I started the day by having chocolate baklava leftovers for breakfast (because YOLO), and then proceeded to get lost for the first time in this city. 😅 Already four days in, I guess that’s actually pretty good.
I checked out of my Sultanahmet hostel and asked the guy at reception–an incredibly nice man from Tanzania (remember when I said how diverse this city was?)–how to get across the Golden Horn to Beyoglu district. He gave me instructions to the Sirkeci station, which is where I would catch the tram to my next destination. Just down the street I saw a sign that said “Sirkeci,” so I followed it into a small terminal with an elevator which I rode 9 floors down. However, I couldn’t find the name of the stop I was supposed to get off at anywhere, so I asked some workers for help. They were really nice and did their best to give me instructions in Turkish which, of course, I do not speak. So a woman who overheard us came up and translated for me. Turns out, I went to the Sirkeci subway station, not the tram station, and she told me how to get where I was supposed to be. This is one of my favorite things about traveling; the stress of being in a new place and not speaking the language is quickly alleviated by kind locals.
I eventually found the correct station–which was not nine stories underground–bought my Istanbulkart (the equivalent of a Metro card), and used trial and error to figure out how to load money onto it. The public transportation here–once you figure it out if you’re a dumb American like me–is really convenient and ingenious. (Dad, you would love it!) I rode the tram across the Golden Horn and dropped off my bags at my next hostel, on a quaint street filled with art studios and coffee shops.
The Beyoglu district is so cool! It’s the more modern area of the city, and what in my opinion seems to be the “heart” of the city, as opposed to the Old City (Sultanahmet) which is more of a historic/tourist area. My first stop was the main historical site (of course), Galata Tower. You may have seen it in some of my previous photos; that’s only because it’s an incredibly beautiful structure and I’m obsessed with it. The tower was built by the Genoese settlement across from Constantinople. Mehmet the Conqueror secured it in 1453 before moving on to take the city. It’s been destroyed in earthquakes and burnt down subsequent times, but the city had made an effort to restore it each time, so even though very little of it is original it’s been restored to look just like the first construction.
Climbing up to the top of the tower was breathtaking. Most of the skyscrapers in Istanbul metro area are built far to the north of Beyoglu or on the Asian side, so the views are spectacular and you can see all around for miles.
Next I hung out on the Galata Bridge, which is not far. There are dozens of fishermen trying their luck to catch the minnows swimming underneath. Those are probably what go into my balik ekmek.
I crossed the bridge back into Sultanahmet to visit the Spice Market, which I had forgotten to go to earlier in the week. Same as the Grand Bazaar, it consisted mostly of people hassling me to come into their shops. Not really my jam. For some reason I’ve been stressing out about what to do about souvenirs this week, knowing that my friends and family may appreciate having a memento from my trip, but also knowing that most souvenirs are garbage and that I should probably just enjoy myself and avoid the markets if I don’t like them.
Taking the tram back to Beyoglu, I visited Istaklal street, which is a huge boulevard where no cars are allowed–only a bright red tram–and is dedicated to shopping. I got a beautiful maxi dress at one of the shops and wore it to dinner at a Thai restaurant, which was delicious. 🙂
Last but not least I stopped by Taksim Square, which is known for public events (and protests, more recently) as well as bars and clubs.
As Day Four is winding down I’m looking at the rest of my itinerary with somewhat of a feeling of panic; I can’t believe I only have four days left! It’s kind of alarming. Anyway, tomorrow I was supposed to take the ferry out to the Prince’s Islands which I was really looking forward to, but there’s thunderstorms on the forecast. I may just stick around Beyoglu and do more shopping and bump the ferry trip to Saturday, but we’ll see.