Istanbul, not Constantinople

Taksim Square

Gee whiz Toto, I don’t think we’re in Israel anymore! Istanbul is a frantic, crowded, chaotic, pulsating mess and it’s awesome! I’ve never been to a city that has more joie-de-vivre and later hours than this. It really puts New York to shame as far as night-time activities go, and I’m actually embarrassed to say that all the excitement starts a little too late for tired old me to actually enjoy.

We drove from the airport to the hotel along the sea of Marmara, which afforded nice views of both the water and the fancy seaside restaurants along the highway. They were actually quite fancy, much nicer than I’d expected, and when we pulled into Beyoğlu I was surprised by how modern everything was. I guess in my mind Istanbul was still shrouded in nargile (a.k.a. hookah) smoke and filled with busy, cramped alleys.

Istiklala Caddesi in the day

Our hotel is in Taksim Square which is kind of the Times Square of Istanbul minus the Broadway shows.  There are a lot of hotels in the area and a lot of shopping and entertainment.  Nearby is İstiklal Caddesi, which resembles a pedestrian Champs-Elysée, while its small side-streets are filled to the brim with restaurants, meyhanes, nargile bars, and plain old bars. İstiklal is one of the most crowded places I’ve ever been to, no matter what hour of day you’re there.  During the day there is a lot of shopping to do, while at night the restaurants start overflowing and the party-goers start strutting their glam club outfits.  The picture here was taken at 1AM!

Istiklal Caddesi at night

The rest of the city shares the same liveliness, whether you’re walking across the bridge from Beyoğlu to the Sultanahmet district where all the siteseeing is, or whether you’re walking through the Bazaar district which is so full it’s hard to move.  I’d thought before this trip that Beijing or Shanghai would have the most crowded streets I’d ever see, but I’ve been proven wrong in my first day here.

Bazaar District

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~ by therandomoracle on April 13, 2008.

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