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Istanbul – Beyoğlu

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My mission is to explore the Beyoğlu area, which is across the Golden Horn from Sultanahmet. Its major drawcard is İstiklâl Avenue, which runs for a mile up to Taksim Square, a fairly notorious area of Istanbul because of the tendency of protests against government actions to convene here and resulting riots. The Republic Monument is here, and İstiklâl means Independence, so it is an area of great significance to the locals. I am not heading here because of this, but because İstiklâl Avenue has gained the nickname of shopping street. There are also plenty of cafes and bars.

I decide to walk, which is a bit of a mistake - not because it is 4 km, but because of my tendency to get distracted. I let google maps dictate my path, past this mosque built in 1744 - the call to prayer has just sounded, and people - mainly men - emerge from various buildings and enter via a side entrance.
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I really want to have a look around the University of Istanbul but after watching for a bit, it becomes obvious there is pretty tight security at the entrance. A quick search makes it clear that random visits just don't happen - although it is possible to get on an organised tout. I can only get a photo of the entrance and move on.
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I don't get very far, as there seems to be a book village across the square from the University entrance: I must check it out. Although most of the books turn out to be University texts and all are in Turkish, I enjoy my wee wander.
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Everyone who knows anything about Istanbul knows about the Blue Mosque - I take photos of this thinking this is it. I thought it would be blue, and am persuaded there are bits of blue, but it is actually called the blue mosque because of its interior - thousands of blue tiles. Looking at photos of the actual blue mosque, I am left unsure what this is.
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From here, things get wierd, as google maps has a shortcut for me. I walk through an area which has several houses looking like they have been hit by bombs, others which have burnt down and others which are being demolished: it is not a cheerful walk. Eventually, I reach the Golden Horn and walk across the bridge for the metro which, unusually, has a station half way across. Maybe they had some sort of dispute as to which side the station should be on, and compromised so that it is equally useless to both sides?
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Once across the other side, my maps app takes me on another merry walk, though about a billion shops selling electrical supplies, nuts and bolts and small electrical tools. Want any of them in Istanbul? I'm your man. Upon emerging from this electrical storm, I am taken with the neoclassical lines of the buildings.
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I'm not sure if it is the hills or there is something lost in translation, but I'm a bit lost. I know I am at the very beginning of İstiklâl Avenue, but I want to visit the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. After numerous false starts I find it: after such a lengthy walk, it is time for a coffee and there's quite a nice coffee shop in the entrance. Curiously, the only exhibit I really like is that of the black and white photos of Yıldız Moran - the first academically trained female photographer in Turkey. This one is so cute!, but they seem to be identity cards so there is a political message as well.
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Here are four more, including one of Mt Ararat
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I reckon these are showing human nature, but it is this work by British sculptor Anthony Cragg that is shown under that label:
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Not really my thing, but I do quite like this
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Alright, it is now nearly dark: surely time for a drink and to find some food on İstiklâl Avenue? I get the drink, sitting opposite the Russian Embassy
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but food is more elusive - many fast food joints but nothing appealing. Apparently, it is in the passages off the main drag where the real good stuff is to be found. The only places that really grab my attention are the two shops - next door to each other - selling fountain pens and inks
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I do walk all the way to Taksim Square, which is a bit of an anti-climax as there's nothing there and actually walk all the way back to my hotel before I find a place I want to eat at - I do see several restaurants, but with no people in them, I think I can do better. About half way back, I discover that the bloke at the airport did not do a good job of installing my Turkcell SIM card: I have a phone with dual SIMS and have until now been using up data on my Australian SIM: it runs out. This is not a good thing to find out, as my phone is telling me how to get home. I figure that I am walking alongside a tram line - maybe it is the same one that runs perilously close to pedestrians as it goes past my hotel?

Posted by NZBarry 11:12 Archived in Turkey

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