Cigarettes, seagulls and selfie sticks. Those are the first things I think of.
On paper, that sounds like a terrible combination, but somehow, someway Istanbul makes it work.
The cigarettes are a sign of the city’s European lifestyle, where drinking tea, coffee or beer for hours on end is a daily ritual.
The seagulls connect you with the bustling waterfront that serves as Istanbul’s lifeblood.
And… those ever-present, ridiculously obnoxious vanity poles called “selfie sticks” are proof that the city is one of the most picture-worthy places I’ve ever been.
Over the course of the last two months, I’ve lived in four different locations, which has given me a few different sides to life in the city…
Thanks to an invitation by the Swissotel, I started my trip out with five-nights of luxury along the Bosphorus. From there, I moved over to Sultanahmet (old town), where the tourist population drove me away in just a few days. Next, I stayed with a friend over on the Asian side in Kadikoy – where I really enjoyed the laid back lifestyle. After a month of comfort, I needed a little more stimulation so I relocated to an apartment near Taksim Square, just off one of the city’s main shopping avenues.
If I lived in Istanbul long-term I would choose Kadikoy, but if you’re there for vacation, I highly recommend finding a place off of Istiklal street.
Despite a frequent change in locations, one thing always remained familiar… the food was absolutely delicious.
I’ll talk much more about this on an upcoming video, but let’s just say Turkish food was definitely the highlight of Istanbul.
Street treats and spinning meats won me over from day one, and despite the language barrier, I could point and smile at most things on the menu.
Speaking of which… the Turkish language is very hard. The words are long and I just didn’t get it. Then again, I put very little effort into learning the language, which no doubt, effected my connection with the country.
The good news is however; I met some great people while living in Istanbul, which made the entire experience worth it. These new friends connected me with local hot spots and I was able to get a sense of life as a “townie” relatively quickly.
Overall, the experience was much different than usual; I only had a few months to live here, didn’t learn the language, and didn’t have a set mission.
Regardless of the time or agenda, it doesn’t take much to realize how fascinating Istanbul is…
From the religious chants that echo across the city, to the old men playing Turkish Rummikub (Okey) in small shops and street corners.
You can overlook the oldest mosques and palaces while partying at the newest rooftop bar and clubs.
Tea (chay) is everywhere, mustaches are glorified, and fresh lemon can be squeezed over most food.
There are a million and one little idiosyncrasies that make Turkey’s largest city so enticing – and that includes the cigarettes, seagulls and selfie sticks.
Check out some visuals from my first weeks living in Istanbul…
More Istanbul photos from the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and much more coming soon!