Dispatches: Istanbul Escape
The winter months in the northeast are no-one’s friend. And while it’s no secret that winters in this part of the country are less than desirable, every year I complain, so every year I flee. While the destination is sporadic, there are some common denominators – plus 13 degrees Celsius, availability to adult beverages, and more than eight hours of sunlight. Last month, Istanbul was my final destination.
Istanbul is not a city for the weary. It’s enormous in scale, the layout isn’t for the geography challenged, and well, its dynamic creates a much more intense foreign feeling than some of its European counterparts. All this aside, with no more than four days on the ground, we had our work cut for us. But not to fret, we also had Turkish coffee in our tanks.
Three things can be your best friend when traveling with limited time in any foreign city. For starters, the realization that you cannot and will not see all the stuff you either want to see, or what everyone else said you must see. And, nine of ten times, all that advice from friends and such is typically going to get you surrounded by packs of people wearing white sneakers and carrying a canon point & shoot around their neck. After you accept this simple fact, put together a realistic plan of attack that knocks out certain pockets of a city and has everything you need – shopping, food, culture and of course, libation depots. And finally, if you’re one of the six humans that do not own and iPhone, get your act together, then download the google maps app. The best free purchase you’ll ever make, it works offline and will save you countless hours looking foolish/vulnerable whilst fumbling with an over sized map in the one neighborhood you were told to avoid.
No exception to the rule(s), seeing the mammoth of a city that is Istanbul was accomplished in said fashion. During our four days, we canvassed the city, mostly on foot (the preferred method of exploring), searching for pieces of Constantinople’s past, hidden spots and quickly getting through the white sneaker zones. And while it’s not Istanbul’s fault per se, there weren’t a lot of shopping distractions, which left plenty of time to soak in the former Ottoman Empire.
While, the weather was nearly the same as New York, as was the hours of day light, Istanbul proved to be the perfect break to my seasonal set-back. If it’s not on your list, it should be. The architecture, people and food are all incredible, as is the exchange rate. And while I only dipped out for a long weekend, it only took a few hours to realize I’d be returning.