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The Colours of Turkey — Part III: Istanbul

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When I arrived in Istanbul, it was the beginning of Fall. Surrounded by three bodies of water (Marmara Sea, Bosphorus and The Golden Horn), the cold winds blew relentlessly in the big city. I've traveled to tropical countries all my life and autumn was a big change. But with hands safely tucked in the deep pockets of my jacket, I was ready to learn about Istanbul, starting with Sultanahmet. It is the oldest part of the city and it is here that one can find the many treasures of the city's history, starting with.. 

Aya Sofya/Hagia Sofia

Ayasofya in Turkish or Hagia Sofia in Greek is one of the most magnificent buildings to ever be erected. Architecturally, it is a marvel. And how could it not be? Beginning as a church in 537AD under Roman rule, one must wonder how such engineering and innovation could have been achieved in the 6th Century. Take a look at the dome below.

The Hagia Sofia was later converted into a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul during the 15th century.

Many parts of the building are slowly deteriorating. Much reconstruction works have been done over the years to retain it.

Today, the Ayasofya is a museum in the memory of all that has shaped modern Istanbul. 

In and around Sultanahmet
The Blue Mosque

Sultanahmet is also where herein lies the world's oldest shopping district — the Grand Bazaar. With nearly 4400 shops, it is a labyrinth to be lost in. One can find the most authentic Turkish handicraft in the bazaar.

Finds at the Grand Bazaar

There are a handful more sites around Sultanahmet to visit but of course, as with all travel journeys, it is challenging to see them all and take them in all at once. Also, being a more tourist-populated area, I yearned to see more of how the locals lived after awhile. So we hopped on one of these boats just outside of Sultanahmet for a ride around the three seas.

And ended up in the district of Beyoğlu.

Beyoğlu (pronounced Bey-oh-loo)

Beyoğlu is a district separated from Sultanahmet by the Golden Horn. It is situated on the European side of the city and therefore much of the architecture in this district is influenced by Europe.

I had read much about Istanbul's diversity on Monocle. But seeing is believing. Along the streets and passages of Beyoglu, one will find a creative community flourishing alongside old world shops and hole in the walls. 

Tom Tom Calling!

A very cute sign, yes? It got me tracing its source: The Istanbul Fashion Incube is a not-for-profit organization that aims to secure the creative talent in Istanbul's fashion scene to propel them further. They run programs where they teach materials technology, research methods, marketing and design integrity to selected promising local designers. The location of the incube is also in the typical Istanbul neighbourhood -- unassuming with an old world charm, just as the rest of the city is. 

Homer Kitabevi

Every place I travel to, it is top of my itinerary to visit a bookstore. Why? Simply because literature is the perfect way to learn more about a country's history, culture and way of life. And I was in for a treat at Homer Kitabevi, a renowned publisher and book retailer and even picked up several Turkish authors to read.

This hole in the wall has no name, but it serves the best menemen I've ever tasted! On a cold, autumn day. A plate of hot scrambled eggs and tomato + a hot cup of Turkish tea can never go wrong!

But well of course, if you are looking for an indie cafe you can pop by next door to Pas Coffee House.

In and around  Beyoğlu
Istanbul: Where there are more cats per sq km than there are humans 

In case you missed the first two parts of The Colours of Turkey Series —

Part 1: Selçuk

Part 2: Cappadocia

Shop our collection inspired by our travels to Turkey: Gypsied x Turkey

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