Istanbul is the largest, most dynamic city of Turkey with a population of around 18 million. It is the epicenter of economic activity in the country and totally lives up to its hype. One thing that was evident on our scenic drive from the airport was the nationalistic pride of the Turkish people. We spotted several Turkish flags on various establishments and residential complexes. The other element that stands out is the immense respect the Turks have for the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Istanbul is also sometimes known as the city of contradictions. Despite 99% of the population being Islamic, the state is very secular and is leaning towards Western values, which is evident because of their willingness to enter the European Union as a permanent member. The people in Turkey are friendly and are very passionate about football (soccer). The three major football clubs in Istanbul include Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Galatasaray. As shown in the picture below, this was reinforced by the flags of football clubs on the trading desks at the Borsa Istanbul Stock Exchange.
If there is one thing you will not be able to get over in this wonderful city, it has got to be the kebabs. Located in the old city of Istanbul, Sur Ocakbasi (restaurant) was a tough find, however completely worth the wait. We followed Anthony Bourdain’s lead on this one and were not disappointed. Some of the delicacies included, adana kebab, chop sheesh and lahmacun (Turkish style flat bread pizza). Besides restaurants, you will find tons of cheap doner kebab options across the city from 4 TL-20 TL. The drink, Ayran (yoghurt milk) is also a must try. Last but not the least, have a drink at the roof top bars with a 360 degree view or enjoy a sheesha on the streets on Taksim square, the energy of this city will not cease to surprise you!
The boys devoured those kebabs!
Our local sheesha hangout