Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey. The Bosphorus Strait divides into two parts this immense metropolis, connecting the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea and physically separating Asia from Europe. It is the capital of the province of Istanbul and its estimated population exceeds 14 million inhabitants.
The overwhelming history of the mythical capital of three empires, at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. The monuments of the emperors and the sultans, the permanent spectacle of the streets, the charm of the neighborhoods and the colors of the markets.
Taksim. Monday, 23 hours. Is there something going on? What do they give?, Someone asks, half embarrassed by so much movement for this day and this hour. But no, nothing happens, it always is. Anyone who wants to check that the movement in Istanbul never stops, that it goes to Istiklal Caddesi (street), in the area of Taksim Square, the nerve center of the city. Any time. For example, a Monday almost midnight. Thousands of people come and go eating baklava, savoring ice cream or chestnuts, talking on cell phones, and in the surrounding streets – heart of the popular neighborhood of Beyoglu – it is difficult to get a place in the dozens of bars where smoking a water pipe or hookah -with flavored tobaccos: green apple, coconut, mint-, let yourself be tempted by a kumpir-stuffed potato- or have a beer. It is that, despite the fact that religious conservatism has advanced in recent years – more and more women are covered with chador and niqab – and there is talk about banning alcohol, Istanbul maintains its brewing tradition.
The streets are always full of life, in any of the neighborhoods that you choose to travel, because Istanbul, fortunately, did not stop at the glory of the past; his today is in the spectacle of movement, colors, aromas and flavors of the streets. I saw it in the charming decadence of the Çukúrcuma quarter, with its antique shops and old bookstores; in the medieval area of Galata, around the impressive tower of 1348, with its dozens of lighting shops; or in the exclusive and pituco Nisantasi, where Pamuk was born and where today luxury cars go through elegantly cobbled streets and the stained glass showcases brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Porsche Design. In all, without exception, there is always a place to eat in the street, and merchants sitting in small chairs on the sidewalk, drinking tea or playing backgammon with the neighbor.
That’s why this trip ends on a warm summer night in the Ortaköy neighborhood, a charming framework of cobbled streets populated by shops, bars and restaurants, which from the evening is enlivened with thousands of people and live music.
It is very difficult for someone to return from Turkey complaining about the food, very tasty and filling. In the restaurants of Estam-bul, the fish is very present, especially the blue fish of the Bosporus and the sea bream, but without doubt the most popular food in the city, as in the whole country, is beef, especially beef of lamb.
Entrance to the Santa Sofia Museum, 25 lire (US $ 12.50). Pass “fast track” for visitors including tickets to Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and six other museums, as well as discounts in other private museums, shops and cafes, 85 lire (US $ 42.50) for 72 hours of validity. Sailing two hours by the Bosphorus with audioguide in Spanish, from 15 euros (includes transfer from the hotel). On the bank of the Galata Tower are offered walks (without guide) for 10 lire (US $ 5).
WHEN TO TRAVEL
It is most recommended in spring and autumn, when temperatures are pleasant; the summer is usually very hot and suffocating, and the winter quite cold, with rain and snow, especially in the interior of Turkey.
HOW TO MOVET
he public transport (metro, tram and buses) is modern and efficient. One ticket costs 3 lire (US $ 1.50). Taxis are also very common and fairly cheap.
It is the Turkish lira (TRY). It is quoted at 2 lira per dollar, and 2.66 per euro.