Exploring Istanbul (Honeymoon Day 2)

12 June, 2012 - 12:02

First full day in Turkey, and by now it had properly sunken in where we were which caused me to bolt out of bed with excitement really early. Scott had barely slept on any of our flights (I'd slept a whole lot) and I killed time waiting for him to wake up by writing a blog post.

Architecture in Istanbul is varied

Our first plan for the day had been to try out some of the Turkish coffee that we'd often heard about, supposedly guaranteed to wire you better than any other legal substance. We'd apparently miscommunicated what we were looking for when we asked the hotel porter where to find this, because when we got to where he'd directed us it turned out to be a crappy local chain called Simit Sarayi and the latte that I ordered was thimble-sized, weak and watery. But not enough to dampen my spirits! Scott got a simit (sesame seed bagel) which seems to be a local staple and the simit vendor is to Istanbul what the hot dog vendor is to New York.

We'd decided to visit Istanbul's modern art gallery as a first activity, and chose to walk there instead of using transit.

Mosque near Istanbul Modern

This city is not only scenic. This city is filled to bursting with free cats! Cats are everywhere! Even though they are nearly all ferrel and rather scrappy looking, they are friendly and will give you a whiskery smile and a miao when you walk by. People's reaction to the cats is interesting. In any other place I could imagine them being regarded as pests since there are so many of them and they don't belong to anyone, but Istanbulites often here stop to talk to the cats and pet them, and put out little dishes of food.

Cats of Istanbul

Istanbul Modern did not disappoint. It was a perfect size. We managed to make our way through every one of the exhibits without collapsing in an exhausted heap afterwards - perhaps a first. They had some fantastic installation work, lots of video pieces and they even had an elaborate work with 2 drawings and some sort of a kaleidoscope by South Africa's William Kentridge. I didn't get to look at it properly though because it was being hogged by a group of museum-visiting Turkish men.

Architecture in Istanbul is varied

On our way home from the museum we gave in and sat down for a predictable Starbucks coffee and a solid dose of silent people watching. I stole a shot of this Starbucks man with the cat companion who adopted him and melted down his laptop bag.

Starbucks man hanging out with a local cat

More walking back in the direction of our hotel and I was able to sneak in a little shopping. It seems that in Istanbul, you cannot go wrong with red. I have never seen more people wearing red and it always looks absolutely striking. I've been wanting a pair of red pants for a while now and was excited to pick some up from the Mango here where they had 5 styles of red pants to chose from.

Red in Istanbul

On our walk back home we turned into a really peculiar part of town. We haven't been able to figure out why, but it is an entire abandoned neighbourhood and in a prime part of the city. The more we tried to get away from this ghost town, the deeper in we seemed to get and the empty buildings were peppered with dangerous looking cats and children. Eventually we got past it and found ourselves in dodgeville, and it felt like we were seasoned fresh meat being dropped into a pit of hungry hounds. The eyes and heads of every local followed us as we walked by and we were feeling quite unsafe, though we have no idea whether or not we actually were. Either way, we were definitely more conspicuous than we'd liked to have been.

Graffiti in Istanbul

The final walk out of dodgeville was up a large and very steep hill which our unfit selves were only able to make it up thanks to a dose of adenaline. Back in our hood Scott decided to take off the edge with a food item that really should never be allowed, but is to be found all over the place here: a french-fry filled hot dog.

Our hotel in Istanbul was very fancy and came with a heated indoor swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a Turkish bath hot room and a sauna. After we'd gotten home and scrubbed the city filth off, we went downstairs in our cushy robes and made use of every one of them. We rounded it all off with some lovely Stoney Brook wine that we'd brought along, freshened up and headed back out for dinner to a place recommended by Time Out Istanbul called Meze by Lemon Tree. The restaurant was tiny and only had about 8 tables. The service and food were both impeccable, and the decor was simple and beautiful with Turkish-style geometric mosaic floor tiles that I could not stop staring at.

It is rare that Scott and I visit a place that is new to both of us, and so far this has been an absolutely incredible time. We've been having the best time discovering things and places together. It has been an adjustment doing this all without using our phones or computers along the way to work things out but what we've lacked in preparedness we have more than made up for in adventure.



Responses to this post

Lady Ri
12 years 5 weeks ago

The cats in Istanbul are legendary. People look after them well as they are the cause that Istanbul - as opposed to almost any other port city in the world - is almost rat free.

Your pix are awesome - as always!

12 years 5 weeks ago

The photo of the cat rubbing his head on the ground made me laugh, and then the cat napping on the guys laptop bag made me laugh. They seem like a charming bunch of cats.

I love the photo of the umbrellas suspended above the street.

12 years 4 weeks ago

Ri - its a good point you make! I didn't see a single rat the entire time that we were in Turkey.

Rachael - the cat was hilarious, and so was the guy! I'm still unsure whether they knew one another or were simply sharing a spot at the table.

Thank you both for stopping by over here!

11 years 48 weeks ago

It is true that Istanbul is full of stray cats but unfortunately people are not educated good enough to love these animal. In some parts of Istanbul people are very sensitive. They feed them, they put water in front of their houses during summer time while in other parts they hate animals. It is about the Muslim religion. They think their prayers will not be accepted if they let any animal touch them or enter in their houses. It is a very common belief. And there is more of funny thing; most people are afraid of cats. When a little child attempts to touch a cat, his mother tells him not to that the cat will scratch him badly. The child may probably take the risk of being scratched if he knew what damage it would make him. He believes as if it was something like death. When they become adults, they can not overcome this fear.

11 years 41 weeks ago

Thanks for your comment Istanbul Tours - that certainly clears it up for me and I had never considered that it might have anything to do with religion.