Istanbul – part 1 – In the heart of the city

http://openworldbg.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/1.jpgWhen I arrived in Istanbul, the sun was about to rise. I spent eight hours traveling from Plovdiv by bus, and I could not wait to stretch my legs. A quick glance at the bus station made ​​me feel small dozens of travel offices were offering me to buy a bus ticket to London, Paris, Berlin, to Moscow, Baku or Baghdad. I was wondering how many buses were just about to departure, where were they going? Weary travelers were sitting on the curbs, others were dragging heavy suitcases. How many of them were going to see Istanbul for a first time? How many of them were back home after a long trip? How many of them, searching for hapiness elsewhere, were saying goodbye forever to this city at a crossroads?

2I was going to spend the next nine days trying to get to know Istanbul, and more – trying to fall in love with Istanbul. Time – completely insufficient for any of the two tasks. Located on two continents, in an area of ​​over 5,000 square kilometers, with a population twice bigger than the population of my own country, this Turkish metropolis is one of the largest cities that I have ever set food in. The movement from one place to another involves the use of at least two different types of transport, often – even more. It is situated on seven hills, reveals centuries old history, combines old and modern architecture, it is home of different cultures, of people from all around the world, it grows, it breathes and it seemed to never stop, even for a moment to rest

I always thought that the perfect time to get to a new city is at sunrise. At that point, the first gentle rays of the sun shone down on the streets, inviting us to go on an adventure . For a first stop on our trip we chose Taksim – a name that we heard many times on television in recent weeks. Early Saturday morning, the neighborhood was just waking up. People were passing by in a hurry, the shops had just opened. I already could feel the heat in the air, even though it w3as only eight o’clock. Half asleep, at the beginning I did not even realized where I was. Only when I saw in front of me the Monument of the Republic, I felt the magnetic power of this place. Taksim, they say, is the heart of the city. This is crossroad of multiple tram lines , including that of the old red tram, which we’ve seen on postcards. Dozens of restaurants, cafes and clubs offers drinks and meal for the locals and the tourists. Taksim Square is the cultural center of the city, which hosts operas, concerts and exhibitions. And after sunset the bars and clubs open their doors to those who want to explore the nightlife of Istanbul. Although I could feel the importance and the magic of this place, at this point I couldnt fully realize how much more there was to offer.

4Few days later we returned back to Taksim, this time we had a walk on the famous Istiklal Street. Almost two kilometers long, it reflects the spirit of modern Istanbul. Historic buildings alternate with popular boutiques and glittering shop windows, small shops are nestled between expensive restaurants. Small cross streets invite you to get lost. Streets that lead to the aristocratic buildings and foreign embassies, to modern art galleries and small museums, streets of artists, musicians, poets, dead end streets or streets that will reveal the daily lives of ordinary citizens. Turkish flag lazily swaying in the terraces, along with the flags of some of the most famous Turkish football teams. At the doorstep of every building there was a cat. These delicate creatures are the most loyal inhabitants of Istanbul. Quietly soaking up the sun, huddled in the shadows, half-asleep, but always on the lookout, they look as they are indifferent to what is happening around them, but it is them that know all the faces if Istanbul.

5Walking in the crowd, I could not help but feel lost. Lost among pedestrians, among Japanese tourists, among high and low buildings, among towering in the air minarets. Lost in time, in space – between Europe and the Orient, between now and then. Lost between colors, so many colors bright, dark, warm. Lost in the fragrance of spices, tobacco, expensive perfumes. Lost in the sounds in the sound of a hilarious speech in a foreign language, in the laughter., in the hit songs coming from the bars, in the music of those street artists who put their hats on the ground, hoping to fill them with coins, these street artists who sing about love, pain and life, these street artists who play musci in rhythm of the pulse of the city

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