Sunday, 13 May 2012
MY WEEKEND IN ISTANBUL
* Before you start reading this blog post, please put on the song with Tarkan below to get the right feeling.
Just spent the most fantastic long weekend in Turkey Istanbul together with my dear friend Nanna and her boyfriend Umur who lives in Stockholm. We were greeted and taken care of by their generous and welcoming crowd of friends who lives in Istanbul. I arrived to this 17 million city on Thursday with the early morning flight from Charles De Gaulle.
Turkish Airlines is a surprisingly nice company to travel with. Smooth, easy and comfortable. Didn’t even have to take the obligatory gin tonic to calm my nerves on this trip. Got ripped off by the cab driver from Ataturk Airport into town though, who made me pay 80 Turkish Lira for the ride in advance (normally it’s about half) but I guess that’s things you have to count in as a foreigner the first time in a new city. We stayed at lovely House Hôtel, elected one of the best new hotels in the world by The Conde Nast Traveller located in the modern and fashionable area Nisantasi, with stores like Chanel, Prada and Hermes on the same street.
The House Hotel in Nisantasi
The bars in that street were similar to the cosy cafés you can find in for example South Kensington in London and the crowd is a mix of local jet set Turks and a few tourists who doesn’t hesitate to spend a little money. The evening started with drinks at cosy Brasserie Nisantasi followed by Biber Bar on the same street (which is owned by one of Nanna & Umurs friends) for champagne and chick peas. Then we all went for dinner in their friends newly opened restaurant Jack Russel in Rixos Hôtel in the Pera area together with a group of maybe 15 people. Due to problems with the electricity light went out several times during the dinner so we were sitting there dining in the dark, which was pretty original, trying one little dish after the other. In the end the chef got fired for unknown reasons...
After the dinner we went to Angelique, a popular nightclub with the most amazing outdoor terasse and view over Istanbul By Night. Many glasses of champagne later we ended up at the traditional club Samdan, a place that have existed for over 30 years where they played Turkish hits mixed with european floorfillers. We danced until dawn to Tarkan mixed with ”I follow Rivers” with Lykke Li. Absolutely a great night.
What makes Istanbul so special is the mix of old school east and modern west. You can see both veiled women fishing from the bridges and fashionable party Turks dancing to international hits at the nightclubs, magicians in the streets, carpet and water pipe salesmen. I thought the Turkish people were generous, kind and helpful.
The next day we had an excellent lunch in one of the cosy brasseries in the Nisantasi area. Then it was time for some obligatory sightseeing, so we went to the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya two of the oldest mosques/churches in the world. When the night came we all met up for drinks at Biber Bar as usual and then we went for a traditional turkish dinner at Doga Balikcisi at the City Center Hôtel in Pera. A restaurant on the roof top of a hotel with an amazing view over Istanbul.The night continued at Biber Bar where there was some sort of private party with happy dancing party Turks sipping drinks, dancing to the dj who once again played -Lykke Li!
After that our friends wanted to show us the biggest discotheque in Istanbul, Reina, that one of them used to run 10 years ago. After a fast taxi ride without seatbelts (that no one seems to wear in Istanbul) we went in the VIP way and got a table. Reina felt like a huge club in Ibiza with an open terasse overlooking the sea and an amazing view over the city. When the dj played Lykke Li (cause now we knew it was gonna come) the party Swedes were hands in the air and I was a bit surprised the Turks liked Swedish music so much. Several drinks and hours later I decided it was a good idea to have an afterparty at my hotelroom. Which I had. But that's another story…
The day after, on Saturday there was a huge soccer game in Istanbul with several thousand people coming in from all over the world just to watch the game. Since I'm not interested in soccer I didn't pay much attention more than that I noticed it was impossible to get a cab. After 3 hours of sleep we went up and took the ferry over to one of the beautiful Prince’s Islands an hour outside Istanbul. The island was covered with white palaces one more magnificent than the other. Cars are forbidden on the islands. Instead everyone was traveling with horse and carriage and we took one of those to go up to the top of the island to have lunch and visit a monastery.
When we came almost all the way up the driver stopped at some sort of square and told us we had to walk the rest of the way. Since both Nanna and me were wearing high heels we decided that it wouldn’t be a great idea. The driver then told us that there was another possibility. We could ride all the way up –on donkeys! That was an idea both me and Nanna found much more appealing, so we rented the poor creatures who all looked tired and rode all the way with our heels attached to the saddle. Turkish women in burkas and scarves on the way were laughing at the funny tourists looking nerdy on donkeys. I think we laughed even more..
Nanna on lazy Ior
The last days after some shopping, I discovered a local turkish designer; Burce Bekrek (Nanna is currently filling her wardrobe with her stuff) and we went for dinner and drinks in Biber Bar and ended up in a traditional Turkish nightclub down the street were they played only Turk hits. It was weird and we tried to find suitable dance moves to this oriental music and all the songs sounded like Tarkan (the only Turkish artist I know.) It was great fun and the night ended at no hour all covered in champagne as usual…
Turkey was full of surprises, magical rabbits, great food, flying carpets, homeless animals, a new world of music and new friends. A great experience and I already decided to spend parts of my summer vacation in south of Turkey were we got invited by our friends and to go back to Istanbul in September….
To be continued…
More pics coming soon...