I have to admit that I wasn’t all that excitied to spend a week in Istanbul during this trip. We were here last April (without the kids) and it felt a bit early to return. But there was no additional cost for the stop-over and Anna was very adamant that she wanted to show the city to Lara and Finn.
Thanks to the large in-flight movie selection (I don’t think the kids took their headphones off once) the 11 hour flight from Bangkok was easier than expected. As we step out of the airport we realize that it’s going to be a hot week … actually slightly warmer than in Bangkok. The taxi driver took us on a scenic route around the city to make a few extra Liras, but I was too tired to get into an argument with him … just one of those punches you have to roll with when traveling.
Our block is in a very “authentic” part of the neighborhood, with all it’s up- and downsides. We haven’t seen any tourists in the streets around our flat and there isn’t (yet) a Starbucks around. On the downside, the neighbors across the street drag an old table and chairs out around 7:00pm … and talk until 2:00am every night. Every night! How can they sit on wooden folding chairs for seven hours a day? Doesn’t it hurt? What can you possibly talk about for that long with the same group of friends around the table … night after night after night? We only notice a single change in the routine … on one of the nights they bring out a TV set, crank it to maximum volume and watch a soccer game.
In spite of the noisy nights, we made a good choice with the place we rented. The flat is quite large and both the living room and the roof top terrace have a view with of the Galata Tower and numerous mosques with their minarets . It is also a real home and the owner is sleeping on a friends couch whenever he rents the apartment out.
And the location is great, we are very close to the tramway and only a stop or two away from all the major sights. We can also walk up the hill for a few minutes to the nightlife district around Taksim Square.
Speaking of Taksim Square. As some of you might have seen on the news, there were some serious demonstrations in the streets around the square during the last weeks. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_protests_in_Turkey
Yesterday, when Finn and I went for an ice cream, we ended up standing right between the police (who already had their gas masks on) and the demonstrators … Finn thought it to be “a little scary” and our talk ended up with him learning a few new words like “tear gas”. It’s amazing how just one or two blocks away from the demonstrations life is completely normal. People sit in the street cafes, walk around with their ice creams and we went to play with the kids in Gezi park (which touched off current wave of demonstrations).
Just like in Kathmandu or Bangkok, we had seen the major sights already and that allows us to see the city at a much slower pace with the kids. We end up concentrating on the culinary side of Istanbul and wander from one street stall or restaurant to the next. Anna even joins one of the “Food Walks” (http://istanbuleats.com/walks-2) and has a great day with them … HIGHLY recommended!
Finn loves to watch the anglers on the Galata Bridge and we stop countless times throughout the days to wait for the kids to finish petting one of the stray cats (there must be millions of them in Istanbul).
We hop on one of the ferries and cruise up the Bosphorus to the mouth of the Black Sea. A great day out, but don’t do it on a weekend like we did. Seems like all of Istanbul either heads up the Bosphorus or out to the Princes’ Islands.
But, all in all, we have a great time in Istanbul and I’m happy that Anna convinced me to schedule a whole week for it. We like the city even more than during our first visit … the people are unbelievably friendly, there is a ton of sights to see and the food is fantastic. I’m sure we’ll be back!
More pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uwefassnacht/sets/72157635040520268