In case you didn’t know, Istanbul spans two continents. The main historical sights of the city and all the ‘must sees’ (the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace (pictured above), Grand Bazaar etc) are on the European side and it’s also the side where most visitors (including me) opt to stay.
I spent a lot of my time last week catching the ferry to the Asian side and hanging out over there. There’s not a lot of sights to see there as such, but it does have a more laidback and less touristy vibe.
After the OTT attention of the touts around Sultanahmet (where I’m staying), constantly harassing me to eat in their restaurant/visit their friend’s carpet shop/go for a drink with them, etc, the relative indifference of the shopkeepers around Kadıköy was a blessed relief.
I simply got the ferry over to either Üsküdar or Kadıköy (Kadıköy was my favourite) and from there wandered around discovering new places. The metro goes there too, but is not nearly as much fun.
A short walk down from Üsküdar pier (or a bus from Kadıköy) is the Maiden’s Tower.
The legend is that a king had it built to house his daughter in order to protect her from a prophecy that said she would be bitten by a snake before her 18th birthday and would die. Theory being that a tower in the middle of the sea would be safe from snakes.
After she turned 18 they went out to bring her back, taking baskets of food for a grand feast. However a snake had been hiding in a basket, bit the girl and she died. Proving that you can’t beat fate.
(a more likely reason for the tower is that it was built to warn mariners of a high sandbank).
You can take a boat out to visit the tower, but to be honest there wasn’t much to see there. There was a restaurant and a display with some stories about the tower, which you could read on the internet/in a guidebook just as easily. It costs TL20 (around 6 euros) to visit.
Kadıköy has a busy market, complete with lots of cafes, shops and some bars. From there you can easily walk down to the Moda area, a ‘trendy’ bohemian part full of cafes (waffles seemed popular), vintage shops with odd whimsical window displays and eventually a great view of the Bosporous.
I immediately decided this was where I wanted to live, but this was before I had been to the Cihangir district on the European side, which I also declared as somewhere I wanted to live. Now I’m undecided, although it turns out I’m not staying anyway, so it doesn’t matter. More of that next time.