Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, which at one time bore the names of Constantinople and Byzantium. It is one of the top 10 largest cities on the planet, located on the shores of the Bosphorus Strait, and occupies both the European and Asian continents. Istanbul is washed by three seas at once: Marmara, Black and Mediterranean, thanks to which its geographical position is considered one of the most advantageous in the world. Joseph Brodsky, after a trip to Istanbul, called this city a crazy traffic light, all three colors of which light up at the same time.
Istiklal pedestrian street
Istiklal is the main street of Istanbul, which lives its own life: always busy, everything moves, rotates, rides, buzzes and flies past you. It is simply impossible to imagine Istiklal empty and quiet. There are always people here, regardless of the season and time of day. More than a million locals and visitors walk along this street every day. By the way, the population of Istanbul is about 16 million people. For a second, this is more than the total population of Montenegro, Slovenia, Albania, Macedonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Despite the fact that Istiklal Street is considered pedestrian, the most recognizable attribute is the retro tram that has been running here since the end of the 19th century. This is the favorite transport of walkers, tourists and local boys who love to ride on the steps.
The length of Istiklal Street is one and a half kilometers of versatile Turkish culture. European architecture, boutiques, coffee houses, Turkish street musicians, merchants and scavengers with huge wheelbarrows, ice cream makers and barkers in national costumes coexist perfectly here. If you are in Istanbul for the first time, it is quite difficult not to get lost in all this diversity. On the main street of the city there is a Catholic church, which was even elevated to the rank of a small basilica, and this is another confirmation that you can find almost anything in Istanbul.
Ice cream makers and other barkers are, of course, very charming and artistic, but if you want to buy something from them, this is not the best idea, as prices for tourists are inflated at times. To drink tea, coffee or have a snack, it is better to turn from Istiklal to a less noisy street and sit down in one of the many Turkish cafes. Here you will definitely measure the temperature, and making sure that you are healthy, they will bring tea.
Istiklal in Arabic means independence. This name is not only the main street of Istanbul, but also the anthem of Turkey. The Turks have a very developed sense of national identity, which they demonstrate quite vividly. Firstly, in every house, shop, and even more so in a state institution, you will find the Turkish flag. In addition to the flag, portraits of Ataturk are everywhere, who a little less than 100 years ago carried out a huge number of reforms, separated religion from the state, and turned Turkey into a secular country. Ataturk was an atheist, so the attitude of the Turkish people towards him is ambiguous: some people think that he brought harm to religion, while others, on the contrary, think that it is good that there is democracy now. In any case, now he is the national hero of the country.
In Turkey, there is a law that prohibits speaking badly about Ataturk and about the current government in general. Of course, if a person says this to someone in the kitchen in private, then this is not fraught with anything, but if he writes on social networks, says it publicly, then he can even be imprisoned.
The Galata Tower is located in the European part of the city on a high hill, thanks to which it can be seen from almost everywhere. It is one of the main symbols of Istanbul and is famous for its observation deck, although if you are a hiker, then the path to it will be more like hiking. The streets that lead to the tower do not at all resemble the city center, but look more like some kind of slum. But behind them is our cherished goal – an incredible atmospheric street overlooking the Galata Tower.
It is worth paying special attention to the halls for visitors. From there, you can take the elevator up to the magnificent observation deck, which offers a crazy beautiful view of the whole of Istanbul.
Golden Horn and Galata Bridge
Here, tourists are waiting for a half-kilometer bridge, which is the namesake of the Galata Tower. On the Galata Bridge you can get to the most touristic part, where the Hagia Sophia and the Sultanahmet Mosque are located. The Galata Bridge stretches across the Golden Horn Bay and connects the southern and northern parts of the European half of Istanbul. It is an obligatory point of any tourist route, firstly, because the path to the most significant sights lies through it, and secondly, because it offers an excellent view of the old city and a huge number of boats and ferries.
The Galata Bridge is very tempting to stay on it longer and slowly look at the bay, at the boats, but such a pastime is the prerogative of the fishermen, who seem to have completely occupied the bridge and are here around the clock. Interestingly, the bridge is divided into 2 floors: on its upper part – trams, cars, foot traffic and fishermen, and below – fish restaurants, where all the catch probably goes.
Cat houses and streets
There are so many cats in Istanbul, everyone loves them so much that they even organized some kind of cat hostels on the streets. You can climb up there and leave food for the animals. The feeling that it is cats who are the real masters of the streets at almost every step. There are houses, feeders that are never empty, and bowls of water.
In addition to houses, food and water, the city has an ambulance service for homeless animals that treats them for free and returns them to the place where they were found. This attitude towards cats is due to the fact that in Islam they are considered clean animals, they are even allowed to enter mosques. Hundreds of thousands of street cats live in Istanbul. It cannot be said whether they are tame or wild, rather independent, but at the same time they love attention, and therefore allow themselves to be loved and pampered.
By the way, here it is customary to address cats not as “kiss-kiss”, but “ps-ps”, which is somewhat funny for foreign perception. Finishing the cat theme, we can say that these guys are a feature and a kind of brand of Istanbul.