, but then realized that watching the homeless guys drinking beer with their dogs in the park at the base of the tower was free and far more interesting than looking out from the Genoese Tower which was built in 1348. Later, I was told that the same view from the tower can be had from the Anemon Hotel next door for a total cost of zero.

Galatasaray graffitiWhat I missed that I hadn’t was a visit to Istanbul Modern which is reputed to be one of the best galleries in all of Turkey. I was too preoccupied watching the crowds and looking at the odd huligan grafiti that was on nearly every building. Galatasaray? Maybe. A future post on Turkish Soccer is certainly worth considering.

A walk across the Galata Bridge and back to my hotel, the Aya Sofia for more writing and fire solving on the computer. The next day strolls Istanbul in Winterthrough Gulhane Park and the outskirts of the Grand Bazaar plus some quality time spent eating great chorba and having good conversations with friends old and new at the Aya Sofia.

I was very pleased to meet a New Zealand couple (okay, she was really Argentine) who have spent the past two years living on a sailboat and cruising the Atlantic and Med. That’s a life I aspire to.

Of course, this is really my life. Walking and watching. It’s not an exciting party or a huge amount of distance. My travels are not really news-worthy, but they are interesting.

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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

5 thoughts on “Istanbul in Winter – Part 1- European Side

  1. Istanbul really is a great city for people watching! When I lived there in 2009, that was my favorite past-time as well! Another great spot to people watch is in Ortakoy. You have amazing views of the Bosphorus and can enjoy a tasty kumpir potato while you watch the day go by.

  2. Ortakoy is my next place to visit for sure in Istanbul Connie. Thanks. Where else do you like to eat and watch? Any favorites in Izmir?

  3. Visiting Istinabul once is not enough. there is so much history and places to visit, that I’m not suer a week is enough. Top Kapi is one of my favorite. The Asian part is really very nice.

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