Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul is one of the most popular, well known and busiest streets in Turkey. Around 3 million people a day walk along the pedestrianised street – in comparison, Oxford Street in London has less than a million visitors a day!
Renamed ‘Istiklal’ (independence) avenue after victory in the war of Independence in October 1923, the road is 1.4km long and stretches from Galata to Taksim Square. It’s bustling with people and is lined with hundreds of buildings, shops and even entire multi storey shopping centres. There are clothes shops, sports shops, book stores, cinemas, galleries, hotels, cafes, clubs, bars, restaurants, patisseries, coffee shops, Turkish delight shops, the list is endless! There are familiar names like Sketchers, Marks & Spencer, Krispy Kreme Donuts, Starbucks, Caffé Nero, Decathlon and Sephora.
Apparently, it used to be known as the ‘Paris of the East’ – I’ve not been to Paris but it reminded me a little of New York. Modern shops and hotels are mixed in with historical gems – like St Antione’s Church which I wrote about previously, or Çiçek Pasajı which opened in 1876 and is so named because in the 1940’s it had a lot of flower shops and stalls -now it’s a galleria of restaurants and cafes.
Towards one end of the street I came across the most beautifully located Starbucks, sat behind a water fountain. To the left of that, an ice-cream shop called Hans & Gretel which looked like a lot of fun with fun decorations inside and out – if it wasn’t a cold morning I definitely would have gone in there!
We strolled along the street twice – once at 10am on a sunny Saturday January morning from Galata towards Taksim, and once on the Sunday night, around 8pm in the opposite direction, Taksim all the way to Galata. Early in the morning the street wasn’t busy at all, but Sunday night it came alive and there were thousands and thousands of people.
I preferred it at night, the atmosphere was just brilliant. My favourite part was sitting inside a little patisserie by the window on the 2nd floor, looking down on people walking along, families and friends, young and old – a real mix of people. We had a little sweet treat – Berkay had Künefe and I had a delicious cake, beautifully presented! Opposite us on the other side of the street there was a coffee shop inside the Demiroren shopping centre, with tables outside on a tiny balcony which was covered in fairy lights – I thought it was the cutest thing ever and next time I’m definitely finding that place again and stopping by for a coffee up there!
I also loved the fact that the buildings lining the street still had Christmas (or New Year) decorations up. A hotel had a beautiful display of flowers and teddy bears above its sign, and other buildings had garlands, baubles and twinkly lights everywhere. Lights were hung along the street, above people’s heads, wishing them ‘yeni yılınız kutlu olsun’ – a happy new year.
Aside from the shops and the historical buildings, the other ‘must see’ is the nostalgic 19th century tram, running along the road from Tünel to Taksim. They started running around 100 years ago, but in the 1960’s were taken out of service. After the pedestrianisation and regeneration of Istiklal Street in the 1990’s, the tram was reinstalled and is now the only vehicle other than official state cars, police etc, that is allowed to drive along the road. The red trams are a major symbol of Istanbul and are popular with tourists and locals – it’s rare to see one that doesn’t have someone hanging onto the pole on the back, posing for a photo (whether its stationery or not!) They apparently still take around 6000 people a day along for a ride, though the inside is tiny with only a few single seats and not much room at all – people must get very crammed in! I like hearing the bell, warning you to get out of the way, as they drive down busy street – I expect it’s frustrating for the driver, and it’s probably quicker to walk!
P.S As always, please click the images to enlarge them.
A final note – When I was writing this post, the Coronavirus Pandemic was just starting here in Europe – in the 2 weeks it took me to finish writing and editing this, the world looks a lot different. It’s sad that we won’t see the streets of Turkey, or UK, busy and bustling like my photos here anytime soon – but one day it will all be over, and we can get back to visiting and experiencing everything these places have to offer – it’ll be waiting for us, as soon as it is safe to do so. (:
We went to the market for the first time in over a month yesterday, we used to go every week but haven’t been recently for one reason or another – I was ill, we had plans with friends, it was too hot, etc. We normally wait for the Tuesday Fethiye market as it’s bigger, but we needed fruit and vegetables for this weeks meals, so we headed to the Sunday market in Calis instead.
I love the food on market days, we used to always go to one of the snack cafe’s inside to have a Turkish pancake for lunch, but we had leftovers from yesterday’s dinner today so we didn’t go there. I’ve written posts about our favourite market cafe food before, click HERE to read that.
We bypassed all the cafes and went straight to the fruit and vegetable stalls, this is where we buy all our weekly fruit and vegetables as it’s generally much cheaper than the supermarkets or small shops. Prices vary dramatically throughout the year for certain things, obviously it depends what is in season and what is not, for example – a month ago we got kiwi’s for 6tl per kg, now they’re 20tl per kg, that is one crazy price increase.
The colours you see in the market are so diverse, vibrant and fresh, from the multi-coloured spices to the pastel coloured Turkish delight and the bright fruits and vegetables. It all smells so good too, apart from the olive and cheese sections, I always hold my nose around both of those stalls…stinky.
I was surprised at how quiet the market was, there were very few tourists around at all, in fact I can’t recall seeing, or hearing any! We went around 5.30pm, perhaps it was too late? That’s another trick you quickly learn, shop in the early evening to take advantage of both the cooler air and the lower prices as people prepare to pack up their stock and go home. The atmosphere at the Calis market compared to the Fethiye one is very different – its less busy and there’s less of a sense of urgency, everyone is always in such a rush during the Tuesday one! There was even a cute fluffy dog just strolling around.
As well as all our fruit and vegetables we usually buy all our chicken here too, from the ‘ay pilic’ van which is our favourite place to buy from. They also sell eggs, but we usually avoid buying those here as the whole tray rarely survives the journey home, there are always a few casualties! My favourite thing about this stall is the fact is sells HP Sauce. This is the only ‘English’ item I regularly buy and insist on always having in my cupboard! I ran out a few weeks ago and we were waiting for pay day to arrive to restock my supply, so I was very pleased when I saw some on the shelf today! Last year they sold it for 4.5tl, now it’s gone up to 6.5tl (£1.85) , along with the beans. Who in their right mind would pay 6.5tl for a tin of baked beans? They’re not even Heinz! The price of imported goods has rapidly increased here. While we were at their van/stall I spotted a big bottle of sweet chili sauce and asked how much it was, 11tl they said (a good deal for the size of the bottle!). We only had enough money on us to buy this or the HP sauce, and of course the latter option won. “We’ll buy the other one next week” Berkay told them, “no, no, take it now, you can pay next week, we know you!” they said. Now this made my day, how kind and how trusting? People are always complaining about Turkish people ripping them off in resorts, and I don’t deny that that does happen, but some of them are so kind and really lovely, genuine people. It makes no difference to them whatsoever if we bought the sauce this week or next, yet they let us take it away anyway. They know us, we use them all the time, but that’s still a really trusting, nice thing to do.
Apart from food, of course there are other aspects to the market too – there are stalls selling clothes, shoes, belts, bags, toys, homewares, baby clothes, towels, sunglasses and an abundance of ‘genuine fakes’. I wrote about some of that in a previous post from last year, click HERE to read.
We ended up coming home with 1kg of chicken wings, 1 chicken breast, 2 chicken drumsticks, HP sauce, several kilograms of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, peppers, bell peppers, green beans, apples, pears, 2 garlic bulbs and one huge 8.6kg watermelon. (Ouch!) This will probably last us 7-10 days and all came to a total of 60tl or £17, which yes is cheaper than you’d pay in the UK, but please consider the wage differences here in Turkey, this is more than a days wages for Berkay.
When we lived at our old house, the bus route didn’t run along our road, so we had to walk for 15 minutes, that was never fun with several kilograms of fruit and vegetables (we certainly wouldn’t have been able to carry that massive watermelon!), so I’m thankful the bus now goes practically to our front door!
The markets are always worth a visit even if you don’t intend to buy anything, it’s a brilliant place to sit and enjoy a cool drink, a Turkish pancake and do some people watching too. (:
We hopped on the dolmus and went on a little visit to the Turkish delight factory (http://www.servetsekerleme.com) in Calis yesterday.
I’ve been wanting to go for ages and at 6pm yesterday evening, Berkay announced over dinner that we were going out somewhere as a surprise, and that’s where he took me. (: I’m very easily pleased.
When we got off the bus, wow, the smell. YUM.
It’s basically a mini department store, this place sells everything. Handmade natural soaps, decorative soaps, jewellery, key rings, wind chimes, decorative plates, cay glasses, china & ceramic goods, silver & brass Turkish coffee pot sets, oils, nargile pipes, there was even a section for clothes upstairs.
Also an impressive collection of herbs & spices.
The main attraction though, was obviously the Turkish delight! There is a huge selection of all kinds of Turkish delight and other sweet goodies. There is also a huge glass window where you can look through and see the factory workers making it all. It smells so good.
This is what we came home with, Turkish Delight, some soft chewy sweets and a bracelet that Berkay bought for me, how sweet. (: