A visit to Istanbul is not complete without crossing the Golden Horn to the other side of European Istanbul. And it cannot be any easier. A short walk from the Grand Bazaar you can cross the Golden Horn (which back in the day was closed with a long chain to prevent ships from coming in) by bridge or by a short boat ride to the Galata/Karaköy area.
I opted to cross by boat. Upon landing on the other side, I went past a spot with a lot of activity where fishermen came in with their goods.
The sea was right there, no big barrier between the sidewalk and the beautiful blue waters of the Bosphorus!
I made my way to the Galata Tower (about 67m high) built in 1348 by the Genoese who had commercial interests in then-Constantinople. It sits on a hillside so you will do some exercise getting there and then you will climb it. Yes, lots of work but you will rewarded with great views of Istanbul landmarks like Topkapı Palace, the Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque.
Along the way, I stopped at the Neve Shalom Synagogue that had been bombed a dozen years earlier (and then 5 years after my visit). It is not an old building by Istanbul standards having been finished I 1951 but it is the largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul. The guards were not sure if to let us in but they spoke Turkish and Yiddish only, languages none of us knew. Thankfully German (which I spoke at a very elementary level) and Yiddish sort of relate a little – enough to say we were American, to understand they wanted to know what hotel we were staying at, and answering. We were allowed in.
Beyond these places, I enjoyed a local place called Ece Bar in Tramvay Caddesi, facing the Bosphorus. It was a three level locale with the bottom level offering a feel for traditional local music and dance. We were hosted by the owner, Ece, and it was a neat experience. Other levels offered more standard restaurant and bar services. I have tried to see if it is still in operation but have had no luck.
I also meandered up some large avenue going east-ish from the Golden Horn which gave me an opportunity to see more of modern Istanbul, not just the old quarter where I spent most of my time. Istanbul offers contrasts in so many ways: the population reflects in its “look” the mix of peoples that have been through here; modern buildings sitting side by side structures from days long gone in one incredible juxtaposition.
At the end of this walk I met my friend’s girlfriend for lunch and then I decided not to walk back as I was tired and ended up with a mini-adventure. See, I wanted to come back by water so I could admire the grand old mansions that sit right by the shores of the Bosphorus. However, I somehow got lost trying to find a boat stop and the locals I ran into spoke none of the languages I could communicate in at the time (English, Spanish, French and German). After a lot of walking and beginning to wonder what to do, I ran into an older Dutch couple who had a clue and who were doing exactly what I had hoped to do – success!!
I highly recommend the crossing of the Golden Horn and a boat ride along the shores of the Bosphorus (not just crossing the Golden Horn) as you will a glimpse of the Istanbul of today – and of yesteryear.