‘Every ginger needs a ninja’, not a phrase I expected to hear on the streets of Istanbul. As it turns out the pick up lines are just as colourful as the beautiful streets of this city. I was completely mesmerised by the beautiful details of old Istanbul; everything from public water fountains to the mosaic around arches are so special and transport you to an ancient world. Bright pops of colour fill the markets and the air was hot and heavy. But the soft fluttering breeze made for the perfect day of exploring!
We were lucky to be staying in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul. This is where the original city of Constantinople was, making it one of the oldest and most historic corners of Istanbul. Conveniently, it is where many of the sites we wanted to see where found! Staying in Sultanahmet meant we were able to walk everywhere. I was determined to soak up as much of the city as possible, shying away from other forms of transport. In fact we only caught the tram once to visit my friend Marcus who was staying at a hostel in the Taksim area. It was a very different part of Istanbul to where we were staying. It has a more youthful energy with a lot more bars with a less touristy-vibe.
We found that in Sultanahmet most people spoke a little English, one of the benefits of staying in a touristy area. The only time we encountered any translation issues was when we went in search of Turkish sweets. The young man serving us did not speak any English and we don’t speak any Turkish, so in addition to our selection of Turkish Delight and baklava we also left with 100g of halva when we asked (or thought we had asked) for about a quarter of that. So much halva!
Reflecting on Istanbul
Despite the incredible beauty and mystique of Istanbul, I was definitely saddened by the obvious and open number of homeless people. Once the sunset many of the main streets in Sultanahmet are filled with people selling goods and children and families begging for money. Th injustice of poverty has always been an issue that has weighed heavily on my heart. Growing up with migrant parents I have always been aware of how fortunate I am that my parents and grandparents sacrificed so much so that I could grow up in a world of opportunity. I can only hope to one day be part of a long-term solution to seeing the end of poverty.
Istanbul is a truly incredible city that left me feeling overwhelmed by it’s beauty, it’s culture and it’s history. If only there was a way to capture the spirit of this city on camera. I particularly loved Istanbul’s Byzantine history, something I grew up learning about.
I can’t think of a more perfect city to have started our three month adventure with!