Happy New Year from Istanbul

Istanbul is the center of the universe for handmade carpets and the cats who love them.

Istanbul is at the crossroads of the old world and history. Once called Constantinople and the center of Christianity, it was the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Latin Empire. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks captured the city, renamed it Istanbul, and made it the capital of the Ottoman Empire and the Muslim world. It lies on two continents and three strategic waterways. And it’s a very cool place to visit!

The Hagia Sofia was a Christian church before the Turks overtook the city in 1453. Today, it’s one of several iconic mosques in the oldest part of the city.

I arrived here on Wednesday and have spent most of the time in bed with a cold but I was able to hit the highlights – the mosques and public markets — and enjoy the incredible food here.

My little hotel serves a typical Turkish breakfast — this one includes olives, fresh vegetables, hummus, fruit, cheeses, honey, breads and a yummy spread called Muhamarra, made from red peppers and walnuts.
Mustafa’s small restaurant is next to my hotel and I’ve eaten there every night. Mustafa is such a warm and friendly host and makes excellent vegetarian dishes. He always has music playing to set the mood. Tonight: Hawaiian guitar performing such classics as “My Way” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”

Today, I took a ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul for had a special walking tour with Emrah, a professor of urban planning and architecture at a local university. We were in the vibrant neighborhood of Kadikoy, away from the tourist center in Sultanhamet. Emrah explained Kadikoy’s diversity — mostly Turks, Armenians, Kurds, Iranians, and Germans — and its counter-culture history. One of my favorite Kadikoy businesses is “Walter’s Coffee.” Walter refers to the protagonist of Breaking Bad, and the cafe has a coffee “lab” and yellow jumpsuits that you can put on for a selfie.

Emrah in front of one of the many murals in Kadikoy. By strange coincidence, we are reading the same book! An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine is one of my favorites ever and it has a special relevance to Emrah’s wife, who translates literature.

The Armenian Orthodox Church in Istanbul celebrates Christmas on January 6, which is when it was historically celebrated. The date was changed by the Roman Catholic Church to pre-empt a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the sun on December 25.

It would be hard to overstate the presence and influence of cats in Istanbul. No one reacted to this intrusion.

Emrah’s knowledge and fascinating stories make me want to return to Istanbul when I don’t have a cold. He has three more walking tours! But I have a flight to Beirut in the morning.

In Istanbul, I met a man who said he knew beyond a doubt that God was a cat. I asked why he was so sure, and the man said, ‘When I pray to him, he ignores me.’ – Lowell Thomas

39 comments

  1. Happy new year Kim! I loved reading this article and enjoyed your pictures. I hope you get over your cold quickly and enjoy the rest of your travel adventure! Stay safe !

  2. Sounds like your journey has started off well despite your cold. Istanbul does sound incredible and undoubtably could consume many days of your time with all its attractions.

    Your photos are brilliant and made me hungry for the food you’re enjoying, interested in the sites you had seen and, of course, wanting to see the kitties in charge of running the city.

    Hope you keep posting updates on your trip in the days to come!

    1. Hola and very happiest of holidays my dear. Hope you feel much better, soon. Thanks for the fascinating peek into Istanbul, and enjoy the rest of your travels. Beirut should be fun, too. Feliz año nuevo!!

  3. Great post Kim and Happy New Year! I loved Istanbul when I visited in 2011. Did you visit the island that is full of cats? I can’t remember the name. I noticed all the cats too and like Vic, like the thought of them running the city. The walking tour sounds wonderful. Enjoy Beirut! Oh! And I love the Lowell Thomas quote.

  4. So sorry about your cold. Yes, Turkish food is delish. I love getting a vicarious thrill from your travels. Please keep the posts coming!

    1. I tried! I even bought the tickets but the highs in Cappadocia this week are in the low 40s and that’s just too cold for a California native since hiking and riding were my objectives!

  5. Oh, as usual, Kim, magnificent photos of fascinating and colorful places. We love your descriptions of the food, cats and vibrant environment of this magnificent historically significant city–we were there in 2003, a propitious time when Bush bombed Iraq! We loved all of Turkey. Hope you get over your cold, stay safe and continue having outstanding adventures, meeting kind and interesting people along the Camino Milagro. Hope to connect back in San Miguel when you return. We are there until Feb. 28th. Abrazos! P.S. Just read Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, in which old Istanbul plays a big role.

  6. love the pics. Forwarded to a Turkish friend and to a nomadic cousin-sorry abt cold (no fun ever but especially when traveling

  7. Oh Kim!, so good to hear from you.. If there is one place I want to visit, it is Turkey, Istanbul. I feel like I lived there in a former lifetime. Enjoy for me. Love, Me’irah

  8. Another lovely story Kim. I’m sorry about you being sick. When I saw you had a place in Mexico I thought maybe you were planning on settling down. Take good care and have a great 2023 and beyond.

  9. Your travel logs are amazing, Kim. I love reading them. With regard to Istanbul, Dave and I spent a magical week in and around Istanbul many years ago. Thanks for these postings.

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