No matter whether you have just completed your first splendid summer season over here in town or are a longtime happy resident already – there is this magical place up north all of us simply have to visit at least once, or twice (or why not every year) whilst being in the country… the city I am referring to is Istanbul, often called the Pearl on the Bosporus.
With our very own transport hub all but in name almost next door flying in and out of Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir is very convenient and as long as we book at little while ahead of intended travel dates very affordable, too. So what makes this metropolis so special, so unique, so typically Turkish yet so superbly cosmopolitan at the same time?
Could it be the location? For sure it has something, or a lot to do with it. Leaving our southern Aegean shore behind two things will accompany us on our journey: first, we are still in Turkey, the same Turkey we have come to adore and love. Second, we are still by the water, or to be rather more precise, by a number of waters as there
is the Marmara Sea, the Sea of Yalova, the Black Sea around the corner and of course the magnificent Bosporus Strait. There are boats, fishermen everywhere. One often hears that people living by the sea are somehow very open to the world, open for new things as that same waterways bring people and visitors and goods from all four corners of the world to your home city. Kusadasi is such a place and Istanbul most definitely, too, only roughly speaking 360 times bigger.
Could it be its history? Once you have wandered on cobblestone streets near Galata Tower, visited the Grand Bazaar or the magnificent Blue Mosque you will realize that here in Istanbul modernity and tradition go hand in hand. But there is history to be discovered everywhere and not just in the well-known tourist districts. Let me give you one example: cross the Bosporus on a ferry from Besiktas to Üsküdar, then take a shared minibus (yes, the ‘dolmus’ we so much rely on here in Kusadasi, too) to Beylerbeyi. Marvel at the huge Palace, go to the jetty where fishmongers ply their trade, then walk up on one of the narrow streets leading up the hill – you shall see many old residences, made out of wood or at least in large parts out of wood. Personal history and tradition, country relevant history and tradition!
Could it be its entertainment factor? Granted, for the younger members of our esteemed readers Istanbul offers one of the most diverse night time leisure pursuit centers one could imagine, and I am talking here about a global ranking. Renowned concert venues
with top acts all year round, world-class music and dance clubs often with a waterfront ambiance shipped in for good measure. Should you however belong to a generation which rather approaches my age, dining options are for sure one of the metropolises’ major attraction and if you are in for a mix of all what was written here before an evening cruise on the Bosporus complete with live music and excellent food passing by illuminated Istanbul most definitely belongs to the ‘100 things I have to do in my life’ – catalogue. May I add, for me it belongs probably in the Top 10!
Location, history, entertainment – there is still so much more. There are business districts resembling Manhattan only more shiny and brand-new. There are housing estates as glamorous as if transported here by ‘Scotty, beam me up’ from a Hollywood’s luxurious neighborhoods. Needless to say that there is world-class shopping galore. But somehow all of this never gave me the full picture. So what could be missing, if at all?
It is the local people. ‘Local’ is a certain misrepresentation of facts because one would assume that at least half of the over 17 million inhabitants (and counting) were born elsewhere. Hence it is a micro-cosmos not just of the wider region but of Turkey as a nation. The best way to find out about this is to frequent the splendid yet smaller restaurants where chefs and owners hailing from all four corners of the country display their skills. You can easily locate them by looking at their signboards which might read ‘Adana…’ or ‘Urfa…’ or… The hospitality sector up north is a great example of the hospitality
of the Turkish people in general. There are a few tourist traps scattered about town but I would say we have somehow learned how to spot and duly avoid them as we are used to having quite a few around us where we come from, too..
My advice: take a look for yourself but ideally allow for at least a two nights, perhaps even three nights trip. Three to four star hotel prices will see you alright and public transport is efficient and affordable. And once back in Kusadasi take a deep breath, relax and let whatever you just discovered in Istanbul settle in. Take a look at the photos you took, examine the souvenirs you bought. And smile – you have come to or already reside in a simply fabulous country. Enjoy!