Things to do in Istanbul #1 (Ferry, Sultanahmet, Hamam, Tramway)

  1. TAKE A FERRY BOAT.

If it is your first time visitng Istanbul, don’t miss opportunity to enjoy very daily activity of local Istanbul citizen- crossing from European side to Asian side by ferry. It fascinates me somehow in very childish way. It’s really entertaining! I always feel a risk to fall down to Bosforus water while I am stepping into a boat. Mostly because I am lacking balance and also there are no safety fences or something to protect people from accidents. Also, it’s great to have a cup of tea or glass of french orange juice, meantime enjoying beautiful view of two continent’s coasts. If you are eating simit (circular bread with sesame seeds), don’t be greedy and share it with seagulls (aka sea beggars). They are always following ferry boats… Maybe that’s why Istanbul’s seagulls are so fat.

P.S. There are so called “Bosforus cruise” trips, but taking a ferry several times to different directions will cost you less and you will feel more local!

2. Go to SULTANAHMET(blue mosque) as a local

Usually I am trying to avoid very touristic places, but when guests are coming to visit me and to explore Istanbul, I feel pressure to show them treasures of this city. The Sultanahmet  or popularly known as the Blue Mosque, thanks to the color of the Iznik tiles lining its walls, dominates Istanbul’s skyline with six minarets. Mostly mosques have one, two… sometimes fours minarets, but this one is special. Here is a legend of minarets:

“The Sultanahmet Mosque is the only mosque in Istanbul that has six minarets and this provoked hostility at the time it was built (1616). Such a display was previously only preserved for the Prophet’s mosque in Mecca and the sultan was criticized for thinking a bit too highly of himself.

According to the most obvious urban legend, this whole issue was the result of a misunderstanding between the sultan and his architect. The sultan supposedly had asked to have altın minare (minarets in gold) and the architect understood altı minare (which means six minarets). A second, less plausible legend is that the architect decided that gold minarets were too expensive and therefore decided to make six of them.

Whatever the true story behind the six minarets is, the sultan overcame the problem by paying for a seventh minaret at the mosque in Mecca.”

Despite that Blue mosque is a popular tourist attraction, it’s still available for Muslims to pray. Whatever, most of people you will see around- tourists! So, at least to make your visit more interesting, do not go through tourist’s entrance (very very long queue). Better pretend what you are local. Next to the entrance to mosque’s park, there is a place where you can take a Muslim praying dress/skirt (depend how unappropriated you are dressed), put scarf on, and go towards Muslims entrance. Voilà, you are in and you don’t have to wait in a line. But be aware, that your vanilla face can make security guy to remind you, that tourist entrance is somewhere else…

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3. Go to HAMAM

Hamam is the place where you start wondering what the hell you was doing in shower everyday. Just in hamam you can understand how dirty you are. Turkish hamam is traditional public bath. A lot of hot and cold water, so your skin experiences temperature contrast. After 20-30 minutes you will notice that dead skin fall off even you do shower every morning. At that moment half naked woman will come and offer to scrub you (sounds like some strange porno movie). It’s feels better than you can guess, to lay down on “table” made from stone while woman is scrubbing/cleaning/washing you.

After Hamam you feel like you lost several kilograms and skin becomes very soft. You will be looking like a lobster and the only thing you will want to do is to sleep, because all body is so relaxed.

P.S. Be local- be topless.

4. Be a “rabbit” and JUMP ON THE ISTIKLAL TRAMWAY

Istanbul nostalgic tramway is a heritage tramway in Istanbul. Looks very vintage and cross the main and the most crowded street -Istiklal.  Although European side’s tram is as much a curiosity as a means of transport, anybody can find it useful if their feet are tired when walking Beyoğlu’s main shopping and dining avenue. However, the historic tram cars are small and cannot hold many passengers, and are often full. The ride is relatively slow, but pleasant giving a good quick tour of Istiklal Caddesi.

You supposed to pay for a ride, but… Tram is going very slow, so you can just jump on it while it moves and jump out when you feel you reached your destination. No one really cares, that you are illegal passenger (“rabbit”), because many local people are doing like this. Just be careful and do not jump in front of it.

 

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