unfortunately I did not had much time to dedicate lately to my Blog, and this is a shame.
Still, I would like to share with you a Post dedicated to one of my favorite cities, Istanbul.
It was in this city that I found my wife, so it will always be synonymous of love and romance.
Istanbul is the biggest city in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. Its unique location, between Europe and Asia is already a guarantee of a magic city, but there's more, much more.
Istanbul is also known as "second Rome" because of its historical past as the capital of the Roman Empire of the East.
The city has always been important, first as Byzantium (the capital of the Byzantine Empire), then as Constantinople (the capital of the Roman Empire of the East) and then as Istanbul (the capital of the Ottoman Empire).
The magic of this city can be observed while walking thousands of years of history just in front of your eyes. Wonderful monuments, wonderful views, friendly and welcomed local population, wonderful food, wine, drinks and desserts.
If you go to Istanbul please start with a visit to Hagia Sofia, it was for a thousand years the biggest Christian Church in the world, after its conquest by the Turks it was then transformed into a Mosque and since 1935 by the order of President Ataturk, it was transformed into a Museum. A testament to what is a unique place that can be cherished by all.
A few meters from Hagia Sofia is the Blue Mosque, a majestic, beautiful Mosque and for sure a must see. It is called Blue Mosque because of its tiles decoration. Please bare in mind that half an hour before prayers, during prayers and half an hour after prayers the Mosque is closed for Tourists.
If you stand in the park between Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque you can observe that the Ottoman Empire adopted the Byzantine style of the Orthodox Churches in the construction of all their Mosques, this can be observed all over the city and in most Mosques, the result of this mix is absolute beauty. Not far away from Hagia Sofia you can find the wonderful "Cistern of the Cathedral", a magical underground world built as a water reservoir during the Roman period. It’s a plunge into history, a James Bond movie was filmed down there and also there's a chapter in the Dan's Brown novel Inferno.
Few blocks up the road you will find the Gran Bazaar. It’s like a Shopping Centre but bare in mind that it was built 500 years ago and it is still busy busy busy. There are some shops that are managed by the same family for centuries. You can find anything there, it is not a bargain as you might expect, because quite honestly they will profit from Tourist and its rich currency but still it is a must of Istanbul. Close to the Gran Bazaar you have some old Turkish Baths houses and in my opinion it is another must of Istanbul. You will be in a bath house relaxing and thinking that 500 years ago, in that very same place people were already enjoying the very same experience. Also around the Gran Bazaar you can find place where you can sit down, smoke Shisha and enjoy the amazing Tchai (that's Tee).
Top Kapi palace deserves a longer visit, but if you are fun of world history you need to go and visit the palace of the Sultans and how they have ruled a huge and rich Empire (Ottoman), the views from the palace of the Bosphorous are breathtaking.
You can then go down to Golden Horn area by the New Galata bridge, you have the New Mosque and next to it the Egyptian Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar. Not far go and visit the famous Restaurant and Baklava House Hamdi, the Turkish food is excellent and then finish with a Pistachio Baklava, heaven.
You can then walk the New Galata Bridge and check on the local fisherman’s. After you cross the bridge you can start walking towards Galata Tower, another landmark of the city. Once in that area you can walk the famous shopping street Istiklal and its Tram. It finishes in Taksim Square a much loved area for the locals.
Istanbul is a vibrant huge Metropolis where old and historical can mix with modern and huge, like the biggest Europeans Shopping Centers, with huge modern Skyscrapers and amazing views.
There's a modern and hype nightlife, very modern and probably not in our occidental image of a Muslim country. Beautiful bars and discos, awarded restaurants are many and the choice is difficult.
I will suggest you to go and visit Ulus 29, its one of the most awarded Restaurants of Istanbul, not cheap but also I believe that the food, the wines, the service, the views are well worth the visit. Please call beforehand for a reservation. In the same building you can stay for late cocktails next to local hype young rich beautiful people and dance the night away.
But Istanbul it’s much more, there’s so many museums, you can also have a small cruise in the Bosphorous, visit the Fish Restaurants in the Asian side, etc.
As a conclusion, do not trust Taxi drivers for suggestions for a Restaurant, they might take you to isolated restaurants that will give a menu with prices for rich Tourist and then you will have a horrible meal and will pay much much money. Always take a taxi with a specific destination and an address written in a paper so that you can show the driver, communication bobble can be a huge problem. Also, even though Istanbul can be considered an European city it is still a city outside the normal standards of the Western standards, so if you are a woman do not walk alone outside known streets and always be suspicious of local gents, better afraid than sorry.
Enjoy Istanbul, enjoy history and enjoy a wonderful culture, its cuisine, its traditions.
Chef Gourmet Du Art