Interrail #8 Multicultural Clash in empty Istanbul

Hi everyone,

the last stop of my interrail tour in March was Istanbul in Turkey. This visit took place about 3 weeks before the referendum in April. Due to all the political tensions and problems during the past months, I’m not quite sure how to describe my impressions of that city and country. When I first came up with the idea for my tour, friends and family have already been concerned about me going to Turkey whether it’s safe for tourists in general or not. In the end, everything was fine and I had a good time in Istanbul, however I’m not sure if I would recommend going there at the moment for various reasons. As a fellow writer and grown up in Germany, I support and defend my right of free expression and I hope for all the journalists in Turkey to be set free asap.

From the traveller perspective, Istanbul is a vibrant city combing many cultural attributes. It offers great insights into some historical developments and oriental traditions.

I arrived early Thursday morning by bus, since the night train didn’t go all the way into the city. From then I had three days until my flight back home Sunday morning. Like in many cities before, my plan was to do a walking tour for starters and stroll around the city afterwards, looking for places to go and things to do for the next days. My hotel was right next to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, where the walking tour was supposed to start. However, it was only another girl from Ukraine, Orysia, and me, so we walked around the streets of Istanbul by ourselves.

To me, the city appeared incredibly huge and flooded with people from all over the world. You couldn’t take a step without hearing multiple languages or pass a restaurant without being invited. Nevertheless, after a while one also recognises the massive amount of empty tables in many bars and restaurants as well as the mainly Asian, African and American people walking along the streets. Europeans are mostly rare and despite the high number of Germans I usually meet no matter where I go, it’s rather unlikely to meet one here. Besides, on my flight home, someone tells me that Istanbul was rather empty compared to the usual number of tourists in the city.

Blue Mosque from the inside – no blank spot on the wall, everything is carefully painted and women have to put on a cloth on your head and a skirt
Ördekli Bakkal Sk – south region of Istanbul with many seafood restaurants
Grand Bazar
Grand Bazar
Streets of Beyoglu
Me on Galata Tower with Istanbul in the background
View from Galata Tower on Galata Bridge and Eminönü and the Old City district
View from Galata Tower on Beyoglu, Bosporus and Üsküdar

Street Art in Beyoglu

After crossing Galata Bridge and climbing the Galata Tower, we spent the afternoon walking around Beyoglu. Besides many cats on the streets, there were also quite a number of paintings and street art in various forms.

On the way back to my hotel, we got a glimpse of the nice park right at the edge of the Old City.

Gülhane Park

As crazy as it sounds, I met an American girl again in Istanbul at the Grand Bazar just by accident. September and I had originally met in Vienna and I gave her my number to meet again in Istanbul. However, this didn’t work out and I already though we wouldn’t meet anyways. While checking out some nice china at the Grand Bazar, I spotted her buying something at the booth across the way. This has really been a strange and happy moment – we exchanged the correct numbers and met again to have dinner in the evening. (The next to pictures are from that evening.) September left the next day for her next stop in Greece, so it was the last chance to meet up. We found a nice Turkish restaurant and tried some good traditional food. It’s been quite a nice evening!


Wild Horses on the Prince Islands

The next day Orysia and me took the ferry to visit the Prince Islands. Following a recommendation from a nice German lady we met at the Grand Bazar and who has been living in Istanbul, we left the ferry at Adalar to walk around Büyükada. The weather was brilliant and just perfect for a stroll through nature. After so many city walks, it was a welcoming change to breath some fresh air in the woods and see some green leaves instead of grey high buildings 😉

Right at the little harbour, many tourists and locals were buzzing around the shops and restaurants and I got to see much more canvass than in Istanbul itself – at least it was more present. After a few minutes of walking we had left all the busy streets and sounds behind us and enjoyed the peace and stillness of nature around us. The steep streets were quite challenging but doable.

Additionally, the Prince Islands are mostly car-free zones, which means people walk, cycle, some take a small moped or ride a horse. For tourists they have many horse carriages to show them around the island. The lack of cars makes it really enjoyable to walk around and creates a special atmosphere. Even the animals are freer than usually and live mostly wild on the island. Horses and cows crossed our path walking their way looking for some more grass or water. It’s a great feeling to be such close to a wild animal and just fell nature.



Looking down the streets on Büyükada
view from Büyükada to Üsküdar (the Asian part of Istanbul)
Wild Horse on Büyükada



in the harbour of Kadiköy during the way back
Bosporus and Bogazici Bridge

On the way back from the Prince Islands, we got back in time to witness the sunset from the boat and the last bit from Galata Bridge. It’s been a beautiful evening and it’s always special to be on a boat during sunset. Not easy to catch the right moment and the atmosphere.. but just awesome to be reminded of the moment!

Halic Metro Bridge


Galata Tower at night

On my last day, Orysia and me spent the morning on a boat again to get to know the Bosporus and the area a bit more. Sailing up and down we enjoyed the view and relaxed from the walking intense days before. In the afternoon, we explored Kadiköy for a short while and finally wrapped up the stay with a typical hamam. Such a pleasure to end some incredible but exhausting travel days through Eastern Europe.

Ortaköy Mosque at Bogazici Bridge
Ayasofya with the sun rising at the back
Blue Mosque in the early morning sun

With these early morning pictures, I left Istanbul and ended my 18-day-lasting interrail tour through Eastern Europe. It’s been the first time that I travelled all by myself and it’s been a different journey in terms of culture and experiences compared to my trips before. I enjoyed those very intense weeks on the train and in the cities! It’s been a pleasure to meet so many kind people everywhere. The tour also included some strange and even scary moments but that’s okay and just gives me the chance to grow.

Thanks for staying with me for the tour!

Next stop back in Germany will be Heidelberg (and with each blog, I’m coming closer to my present time travel plans now)

– see ya there, Anna


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