Istanbul, travel to the “hottest” city in the world

This article is also available in: Italiano


I’ll be honest with all readers right away: I went to Istanbul for tourism, but it was the warmth of the people that made me write this article. The passion was the Neapolitan one, but the city has 20 million inhabitants …

September 23: day 1, the arrival.

I am in Istanbul at 8 pm, the time is not particularly late, but in the Eastern Gate the sun sets early. The bus leaves me at Taksim square. It is my first solo trip, moreover the first one outside Europe, the confusion is total.

I try to go to Kabataş, there I should have taken a tram to Sultanhamet, the beating heart of the historical center. But something is not going in the right direction: in the dark I have difficulties finding the way; in addition, the confusion is incredible, thousands of souls who speak a very strange language, a kind of abstruse mix between German and Arabic. I try to ask for information, but if few understand English, even fewer do. Then I begin to wander aimlessly then, without realizing it and without having foreseen it, I arrive in Beşiktaş.

Travel to Istanbul
The Vodafone Arena
The first thing that catches your eye is the Vodafone Arena, the center around which the whole white-black world revolves. Located on the last part of a hill, it dominates the whole horizon. In addition, the lighting is treated down to the smallest detail, with plays of light between white, black and red that fully express themselves at night. In utter desperation, I take a taxi nearby. The guy driving is a man in his fifties, a diehard Beşiktaş fan. As soon as he hears I come from Italy he starts asking me a thousand questions. We go from “ex Italians” like Quaresma, to the great legends like Fatih Terim Imparator. Meanwhile, one thing is immediately clear to me: the saying “smoking like a Turk” is sacrosanct. In just about ten minutes, my taxi driver has already smoked two cigarettes of taste and when I leave he doesn’t seem to want to stop.

Finally at 9.30 pm I arrive at the hotel, located in a small lane between Sultanhamet and the Bayezid district, near the great university of Istanbul. I do not even have time to see the room well that I find myself in my bed with my eyes closed.

September 24: day 2, Istanbul stupor mundi.

Travel to Istanbul
The door of the university

The second day is time for exploration. I start on a side road and reach one of the less touristy parts of the city. Here it is full of old men playing cards and drinking tea. They are all busy talking about football, Beşiktaş in particular. It’s a familiar scene, it reminds me of the summers spent in Campania, the same climate and the same speeches. I hear the names of Quaresma, Pepe, all the Portuguese jewels of the team. I only find out afterwards that it is because of Fenerbahce-Beşiktaş, one of the hottest derby in the capital. Shortly afterwards I finally reach one of the main streets.

I was immediately amazed by the immense door of the university, a mammoth building that stands out in the middle of the historic Bayezid district. I sneak into the small Bazaar of books and arrive in the Kapali çarşı neighborhood, the Grand Bazaar. I want to enter it immediately, but something tells me that it is better to get to know the city, before going to one of its most chaotic points of all. It happened then in front of the New Mosque, a colossal structure overlooking the sea.

Its beauty is stemmed only by the work in progress which, inevitably, takes away from it the typical royalty of the city. In my continuous wandering, I first arrive in Sirkesi, the neighborhood overlooking the Golden Horn and the Galata bridge, and then finally in Sultanhamet.

The blue mosque, the pearl of the Sultan

Travel to Istanbul
The Blue Mosque on night

The Blue Mosque exerts a magnetic fascination on me. It will be because of my faith, it will be because of its grandeur, I immediately decide to enter it. The show is something great and for the first time in my life I find myself in ecstasy in front of a building. With only the courtyard you are transported to the era of the sultans. The interior then enhances everything, creating a divine, almost supernatural atmosphere.

Just look at the lights that come down from above, almost touching your head, to be dragged into a vortex of thoughts too complicated to stem. Leaving the mosque, I wonder where the much-known “Hagia Sophia” is. It doesn’t take me long to find it: it is so large that it completely occupies my entire field of vision.

In the evening I return to Sultanhamet, the weather is perfect for taking some photos and the colored lights give everything a fair and regal atmosphere. After a jump at the KFC in Sirkesi, I head to the hotel. Tomorrow a busy day awaits me, between Galata, Istiklal Caddesi and Kasimpasa, modern Istanbul.

Istanbul part II, Istiklal Caddesi and Kasımpaşa. The photos are all original except that of the Vodafone Arena.

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