Last weekend we had a short trip to İstanbul, the most famous city of Turkey. It is a kind of dream city for everyone in Turkey as it has a special effect on people with the odour of history blowing from its streets. There were a lot of wars in different periods of time in the cause of this glamorous city.
It is located on Bosphorus Strait and the city is divided into two sides of Bosphorus; The European and the Asian (Anatolia) sides. People pass from one side to another either on motorways (Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge) or via sea transport. Sea transportation has a vital importance for poeple in İstanbul as the city is surrounded by sea from all sides: the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Black Sea.
It is one of the most important ancient cities around the world, so it witnessed several wars and periods of several empires. It was the capital city of Roman Empire between the years of 330-395, of East Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) between 395-1204 and 1261-1453, of Latin Empire between 1204-1261, and finally it was the capital of Ottoman Empire between 1453-1922. Romans and Byzantines called it “Constantinople” and “Byzantium”, Ottomans called it “Dersaadet”, and Turkish Republic has been using “İstanbul” as its name since 1930.
Istanbul has always been the flower of people throughout the history, so it has always attracted people and emigration to the city has always been in large numbers. With its so significant and strategic location as a joint between Asia and Europe, it has become one of the most attractive cosmopolitan city of the world. It shelters people from several ethnicities and religions, which can be obviously seen on buildings while walking around the city. To give an example, Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), which was the biggest patriarchal cathedral of its period, was built by the Roman emperor Constantius in 360. This church was later converted into a mosque when it was conquered by Ottomans (by Sultan Mehmet II aka Mehmet the Conquerer). And it served as a mosque until 1935 when it was converted into a museum by Republic of Turkey.
The conquest of İstanbul is known as the symbol of the end of Middle Age, so it has a worldwide significance. After the conquest in 1453, Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı) and Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) were built. Then several new schools and Turkish baths were built and with the emigration of many people from all over the world besides the poeple of the country, it became a city of Muslim, Jewish and Christian people.
After an enjoyable train travel, the magnificient train station, Haydar Paşa (Haydarpasha train station) welcomed us with its majestic architecture. Its roots go back to the year 1872 and it locates at the Anatolian side of İstanbul. By the time we got off the train, we felt the exciting smell of the sea without seeing the sea itself. Our hotel was at the European side of the city, so we had a short travel on a ferry boat to pass to the other side. I must say that all of our senses became so active during this travel as we had the chance of watching this mega city from the middle. We became more and more excited by the blow from the sea licking our faces.
When we arrived the European side, we felt another impressive smell coming from some special boats on the sea. These boats are known as floating restaurants serving grilled fish in half bread with some greens and onion. This is my favorite fast food in İstanbul. As it was still morning, we decided to eat at one of these restaurants later.
After some rest at our hotel, I had a meeting with some colleagues. I must admit that I was looking forward to finishing the meeting because I would go deep into the city with my husband in the afternoon.
After the meeting, we went out from the hotel and started to discover the city. Our first destination was the most famous square of the city, Taksim. On our way to Taksim, we saw a historic tram along İstiklal Avenue, which serves between Taksim and Tünel. This tram completes the historic view of the city with its old fashioned appearance and its nostalgic sound.
We walked around the historical narrow streets of this avenue and we came accross Saint Anthony Catholic church on İstiklal Avenue. There were a lot of tourists visiting this church, which has a fascinating architecture.
Then we went on our tour on the same avenue and we saw another famous building, the historic Flowers Passageway (Çiçek Pasajı). The history of this passageway goes back to 1800s. The original name of it was Cité de Péra and it was originally a passage for various shops and upscale flats. After several years it became a passage for flower shop and it got its name as Flowers Passageway. After years, drinking houses (meyhane) replaced flower shops and today, flower is just seen in its name and in the vases on dinner tables. The passage has become one of the most preferable entertaining places with drinking houses in it. While you’re having your dinner and drinking your beer or raki, musicians often come and walk among tables playing clarinet, accordion, tabor or violin. So it becomes an unforgettable evening for you. You are often supposed to tip these musicians.
We had our dinner at one of these drinking houses. We generally have raki with fish, but this time we craved for cold beer as it was too hot on that day. As an appetizer, fried calamari is always our first preference, and it wasn’t different this time. We adore fried calamari, but it’s hard to find fresh calamari in Eskişehir. And we were aware that Istanbul was just the place of fresh calamari.
It was served with a usual sauce of yogurt and garlic. We finished all at once. We were so happy to dip our calamari into this sauce and eat it without waiting more and to have a swig of cold beer just after it.
While having that marvelous fried calamari, we ordered two portions fried pilchard, which was special for that restaurant. It was served with lemon slices, sliced onion and fresh arugula. When I had a small piece, I felt in heaven and it could have been impossible to stop eating all of them at once if my husband hadn’t reminded me of the pleasure of eating.
It was another must for us to order a season salad to accompany the fish. With our fried pilchards, a fresh season salad came and we made its dressing on the table with lemon juice, natural olive oil and vinegar. They went together very well. We left there with happy stomachs. I can still feel their tastes in my mouth.
The following day, after our meeting for work, we passed to Anatolian side to meet some friends. We hadn’t seen each other for months, so we were so excited to see them. It was a wonderful day, so we decided to walk on the coast for a while to feel its pleasure.
Our friends, then, took us to a club house and I had this yummy drink there. At first, I didn’t want to order it. But my friend insisted me on tasting it. It was scrumptious! The main ingredient was milk, so I didn’t think it was worth tasting, but I was wrong. The mixture of milk, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, black tea and ice made it incredible.
And as everything beautiful has an end, the day was very close to the end, so we went out to watch the fascinating sunset.