LET’S EXPLORE ISTANBUL TOGETHER
By Merve Sertoglu
Istanbul is a place where you can discover and explore different cultures and ethnicities. A true international city. You can meet with people from all over the world, have delicious food in amazing cafes and restaurants, and of course photograph a city so enriched with colorful streets, history, culture and beautiful architecture. There is so much to do and see here! I know, it’s my city. Please allow me to take you on a short tour of Istanbul.
As you know, Istanbul connects Asia and Europe. Wherever you decide to stay, the Bosphorus should be the first thing you see when you open your eyes in Istanbul, a beautiful sea of blue. Simit (a kind of Turkish bagel) and Turkish tea should accompany the view! If you take a ferry and go along the seaside don’t forget to take an extra simit with you to feed the seagulls, they love it!
For early morning photography, going to Balat can be a good idea. Balat is the place where you will smell history and see the real Istanbul. There will be elderly people sitting in front of their houses, cheerful children playing in the streets, and small shopping places on every street. Mosques and churches are next to each other there. None of the residents of Balat will question your desire to photograph them. Wander the streets of Balat, get lost and simply fall in love with Istanbul.
Now, it is time for a Turkish coffee in Galata. On your way there, while you are walking on Galata Bridge, you will see many fishermen. From here you will witness a beautiful silhouette of Istanbul in the background. It’s truly a magical moment. Next you will walk all the way up the hill until you reach Galata Tower. Find a nearby cafe, where you can see the tower, relax and enjoy your Turkish coffee. Photographing the narrow streets of Galata with a wide angle lens can be fun. You might even want to give a fisheye lens a try. After Galata, walk along Beyoglu and Istiklal Avenues and you will see a cosmopolitan side of this ancient city.
While on your Istanbul tour, the Grand Bazaar is not to be missed! It is impossible to visit all 4400 shops in the Grand Bazaar, but believe me you will definitely capture some amazing photos there! As you explore and walk through the bazaar don’t pass up the opportunity to taste the best sweets, especially the Turkish delight and pistacchio baklava! Trust me, they are to die for.
Because Istanbul is strategically located between Europe and Asia, her history is immense, and she is used to welcoming many different cultures. When you are walking the streets, especially around the Eminönü region, you will see many lasting impressions from different civilizations starting with the Roman Empire, Byzantine, Latin, and the Ottoman Empire. Throughout the ages, Istanbul has been home to people from different religions, languages, and races. Istanbul is proof of how diversity can work together in peace and harmony.
Now, we are in Sultanahmet and nearby the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. They are breathtaking structures, and two of the main architectural gems of Istanbul. The Blue Mosque was named for the blue tiles inside the mosque. It is a gorgeous mosque and great for photographing both inside and outside the mosque. There is a big area around the mosque where you can sit and watch and photograph people as well.
Hagia Sophia, was the biggest church built during the Byzantine era and stayed as a church for 916 years. Like many conquering empires, it was then converted to a mosque for 482 years during the Ottoman Empire. In 1935, Atatürk decided to turn it into a museum. Upon entering the museum, you will witness prints and artwork from different religions which is amazing!
Istanbul is very rich in cuisine. You can find different foods from all around the world. So for lunch my recommendation is to sample small dishes throughout the day and then enjoy Turkish kebab for dinner! On the streets you will see chestnuts, corn and stuffed mussels! Please do taste them! Also, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to eat and to take colorful photos.
Taking a ferry on the Bosphorus before sunset and stopping by the seaside either on the Asian or the European side can be a great idea. You can never get enough of the view of the bridges, Maiden Tower and Galata Tower in the distance. One of the hidden sunset places is Çengelköy. Walk along the pier and get close to the small boats and seagulls. It will make your sunset so much richer. Try the apple tea in Çınaraltı cafe as well, you will never regret it!
If you are interested in taking a break from photography or sightseeing, I would definitely recommend that you experience a Turkish bath and relax! You will never want to leave Istanbul!
There are many options for great restaurants for dinner, you just need to decide what kind of evening you desire. You can either have kebab, or fish with rakı and different mezze. Or any other food from around the world. If you have the time, you should consider photographing Istanbul at blue hour or after dark from one of the hills overlooking the city. This city never sleeps!
Istanbul is a large city with 14.8 million people. The streets are crowded but trust me, you will find what you are looking for photographically and culturally, and with cuisine and nightlife. Because in this city, every person can find something they can relate to. You will never feel like a stranger in Istanbul. She will take you in her arms and surround you with beauty.
Hope you enjoyed my tour!
For my next blog post, I will take you outside Istanbul as we explore other regions of Turkey.
About Merve Sertoglu:
Merve was first introduced to Photo Workshop Adventures in 2012 when she became interested in PWA’s New York Photo Adventure. Merve was born and lives in Istanbul, Turkey. Besides being well traveled in her native Turkey, in recent years she has started traveling the world, including New York, Croatia, Italy, Greece, France and South Africa. Merve says, “I am sure my journeys will continue to many places all around the world, because I love travel, photography and adventure. Travel has become my new passion”.
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Istanbul is a very reasonably priced city as international cities go. Our Istanbul adventures are priced 20-30% less than comparable adventures in other major European cities. If you are interested in joining us on one of our ISTANBUL PHOTO ADVENTURES and meeting Merve, please click the link to learn more. We also offer our TURKEY PHOTO ADVENTURE and our combined 12-day ISTANBUL-TURKEY PHOTO ADVENTURE. Join us today for the adventure of a lifetime.