Istanbul 101

Byzantium. Constantinople. Istanbul. Welcome to the most envied spot on this planet for over two millennia.

A place that has been lusted after, besieged, conquered, and glorified by everyone from Ottoman sultans to German chancellors. The haunting calls to prayer, the sweet smoke of nargile pipes, the glow of lamps and dark, seductive eyes, the blue of the Evil Eye, and the sea that sparkles all around—it’s impossible not to feel a bit more sphinxy and a touch more sensual just by breathing the air of this ancient city of cities. And what a city! Centuries and religions play political bumper cars in the countless church-turned-mosque-turned-museums, with Mothers and Childs and names of the prophets benevolently glittering side by side in some of the most gorgeous spaces constructed by man. From multiple-orgasmic rounds of kebabs to kilograms of cherries, anyone can dine like a king on gloriously good, awesomely affordable Turkish food (a bountiful repertoire that encompasses Anatolian, Mediterranean, and traditional Ottoman cuisine). Here, the burning needs of shopaholics, walkaholics, and those with chronic and severe museum guilt shall all be met. Istanbul is the sexy child of so many marriages: between East and West; between the thrumming, pounding heart of a modern metropolis and the most ancient of fortresses; between the obscene opulence of Rococo palaces and the pure, simple pleasure of a hot glass of çay.

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Istanbul Blogs

706, 2016
  • I couldn't fit the entire spread into a horizontal photo—that's how much food there was.

An Introduction to Turkish Breakfast

By |Food, Istanbul|0 Comments

My friends back home know that I rarely sit down to eat breakfast. I prefer to sleep in and get up just in time to grab a cup of coffee and munch on a handful of Cheerios on my way to class. Sometimes I’ll even manage to put granola in a plastic cup of plain yogurt, but this extravagance is far from frequent. Turkish breakfast, or kahvaltı, is nothing like my typical morning coffee run. Here, breakfast is more a cultural tradition than it is a simple meal; it is a grand but leisure start to the [...]

309, 2015
  • Turkey Istanbul Grand Bazaar

The Art of Bargaining

By |Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Shopping, Tips|0 Comments

Admit it, we all secretly want to be that overconfident dude who walks into the street market and gets whatever price he darn well pleases. He knows he’s going to get that fez for some smooth lines, a grin, and maybe a 50% markdown on an off day. Really, who needs Black Friday or early bird specials if you can make up your own discount? But before you go plunging into the farmer’s market with a few dollars and a giant grocery list, take a minute to plan your strategy. Like any other fine art, bargaining has [...]

507, 2015
  • Turkish Coffee Let's Go

The Heartwarming Hospitality of Turks

By |Istanbul|0 Comments

How to make friends in Istanbul who will water you with tea. I'm a tough kid, but I'm also a tiny Asian girl traveling alone for the first time. So before arriving at the airport and having a short and salty, "Wah-I'm-all-alone-and-my-boyfriend's-jacket-will-stop-smelling-like-him-in-two-days-I-don't-know-how-to-say-toilet-in-Turkish-What-if-underneath-my-college-coolness-I'm-actually-just-a-middle-aged-Korean-fanny-packed-visored-squabbly-tourist-lady-when-I-go-abroad-What-if-a-minaret-falls-on-top-of-me-and-crushes-me-What-if-I'm-as-allergic-to-Turkey" cry, I prepared for several imaginative "worst case scenarios." What I didn't prepare for was the absolutely heartwarming, disarming generosity and hospitality of Turkish people. Just smiling, looking eager, and answering questions about where I was from, what I was doing in Istanbul, and how I found the spicy beef köfte led to a quick friendship [...]

2606, 2015
  • Istanbul Fener Let's Go

The Ever-Elusive “Local” Experience in Istanbul

By |Istanbul|0 Comments

Or, Things That Happen in Fener/Balat. You know you're having a local experience: You're at a fork in the road, except the fork in the road has so many prongs it might as well be the Witch King of Angmar's mace. Your own city-official map has resorted to a blank line, literally a white squiggle, for the few hundred meters ahead of you. You look up from your unintelligible map into a mouthful of laundry that's drying on a line sagging over the street--turns out to be Turkish Papa Undershirt, Turkish Mama Undershirt, and Turkish Baby Undershirt. Even [...]

1806, 2013
  • Istanbul Turkey

For the Constipated in Constantinople

By |Istanbul, Tips|0 Comments

You're gonna need Galata laxatives. How do I put this delicately? Because Let's Go is always delicate. You've been traveling, sitting on planes, trains, buses, faces (living up the hostel life, you), and your internal plumbing is fed up with living with an unstable little freak. Your innards have been cold shouldering you, sleeping out on the sofa and leaving you alone in your hostel bed. What do I mean? You haven't taken a shit in days. Maybe weeks. If you're in Turkey, try doing this: Drink your usual coffee. Turkish coffee is amazing, but it's also thick [...]

1806, 2013
  • Istanbul Mosque Let's Go

Steamy, Naked Bathhouse Beatings

By |Culture, Istanbul|0 Comments

The strange sexual beauty of Istanbul's hamams. If you were raised in a culture that didn't wholeheartedly endorse a naked man or woman (depending on your sex) pounding your body with their beefy hands, rubbing down every inch of you with a mitten of thorns, and scraping off at least a millimeter of dead skin off your body on a regular basis--I'd say you've missed out one of life's great pleasures. A Turkish hamam is much like any other public bathhouse in many places of the world--from the Ancient Indus Valley Civilization to Greece and Rome to Finland [...]

1206, 2013
  • Turkish Pide Let's Go

A Turkish Food Post That Isn’t Porny

By |Food, Istanbul|0 Comments

How I found the only bad food in Turkey. I write this with absolute rage clawing in my nauseous belly! In a land where you can have a fresh-caught fish, fried and spritzed with lemon juice and nestled in a soft baguette with tomatoes and crispy lettuce for THREE LIRA ($1.50), or half your own weight in cherries pregnant with juice for SIX LIRA ($3), or the biggest Turkish version of a burrito you've ever seen, with grilled chicken bits and tomatoes and cheese and onions and french fries stuffed into a chewy wrap for FOUR LIRA [...]

1206, 2013
  • Istanbul Wizard Assos

What It’s Like to Meet a Wizard

By |Culture, Istanbul, Outdoors|0 Comments

The Magician of Assos. I was bumping along in a bus past rolling yellow fields and trees making bathtubs worth of olive oil, imagining I was Alexander the Great on my way to conquer Assos, an ancient little Greek city perched on the southwesternmost Aegean coast of Turkey. Aristotle lived and married and established a school in Assos, St. Paul visited Assos, and now I was visiting Assos. There was a tall, spectacled old man riding shotgun. Occasionally the bus would slow as we passed a tiny village, and he would call out the window, "Ayvacık!" (the terminus [...]

106, 2013
  • Dolmus Istanbul Aqueduct

Down And Dirty: The Dolmus

By |Istanbul, Tips, Transportation|0 Comments

On Istanbul's ultimate budget transportation. Taxi drivers everywhere seem to be kind of fun and impressive—they know everything about their city, tell the kookiest stories, and successfully manage to rip you off for every ride. Drivers in Turkey do the first two things but don't cheat you out of your lira and could probably juggle for Cirque de Soleil with the skills they pick up driving their yellow dolmușes. Let me backtrack: A dolmuș is a yellow minivan that acts like a cross between a public bus and a taxi. They specialize in popular inter-city routes in Istanbul [...]

106, 2013
  • Taksim Square Riots

Sleeping Through Riots

By |Istanbul|0 Comments

Taksim Square, 2013. It's always a little weird to find yourself in the middle of history being made. Or rather, completely knocked out and dead asleep through history being made. Last week—while I was trotting through sleepy little seaside villages on the Asian side of Istanbul, having Kanlıca yogurt with powdered sugar, and photographing the sunset—was the start of what is becoming the fieriest protest battles in Istanbul this generation has ever seen. What started as a peaceful protest against the renovation of Istanbul's last major public park into a modern shopping mall (the exterior designed to recreate [...]

Istanbul was last modified: June 26th, 2015 by letsgoadmin

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