IT’S THE 8TH OF OCTOBER, 2011 TOWARDS NINE OCLOCK, I’M RELAXING ON MY TERRACE, A GLASS OF SCOTCH IN HAND, WHILE TAKING IN THE VIEW OF THE BOSPHORUS. IT’S 22 DEGREES UNDER A CLEAR SKY AND THE FRAGRANCE OF SPICES WAFTING IN FROM NEXT DOOR IS COMFORTING. I’M ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD ON A QUIET STREET, FIVE MINUTES FROM THE MAIN ARTERY LEADING TO TAKSIM SQUARE, THE HEART OF ISTANBUL.
This is my fourth visit to Turkey, my first took place in 2000, and I observe that Istanbul is constantly evolving. From the souks of the Grand Bazaar to the patchwork of trendy restaurants in the Cihangir quarter, from the call to prayer – which can be heard from anywhere at various times of the day – to high-tech digital facilities popping up on downtown buildings, Istanbul (formerly Constantinople, and before that, Byzantium), built at the interface of Europe and Asia, is simply unique, magical, truly fantastic.
Designated European Capital of Culture in 2010, Istanbul is a liberal metropolis, open and safe. Many young Turks, after having lived abroad, return home, bringing with them knowledge of new ways and experiences. A stroll through Istanbul is a journey in time, but also a parade of modernity.
While it’s most agreeable to visit the old city, it’s mosques and other busy historic sites, Istanbul has more to offer. Hidden neighbourhoods rise up to reveal many pleasing surprises. You have to walk around, regardless of the hour, in Taksim, Çukurcuma, Galatasaray, Galata, Tunnel, Pera, to discover small local restaurants, resident designer boutiques and antique shops, luxury stores, contemporary art galleries and happening discos. So find time to sleep beforehand, because Istanbul offers something to intoxicate day and night. It’s Europe with an oriental flair in an architectural setting, a remnant of the Ottoman empire. Warm, entertaining, mysterious, chaotic, Istanbul has something for just about everyone, but not for the inexperienced traveller.
Istanbulites love an evening out, to talk and hang out in the streets, meeting at outdoor terraces. They appreciate the simple pleasures of life and know how to have fun. Leave your baggage and worries at the hotel and flirt with this city. Unlike our beautiful, but occasionally sanitized, North American metropolises, Istanbul offers an utterly charming and irresistible experience. Gentlemen, grow out your mustaches and beards, it’s a ‘must’ in Turkey!
We wish to thanks Air Transat for their precious collaboration to realization of this reportage. Air Transat offers direct flights from Montréal to Istanbul, starting May 12th to October 14th, 2012.http://www.airtransat.ca/fr/Destinations/466/europe/turquie/istanbul.aspx