Escape to Istanbul (part 2)

The famous domes of Istanbul rise and fall amongst the dynamic landscape the city rest upon. It is a vast, seemingly endless, urban sprawl, lying like a gauntlet over the boundary of East and West, reaching out in either direction. It is one of Europes fastest growing cities and has a population of over 15 million people. It long ago outgrew the historic confines of Constantinople.

Some say that Istanbul is East meets West, when to me it seems something else entirely. One supplants the other and is supplanted again, this is seen in microcosm with the vacillating position of the Hagia Sophia. It has been transformed from church to mosque to museum to mosque. A cultural battle exists in the streets of Istanbul, one that has so many characters, ideologies and deep historical ties involved, that it is impossible to discuss.

I was fortunate enough to stay in one of Istanbul’s most central districts, Cihangir, a place known for its European influence. It sits on the north side of the Golden Horn, situated near the iconic Galata Tower. It’s a relaxed and affluent neighbourhood, a great place to sit and have Turkish tea and eat menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs). However, this is not the place I recommend you go if you are looking for the vibrancy the city truly has to offer. For that, you must visit Istiklal, or more specifically the tiny streets weaving beside the thoroughfare, to have the slightest insight into the city’s soul. More next week.

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