Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beautiful Sensuous and Mysterious - Istanbul

After a long long time , I am writing a travel diary which I always loved the most. This time, its about Istanbul trip which I made on behalf of my company trip.
Istanbul, a city unique in itself as it lies both in Asia and Europe. I have recently been to this city and got a chance to feel the pulse of Istanbul. Istanbul is a city similar to our Mumbai, economically important with a population of 1.3 million, the highest in Turkey.
Like as usual, my way of writing travel diary is not much about discussing the history or art of city, but more about the life style of people and the thrills the city offers in terms of living there.
The city is beautiful with tulips grown on both sides of the roads; multiple colors and even you can see Istanbul flag made of red Tulips on the road. Needless, to say I felt in love with tulips and I find them one of the most sensuous and mysterious flower. So you can already judge, my first impression about the city- Beautiful, Sensuous and Mysterious.
Istanbul is beautiful with clean roads, flowers, old palaces and mosques, trams running in between the roads, cobbled streets and yeah extremely beautiful ladies. In Istanbul, you will find people coming from eastern parts of Europe, Russia and yes the local people are also there who are extremely beautiful. I don’t remember spotting a lady who was not extremely beautiful right from my hotel reception to the streets. The population is 95% Muslim, but way of living is completely European with people dressing in jeans, shorts, skirts and tops. Also, you will see 95% of people moving on the road smoking. I need to check the data about per capita consumption of cigarettes, in Istanbul, I swear.
In terms of tourist living there , it offers a host of place to stay from star hotels like Hilton, Inter Continental, Moven Pick to shared apartments and small and cheap backpackers hotels.
I was staying in Moven Pick at levente , which is 4 station from the commercial hot spot of the city called Taksim Square. There are good public transport with metro, buses and running going across the city.Its best to travel by metro, as it saves lot of time and money also. A trip from levente to Taksim costs 1.25 Turkish lira( 1 TL = 34 Rs approx) whereas by taxi its costs 15 TL .In night the taxi charges gets 1.5 times more.
A must place to visit in Istanbul is the hamam. Hamam is an Arabic word which means a place for public bath. In Istanbul, you will find good hamas in Taksim areas, where you can rejuvenate yourself after a 7.5 hrs flight from India.Th men and ladies section are different in hamam with big Turkish guys who scrubs your complete body after you get complete sweat out for 15-20 mins on a very hot marble floor. The cleaning is really good and removes the dirt that might have accumulated on your body and you are not aware about it. Hmmm, this seems one of the reason for beautiful and clean skin these Turkish people have.
Food in Turkey is good especially for the Non vegetarians; you can get all the non veg delicacy like Kebab, grilled mutton etc. The sweets are also good especially Baklava, though it uses lot of cheese. You can always find road side cafes where some live Turkish music is being played and can see people playing chess and smoking Hukkas. Hukkas ‘s are very popular in Istanbul which still shows the footprint of Arabic culture in Istanbul.
Turkey seems to have good music and dance variety with folk dances, Belly dance and Pop and Turkish rock. Belly dancer is so common, that you will rarely find an overweight lady in Istanbul. It seems, they keep themselves fit with belly dance.
Belly dance is also something which represents the nightlife of the city. There are many clubs and discos in Taksim and Akserya areas where belly dance shows are played in night. But, many of these night clubs are also pick up joints or a place to rip off the tourist money with many hidden costs. You need to be highly cautious about any stranger or a girl approaching you. They might be employed by clubs and would like to chat with you and may ask you for a drink. The moment you buy her a drink, you fall in the trap. A drink to lady can cost as much as 150 TL or 75 Euro.
I don’t rate the nightlife in Turkey as very high, as most of the place seemed to be shady and filled with pick up ladies and pimps. These are a risky preposition in Turkey , as there have been cases of robbing the tourists.
But yes, the city does look beautiful at night, with glazing lights, many shops and restaurants open till mid night and the sensuous and mysterious aura of the city, which makes you want to explore the city more and more.
Another, salient feature of the city I liked was the roads in the residential areas. They are generally very steep and the way houses are built, it looks good. Istanbul is surrounded by camile hills , which also gives a breathtaking view of the skyline of the city.
The city is also famous for its spice Bazaar and its true also to its reputation. You see variety of spices, dry fruits, fruit tea like apple tea, pomegranate tea, variety of sea foods, fresh cheese and meat and Turkish desserts.
When these shopkeepers see an India, they try to attract them by calling the names of apna bollywood stars like Amitabh bacchan, Salman khan, Kareena kapoor. Yes, the bollywood songs and dance are indeed liked by Turkish people and they find Indian women beautiful especially their big eyes.
I want to end this diary with a revelation made during the trip, that “Amit” is a Turkish name which means very big. Good to know..Ahhahaha!!!