Escape to Istanbul (Final Part)

Flanking Istiklal on either side is a treasure trove of cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, pubs and food stands. It feels like the kind of place that you could get lost in for 100 years and still come no closer to fully seeing everything it has to offer. The cobbled streets are shadowed by old ornate townhouses that support tiers of various eateries and dancefloors sandwiched together. As you rise through these blocks, you will see a cat cafe on the first floor, a seedy-looking Hawaiian bar on the second, a family-run meyhane, a Turkish restaurant that serves traditional food and alcohol, on the third. It means that the colourful streets that sprawl labyrinthine around Istiklal also have a vertical dimension to explore.

Istiklal is near Taksim Square, a central transport hub for airport shuttles and the metro. Taksim also retains a political significance after a wave of anti-government protests in 2013 was centred at Gezi Park located in the square. Protesters made general demands to halt authoritarianism and Islamification which goes against the Turkish secular constitution. 11 protesters were killed as protests were broken up by force. Even now there is a strong police presence on the square and a massive mosque is being built as a symbolic consolidation of Ergodan’s power.

Istanbul is a place where worlds collide; religion, politics, new and old, East and West, water and land, all wrapped in the city’s beautiful architecture, spectacular natural setting and incredible food and drink. Plus its cheap. What’s not to love?

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