istanbul, turkey - one foot in europe, one foot in asia

Istanbul, God. Everything was bathed in blue, buildings colored with faded paint covered in neon graffiti, sleeping dogs everywhere keeping one open eye on you, mosque walls covered in gorgeous printed tile from floor to ceiling, a cheap boat to take you from the European part of the city to the Asian part, the nicest and friendliest people you'll ever meet, and the best food -- everywhere, for every meal -- savory and sweet, fresh and local, unbelievable.

This is a city to get your pulse beating. 

Istanbul, Turkey skyline from Galata

Istanbul, Turkey skyline

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey skyline

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey stray cats

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

There is a funny thing the novelist David Sedaris wrote about clothing. He wears clothes until they literally disintegrate on his body, afraid of buying beautiful new things and then ruining them by... living in them.

Finally one day he goes shopping and ends up buying a $500 cashmere sweater that has been pre-ripped, shredded, and torn up, for that ultra-cool look. He doesn't have to worry about ruining the sweater because it's pre-ruined; he can live freely in it.

This is how I felt about Istanbul, coming from Switzerland. In Istanbul I could exhale, loosen up, relax. In Switzerland everyone has a stick up their ass, a furrowed brow, a judgmental nose up in the air. Istanbul is just beautifully alive; you don't have to be afraid of living there.

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti


Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street life

Istanbul, Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street life

Istanbul, Turkey street life

Istanbul, Turkey restaurant food cuisine
When there are anchovies or sardines on the menu, they will be in my belly that night. It simply must be.

Istanbul, Turkey restaurant food cuisine
We went to a tiny, lovely restaurant on some side street where they bring out ten million plates and then have you point to what you want to order. Istanbul tapas, effectively. Probably an extremely profitable method of ordering, for the restaurant, when its customers arrive hungry and greedy and encouraged by exchange rates to order the house.

Istanbul, Turkey from the ferry
On the ferry from the half of the city that is officially in Europe to the half that is officially Asian; my first trip to Asia, for a total cost of about one buck.

Istanbul, Turkey ferry to Asia from Europe

Turkish flag

View of Istanbul from Asia

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Rare smiling Alex spotted in Turkey.

Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
Galata Tower. We stayed a few steps from here, making it incredibly easy to find our way home from anywhere in the city.

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti
In my element.

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti
 
Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

We visited Istanbul just after bombings in the city (as I showed my Swiss ID to passport control when flying out of Basel, the control person asked where I was going and when I told him, he made a sound that translates to: 'Ok, off to your suicide, then, you total idiot?'), in the off-season. There were absolutely no tourists. Just locals, trying to get on with life, unwilling to stay inside in fear. 

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey rooftops skyline

Living in Switzerland is like living in a doll house. Everything is perfectly manufactured, efficient, prompt, functional, spick-and-span. But also bland, cold, and lifeless. And an outsider like me lives in fear of making a misstep and disrupting.

Istanbul is no dollhouse and I don't know how to say it any better than that.

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Istanbul, Turkey street architecture and graffiti

Ortakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul Turkey architecture

Istanbul Turkey architecture and graffiti

Istanbul Turkey vegetarian restaurant

Once again I accidentally took Alex to a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. Of course Alex ordered the one meat dish. But everything was remarkable.

Istanbul Turkey vegetarian restaurant

Chased with  chocolates and wine back in our Air BNB.

Istanbul Turey street graffiti and architecture

Istanbul Turey street graffiti and architecture

Istanbul Turkey cuisine
This was dinner our final night in Turkey. Meats and veggies grilled on a pit fire in the middle of the restaurant. Unbelievably simple, good, and cheap.

Istanbul Turkey rooftop skyline

 More from Istanbul coming next week....