Straddling the Bosphorous strait, Istanbul enjoys the unique distinction of being in both, Europe and Asia. The capital of Turkey was shifted to Ankara when it donned the status of a Republic, but Istanbul remains its largest city as well as the cultural and financial centre.
Spring, autumn, winter or summer…make sure you never get caught in Istanbul without an umbrella. High annual humidity means that rain is always around the corner. Pleasant temperatures in late spring (late May to early June) and early autumn (late September to early October) make it the best time to visit.
In its avatar as Constantinople, Istanbul served as the capital of four empires for a period of 16 centuries. Its strategic location attracted an eclectic mix of settlers whose traditions and cultures meshed together and enriched the fabric of this city. Rich history supported by modern infrastructure has put Istanbul on the bucket-list of most travellers.
Unified In Diversity
A cherry red building amidst the shops and cafes of the hip Beyoglu district of Istanbul marks the venue of the Eklektik Galata Guest House.
The restored 1890 building matches the many 19th century buildings in the neighbourhood. Its interiors though are another matter. It may be a small boutique hotel with just eight rooms, but with each room adorned in a one-of-a-kind theme, it demands more than one visit. Detailing is the key here. Every element of the room – walls, floor ceiling, furniture, furnishings, and accessories – is aligned to the room theme.
White walls and use of wood and soft yellow lights come together to create a calm, peaceful setting promised by a room that is called the Zen Room. On the other hand, vibrant printed furnishings and chic wallpaper as a backdrop for form the decor of the Retro Room.
Silk furnishings, a crystal chandelier and a marble bath in one corner create the luxurious look demanded by a room titled the Sultan Room.
Considering that the hotel is located in Istanbul, it is apt that it should have a room named the Hamam Room. Soft lighting and marble floors seek to create the same ambience as the traditional hamams found in the city. Heated floors and a Marmara bathing area complete the feel that the room seeks to award its patron. And then there are the Black Room, Red Room and Laylak (Lilac) Room which work with different shades of the colour they are named after.
A small terrace tops the Eklektik Galata with the fantastic views of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorous being the only decorative touch here. The personalized touch dealt to the rooms as well as every nook and corner of the guest house helps create a cosy home-like atmosphere.
You may enter as a sightseer, but you will leave a shopper. Built in the 1460s, the 65 alleys and 5,500 vendors in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar would put Ali Baba’s cave to shame.
From Ottoman era artefacts to leather jackets and shoes to jewellery, carpets, spices, coffee beans, fabrics this covered market in the city is a treasure trove.
While some features of modern shopping have slipped into this bazaar, its ornate ceilings, marble water fountains and kiosks preserved from the earlier eras keep it tethered to its ancient origin.
First built in 360 A.D., the Hagia Sophia is a standing document of the changing face of Istanbul. Destroyed, by both man and nature, the structure was rebuilt many times. A church for the first 11 centuries, and then a mosque for 5 centuries, it was established as a museum in 1935. Its blue dome surrounded by the four towering minarets makes its presence felt throughout Istanbul. Mosaic representation of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, royalty and complex patterns, and intricately painted walls and ceilings make this a must-see destination for any visitor to Istanbul.
Dining Down Under
A flight of stone steps lead you below ground. Light from the chandeliers bounce off the stone walls, colour them a liquid gold. Originally built to serve as a cistern, it is difficult to imagine the dark, cold and damp walls that preceded the warm and cosy ambience of the now renovated Sarnic Restaurant. Original stone walls, high fireplaces and tall wrought iron candelabras successfully transport the diner to the Roman times.
The renovated fish market of the Besiktas district of Istanbul is everything a typical fish market is not – it is bright, airy and roomy. A triangular concrete and steel canopy stretches over the column-less market leaving the lengths open to welcome buyers. Incandescent bulbs suspended from the ceiling hover over the tables and highlight the fresh catch.
Text By Himali Kothari