Easter Break in Istanbul

Colin Baumgartner
April 9, 2013

One of the many parks in Üsküdar on the Asian side

Vienna’s 16th district is known as being one of the most multi-culti parts of Vienna.  Through extensive exploration of the area––particularly the Brunnenmarkt and Yppenplatz––I have come into contact with the pocket of Turks that have built up a thriving community.  Through my encounters with the brilliant food and friendliness of the Turks I’ve gotten to know in Austria, I was inspired to visit Istanbul.  I found a good flight from the Schwechat airport just outside of Vienna and booked myself into a hostel in central Instanbul.  I was ready to explore Turkish culture in one of the most beautiful cities.

A nostalgic tram runs along Istiklal Caddesi, the main street in cosmopolitan Beyoğlu

Arriving at Attaturk airport I was able to get into the centre of Istanbul quite easily using the light metro and a tram.  I’d had some slight hesitations about visiting Turkey (since I speak no Turkish and my only vocabulary knowledge is confined to the culinary).  The system was quite easy to navigate without any knowledge.  There is something called an Istanbul card that allows you to simply swipe through the turnstiles for ferries, metro, trams, busses, &c.  The tram ride gave a beautiful indication of what I would be exploring for the next week: beautiful mosques, ancient crumbling buildings, and a thriving and vibrant culture.

Istanbul is home to countless bustling markets

Istanbul is unlike any city I’ve visited.  The city has a little of everything to offer; I was staying in Sultanahmet area which is more touristy but is home to the beautiful Aya Sofya––a magnificent mosque––as well as the incredible Topkapı Palace and stately Gulhane Park.  The Bosphorus rive runs through Istanbul but a simple walk across the Galata bridge will bring you to Galata and Beyoǧlu––a beautiful part of the city with definite French influences; Beyoǧlu feels very cosmopolitan and the main street is always bustling with crowds of people.  I explored the side streets of Beyoǧlu and found some truly breathtaking bohemian neighbourhoods that have thriving cafés and small neighbourhood eateries.

Istanbul has a thriving street food scene; this man had set up in a bus stop and was selling steaming cups of çay

One of the less prosperous areas in the old city––even though the buildings are often in ruins, the areas are so full of life!

A quick ferry ride across the Bosphorus gives you access to yet another side of Istanbul: the exotic Asian side.  Stepping off the ferry at Kariköy the exotic feel is immediately perceptible; there are palm trees and more Eastern style buildings––though there is still an interesting European style to the cafés and tiny shops along the Kariköy markets.  The people everywhere were wonderfully friendly and hospitable.  I quickly lost count of the number of times I was invited to share a cup of tea with a friendly Turk.

The interior of the Süleyman mosque in Fatıh

I fell in love with Istanbul while there; I will certainly return as soon as possible.  The city is only around 1½ hours from Vienna by plane and is certainly worth the trip.  Turkey and Austria have a history together so it was interesting to compare Istanbul to Vienna and to talk to Turks about their feelings about the history between the two countries.

One of the city’s many çay (tea) gardens is perfect place to watch the sun set over the Bosphorus

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Colin Baumgartner

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Colin Baumgartner is a Junior studying to be a secondary English education teacher. Colin grew up as a second generation Austrian and has always had a distinct sense of being split between two cultures&ndash;&ndash;Austrian and American. Studying abroad in Vienna, Colin will have an opportunity to really explore the Austrian side of his heritage. When not buried in literature or writing, Colin enjoys blogging, hiking, cooking, working out, and traveling. Colin is an unabashed aesthete and gourmand, so the beautiful foods, sights, and people of Europe will not go unnoticed or unrelished. Dum vivimus, vivamus!</span></p>

2013 Spring
Home university:
Penn State University
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