The first impression you get when going to Istanbul is the view of the city from above. I arrived early in the morning, the sun was about to rise and I was happy to insist on my window seat for what I saw was simply A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.!!! Located between both the Black and the Mediterranean Sea, the lights of Istanbul lingered around the Bosporus reminding me of a hidden treasure waiting to be conquered.IMG_4323

I took the “Havas-Bus” for 13 Lira (7 Euro) to get to Taksim, which is the Manhattan of Istanbul. What happened the next six days can only be described as a mind-blowing experience for I got to know the most intriguing city through the eyes of a modern, young Turk named Okan, who I met in Berlin about a year ago. Here are a few things you no one shpuld miss out on when going to Istanbul

  1. Shopping

When in Taksim, it’s easily forgotton you’re in Turkey at all. You find yourself sitting at Starbucks, watching people walking by in H&M clothing, wearing Nike Sneakers and carrying shopping bags from MANGO.IMG_4349

For an original Turkish experience, get your hands on a “Simici” (sesame pastry for 0,50 Lira) and visit one of those dark allies coming off “Istiklal Gaddesi” (shopping mile in Taksim), where you can sit on tiny stools and drink Black Tea for 1 Lira. Taksim is also the place where all the nightlife is located (Most clubs don’t charge to get in. Go to places where there is Balkan music – an experience you will never forget!)

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  1. Eat out

Hungry? I f you keep walking down Istiklal Gaddesi, you pass the Tower of Galata while strolling down a steep ally that takes you straight to the turquoise waters of the Bosporus. Pick a fish from the fishermen on the Galata Bridge and get it served in a sandwich on both sides of the bridge directly from the fisher boats bobbing up and down on the water! Reconsider if someone offers you “Kokorec” (grilled bowel from either cow or lamb…. gross!)

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  1. Sightseeing

Once you’ve been refreshed by fish sandwhiches and tea, try walking up one of the seven hills Istanbul is built on. Go with the flow of tourists or, if you don’t feel like walking, hail a taxi (veeeery cheap!) and tell the driver to drop you off at “Hagia Sophia, lütfen! ”.

Centred in the old part of the city Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are staring at each other like enemies, something not insignificant for the city, since the Hagia Sophia used to be a church (then a mosque, then a museum) and the Blue Mosque is…well…a mosque!

Hagia Sophia

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If you are interested in history, you should visit both of them, although the entrance fee for Hagia Sophia is a not-so-cheap 20,- Lira. If you just want to see how a mosque looks like from the inside, go visit the Blue Mosque (mosques are not allowed to charge an entrance fee).

Close to Hagia Sophia, you also find the Great Bazaar (just follow the signs), where you get everything a tourist’s heart desires. But be cautious: Everything here is completely overprized about 30-40 %! Be keen to bargain, not only at the Great Bazaar, but everywhere in the city.

  1. Bikes & Potatoes

On a sunny Sunday, it feels like every single person in Istanbul is going to Ortaköy, where you get a great view of the Bosporus Bridge and hundreds of potato-stands all selling… potatoes… and nothing else! Though these filled potatoes are delicious, you should consider to go there during weekdays, because on Sunday, there is a better thing to do: Get a ferry down by the river (3,- Lira) and let it take you on a 1 ½ hour trip to the “Prince Islands” located outside of Istanbul in the Mediterranean Sea. There are four islands. You should hop off at the last one, enjoy a little picnic at the marina and hire a bike (don’t pay more than 10,- lira for a whole day!). There is no traffic (just horses and cows) and it takes you about two hours to make your way all around the island. Have a picnic at the cliffs overlooking the Sea or spent the night singing songs and sitting around a bonfire.

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Last but not least, here is some important vocabulary you might need:

Lütfen                  Please

Sagol                    Thank You!

Hesap, lütfen.             The check, please.

Merhaba!                  Hello!

Nasılsın?             How are you?

Şerefe!                   Cheers!

Evet                  Yes

Hayır                  No

Anlamıyorum            I don’t understand.

Güle, güle!            Bye, bye!