Day 14: Istanbul

Having acquainted ourselves with the heart of the city’s historical sites in Sultanahmet, my family and I now set out to spend a day in Istanbul’s Galata district, home to Galata Tower and the ever trendy and happening Taksim Square. So happening, in fact, that as soon as we stepped off the tram, we walked right through a group of teenagers hanging out at a soccer-themed stage promoting the Eurocup, blasting Turkish hip hop, and then walked right past a gay rights march. Taksim Square is considered the heart of modern Istanbul.


That’s the Tunel, which is the world’s second oldest subway line (the oldest is the London Underground). You can see the beginnings of the gay rights march to the left.

Taksim Square leads into to Istiklal Caddesi, or Independence Avenue, a long street famed for it’s range of shopping. I found everything from Puma and Adidas and Topshop boutiques to rug merchants and tanbur craftsmen along this street:

Ä°stiklal Avenue

We had originally planned to see the Sufi Mevlevi Monastary, also in this neighborhood, but once we got there it turned out it was closed for renovations. I was dissapointed; this was one of the places I was most looking forward to during our trip. Nevertheless, we turned around and veered to a side street to find Galata Tower, built by the Geneoese in the 12th century:

Galata Tower

We rested for a while beneath the tower, people watching and munching on Turkish fruits as we regained our energy. (For the Persian-speakers reading, did you know Istanbul is full of golabi jangali? I was so excited, that’s one of my favorite fruits and it’s so hard to find in the U.S.!)

Near Galata Tower and by the foot of Galata Bridge lies the Galata fish market. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many fresh fish in one place in my life. I was on the lookout for mussels to cook at our apartment, but everywhere I went, I was only able to find people hawking steamed mussels with lemon. Raw ones were nowhere to be found, so we picked out a red snapper to take home instead.

We took our time walking across the bridge to get to the nearest tram at Eminonu station. The view afforded a stunning landscape of the Golden Horn, and fishermen were lined up along the entire bridge, ensuring a steady supply of fresh fish to the market.

Galata Fish Market

Fishermen at Galata Bridge

By the time we got home we were exhausted, but we didn’t mind. We had the freshest, most succulent fish to look forward to that evening! Paired with rice and a glass of ayran, it made the perfect meal to end the day.

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