Quest to Istanbul and Hong Kong, Part 6: Istanbul


While we only had two days in Istanbul, I think we did a pretty good job maximizing our time. Overall I loved Istanbul and would like to return. Istanbul’s a unique city, given that it’s on two continents (Europe and Asia). It really is a crossroad as far as the people and cultures go. Walking near the Bosphorus on the side of the InterContinental has a very European feel to it, with street cafes, shops, and European architecture, while the other side of the Bosphorus has a much more Middle Eastern feel to it, with mosques and of course bazaars. The phrase I’ve heard most frequently about Istanbul — where the east meets the west — really is true.

The people were nice, at least the ones not trying to pull the shoe shine scam on us or trying to rip us off by rigging the taxi meter. It’s also worth noting that we didn’t have any communication issues. Almost everyone spoke at least a bit of English.

Getting around Istanbul was easy as well. The subway, while limited in terms of the destinations it serves, was clean and fast (and there was a station right near the InterContinental, which proved convenient). Otherwise we did a lot of walking. We also took one of the street cars and once made the mistake of taking a cab (where we got ripped off).

Near Taksim Square

Subway path

Istiklal Avenue

Beautiful waterfront


This is why we only took a cab once

Grand Bazaar

Haga Sofia


Fancy (random) stairspicture-180-400
Fishing from the bridge

Oh, and here’s a question for you folks. Every concession cart I saw had the same, round bread-with-a-hole looking thing. I mean, never before have I seen such consistency among concession carts. In New York you have hot dogs, pretzels, etc., but every cart seemed to have just these. What the heck are they?


So long story short I highly recommend Istanbul. I love the culture, the ease of getting around, and the beautiful landscape, along with the people and food.

Filed Under: Travel
  1. One of my greatest Istanbul moments was my first wakeup. I was staying just a few blocks from the Blue Mosque when morning prayers started. I shot staight up in bed at 4:30.

  2. The round breads with the whole can also be found on street carts in Athens. The dough on the inside is soft and on the outside brown and crunch. They are topped with sesame seeds. After 400 years of Ottoman occupation it is difficult to determine what we introduced to the Turks and vice versa. In Greek they are called “koulouria”.

  3. “Walking near the Bosphorus on the side of the InterContinental has a very European feel to it, with street cafes, shops, and European architecture, while the other side of the Bosphorus has a much more Middle Eastern feel to it, with mosques and of course bazaars.”

    What you’re referring to “the other side of the Bosphorus” sounds more like Sultanahmet which is still on the European side, but on the other side of the Golden Horn from the Taksim Square area.

  4. Thanks for all the info, folks!

    @ Basar — Yes, I believe those steps were near the water as we were walking towards the Bosphorus. Are they anything special?

  5. ed: you are correct.

    lucky: Those stairs linked two important streets back in the 1850s: Voyvoda St. and Banker st. They were designed in Art Nouveau style under the order of a famous/rich family called the Kamondo family (bankers). You can read more about them here:

    There are actually 2 other stairs very similar to this one, hence the reason I asked 🙂

    I didn’t live in Istanbul for too long but I passed through those stairs quite often when I was dating a teacher at the Austrian Lycee right by it. In fact, the legend goes that the family built these stairs to ease the uphill walk by students 🙂

    Old photo by famous photographer Henri Cartier Bresson:

    And another one from the Ottoman Imperial Bank archive (owned by the same family who built it):

  6. Simits are not only tastier than bagels, but they can found throughout the Turkic world – I’ve seen them as far east as Qinghai, China!

  7. @Ed: LMAO, you beat me too it. I was thinking, damn those steps look familiar. Was it one of the previous photos?

    And then i discovered that I actually identified them first the last time around… 😀

  8. great insight of this beautiful city , let me guess some of the places you went

  9. beautiful pictures……I went to IST in 2007 on a DL award ticket……stayed adjacent to the blue mosque and I’ll do it again if I can…..cuz I never missed one morning prayer while I was there hehehe….

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