Often, I want to relieve myself of the responsibility I feel to document travel (if responsibility is indeed the correct word, and if it is, it pertains only to the sense I feel to myself, not to others). Considering this blog is full of travel and indeed it is something I find myself desiring or doing rather frequently, this sounds like an odd admission. But what is so often the case with places, and what is absolutely the case with the unfathomable depths of online content, is that all of what I have to say has been variously said before. What can I add? Should I bother trying to add anything at all? I could just show photos, but arguably those photos have also been seen before, a million times and in far higher resolution. But I can’t say nothing. Obviously.
So, Istanbul. 13 million people. Thousands of years of history. Hundreds of mosques. The city heaves with life in a way only a city of millions can. It is never quiet. It is never still. It is never anything less than full to bursting. Shop owners entice, restaurant and cafe spruikers throw out phrases in German and English and French, certain one of them will hit the jackpot. The street dogs and cats are well-fed and seemingly healthy. The trams are crammed full and as one leaves the station, another one is quick on its tail because there will always be enough people to fill a tram.
We stayed in Sultanahmet, the old part of the city. We looked out at the spikes and domes of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia every morning, over breakfast of olives, bread and honey. We ate at absolutely every possible opportunity; pide, iskender kebab, döner, baklava, milk-rice pudding, ezme, flat bread, hummus. In a city of thousands of places to eat, many mediocre but as expensive as the culinary gems, it’s difficult to tease your options apart. We used the Istanbul Trip Advisor app, which gave us the top 5500 restaurants and cafes and it didn’t lead us astray once. When you’re only somewhere for a week, it is all too easy to be enticed into a series of average restaurants and leave a city deprived of its real food potential. Having the weeding-out done for you, makes for a much higher success rate.
More will come. More food, more photos (many, many more photos), more old places that have blinked and found themselves in the 21st century, more expressions of wonder which I will try very hard to keep the cliches out of. And more of those moments peculiar to travel, the ones that drive you into a quiet room to process it all. I am going to break the trip down into four posts – food, Sultanahmet and surrounds, Princes’ Islands and a little story about a puppy – and attempt to strike a balance between informative and personal, not straying too far into the territory of either. Both, when overdone, tend to make for boring reading.
So, documenting Istanbul – it starts here.