10 Unique experiences to live in Istanbul
1- Learn the art of Bargain
This is one of the things that made us most enjoyable in Istanbul … bargain.
In this city is possible to bargain almost everything, since restaurants, taxis, and practically anything bought in street stores, everything is open to negotiations.
As soon as we arrived at the airport, we soon got in touch with this ancient art, as they asked us for the 50 € to take us from Ataturk Airport to the city center, which is no more than 20 km … After a few minutes we got there 70TL (approximately € 16).
The best place to trainthis art is undoubtedly at the Grand Bazaar, everything here is bargain-able, and most things are not even priced.
Outside this area there are some streets where prices are already very low and in these cases there is not so much room to bargain, but there are also many shops outside the Grand Bazaar where it is possible to.
We had a funny situation in a lamp shop, where we were invited to drink tea and literally to bargain on the prices of the lamps, and it was a very funny experience.
In restaurants, the phrase “if you want i give you a discount of 5TL in each plate” or something of the sort is almost certain, and if we show a little reticent we might still have dessert on the house!
The further we get away from the tourist center and the more we get into the city’s areas inhabited and frequented by Turks, there is practically no haggling, since things have all prices (low) and it is not usual to bargain.
2 - Catch a ferry in Bosphoro
This is one of the must-have experiences for anyone visiting Istanbul, which is touring Ferrie on the Bosphorus and seeing this beautiful city from this unique perspective.
There are several 2-3 hour tours that are not expensive, we have seen prices from € 15, but we opted for a more ‘true’ solution and walked in one of the many used domestic ferries by the Turks.
The main dock from which the boats depart is in Eminönü, which is situated near the Galata Birdge on the historic side of peninsula.
From here it is possible to catch a wide variety of Ferries, however for tourists what makes the most sense and is more usual is to cross Eminönü – Kadıköy, which takes us to the Asian side and is the few routes from where it is possible to observe all the historic peninsula, and the Maiden Tower. It costs 5TL (≈1 €) and takes about 1 hour.
For those who like to walk on foot can always do as we did, we went on foot to Ortaköy which is after the Dolambache Palace (almost at the foot of the Bosphorus bridge) and we took there the Ferrie to Kadıköy, and then to Eminönü, in total we walked almost 1 hour from ferrie and we paid 2 euros per person.
3 - Cross the Galata Bridge and taste a Balik Ekmek
The Galata Bridge is the bridge that links the Golden Horn (historic peninsula) to Karaköy, one of the city’s most uninhabited neighborhoods.
Crossing the Galata Bridge is a must for anyone visiting Istanbul, the Eminönü to Karaköy bridge, a very interesting area of the city, where you can visit the Galata Tower and numerous religious buildings.
The bridge also has a very nice view of the city and the Bosphorus, especially for its ferries departing from Eminönü the main boat area of this part of the city.
A very interesting feature of this bridge are the hundreds of fishermen who find themselves fishing from the board. There are dozens and dozens of people on both sides of the bridge fishing, especially small fish that are then sold or the restaurants nearby, or for own consumption. We never saw so many fishermen together!
The Balik Ekmek is a typical street food in Istanbul and is basically a fried fish sandwich with some vegetables.
Most of the sites that sell this sandwich are either on the Galata Bridge, or around, on boats that are anchored at the shore. These sandwiches are cheap, cost 10TL (Dec2017) and are a much sought after food in this area of the city.
4 - Visit the asian side of Istanbul
Istanbul is a city that lies between two continents, Europe and Asia, so a visit to the Asian side is almost as obligatory.
To get to this part of Istanbul just take a ferry from Eminönü or another European part of the city to Kadıköy or Üsküdar.
We went to Kadıköy, and liked it because it gave to feel the city in another way, away from the tourists and more in contact with the population itself. There are many street vendors at the ferry’s exit, selling everything from mussels to socks as it is a busy zone of people.
We had lunch in this area, two Kebab’s and two tin drinks for the value of 11.5TL (two people), or 2.5 €.
5 - Hearing the Call to Prayer
Listening to one of the five calls to prayer was one of the things that struck us most, especially when we were inside a mosque or one of the streets full of people.
Muslims are called 5 times to pray at different times of the day. These prayers have no scheduled time, as they are governed by the movement of the Sun, the first is at dawn and the last is about an hour and a half after sunset.
For us it was a remarkable experience because Turkey was our first truly Muslim country (we had already heard a call in Bosnia) and it was here that we heard the call for prayer for the first time, and when you are inside a mosque, or in the streets full of people and Muezzin starts calling for prayer, it’s something remarkable!
All mosques without exception are closed for the visits of the tourists during the prayers.
6 - Smoking shisha in a real Turkish shisha cafe
For those who like to smoke shisha, or want to try it for the first time, we definitely recommend a visit to the Erenler Hookah.
This ” café ”, which is basically a place to smoke and drink tea, offers a true shisha smoking experience in Istanbul with many local people and a very genuine atmosphere.
This space is near the Grand Bazaar, inside a kind of ” ex-grave / cemetery ” and a shisha costs 25TL (5 €)
7 - Taste some flavors of Istanbul
Istanbul has a very interesting gastronomy, especially at ” street food ” level.
We enjoy eating out every time because the prices are very inviting, and for those who go for just a few days eating out is the best option, because it is possible to have a meal for 2 €, if it is something of the genus Kebab + Drink, or for 5 € in the case of a meal of dish, with drink ..
At the restaurant level we were always well served, both in terms of quantity of food, and in terms of price and the friendliness of the people.
In virtually every restaurant bread, water and tea are free, and are served in conjunction with the dish.
We ate some typical dishes such as various types of kebab, Mantı (also called Turkish raviolis), Fried and grilled fish, Pide (sort of a pizza in the form of a boat, Balık Ekmek (fried fish sandwich), Lokum or Turkish delight and Baklava (dessert with pistachios).
At the beverage level, the drink of choice is undoubtedly the Tea, or Çay in Turkish. It’s very common to be in the shops, on the street, in the cafes … drinking tea.
Apart from the tea, the Turkish Coffee, and the Ayran which is a drink that looks like half milk half yogurt, are the other main typical drinks.
Alcohol is not very common because the Muslim religion prohibits consumption, and only a few restaurants for tourists sell beer and that kind of drinks.
Throughout the city there are many sellers of nuts, corn, mussels (more at the foot of the river) and Simit, which is a bagel-like but drier, seed-like bread.
Along the streets there are also many sellers of natural juices, of different fruits of the time, by the time we went we drank lots of orange juice and pomegranate.
8 - Visit monuments of two empires
Istanbul is a unique city and one of the best experiences one can have is to lose ourselves in the cultural heritage that is scattered throughout the city, because it has been the capital of two empires and the center of civilization for many years in that region of the globe.
There are many monuments that deserve a visit in this city, we will highlight some, but for a better understanding about the history of Istanbul and the main monuments of the two empires that have settled in this city, we advise a reading of our article on this topic.
The monuments to be visited are the following: the Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Topkapi Palace, the Süleymaniye Mosque and the Basilica Cistern.
9 - Keep up with the Turks
Of all the people we have dealt with, the Turks are undoubtedly the friendliest people. They’re always messing with people in a good way, helping each other, sometimes asking for nothing and really making us feel at home.
Another funny thing about the Turks is that many of them, especially those who work in the tourist areas speak Spanish … It happened a lot of times we were walking down the street and they started talking to us in Spanish, like ” hello friend, cheap ” , which is still funny.
Of course, the Turks want to sell and promote their shops and restaurants, but they are really nice and funny whene they do that, and we lose track of how many times we talked to them even though they knew we were not going to buy anything .
10 -LEARN WHAT IS THE ISLAM WITH A MUSLIM
This was one of the most remarkable experiences we had in Istanbul, which was to be talking 2 hours with a Muslim, where we can ask all the questions that came to mind about this religion.
This happened in the Blue mosque, where there is a room where people can be clarified about Islam, we were passing by the room when a gentleman called us and we ended up staying 2 hours to talk to him, where we asked all the questions which we remembered, from the role of women in Islam, to the recent problem of Jerusalem.
In the end you gave us a Portuguese Koran, and a few more books, without us asking for anything.
Although during the time we had there only 4 people appeared, anyone can enter and clarify any doubts they may have regarding Islam.
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