Istanbul is a city that surrounds many cultures. The city has been at the cultural crossroads for 3000 years and has a long tradition of offering warm hospitality to travelers who land on its shores. It also quickly becomes a home for those who want to stay a little longer.
While most visitors today see the mosaics of the Hagia Sophia, Bargain hunt at the Grand bazaar, travel back in time on topkapi palace or admire them View over the Bosphorus from the Galata Tower;; Few venture beyond the tourist attractions of Istanbul.
The city has layers and if you don’t go beyond that Sultanahmet district or the Taksim placeIt is nothing short of a crime!
When a friend and I decided to explore this city for an entire week (yes, an entire week!), We never once doubted that we were going to run out of things. Just watching the city go by, sitting in a café, was enough to make us fall in love with it.
But we were still amazed at how much Istanbul had to offer when we strayed from the beaten path.
Such an adventure was a tour Fener and Balat, Neighborhoods in the Fatih district, A less visited but one of the most historic and culturally diverse areas of this city.
UNESCO also confirms the relevance of its importance by making this area one of the cultural heritage sites of the culturally vibrant city of Istanbul.
Historically, Fener and Balat were the Greek Orthodox and Jewish hearts of the city of Constantinople. These places were mainly occupied by traders who made Istanbul their home at the time. They lived from trade for many years. Slowly they became part of the material that gave Istanbul its exotic charm.
The population was a lively mixture of Sephardic Jews from Spain, Greek and Armenian Christians.
Our local guide, a happy young lady, brought the history of these places to life as we walked through the narrow labyrinth of steep, winding streets.
The bus from Eminonu took us to the heart of Fener, from where we went to our first stop, the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate It has been the spiritual center of the Greek Orthodox world since around 1600.
We arrived just in time to witness our first service in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Even if you don’t experience a ceremony, a look into the church with its colorful mosaics and striking sculptures will make your visit an unforgettable affair.
A steep climb from here through old, tattered but pretty houses brought us to Phanar Greek Orthodox College, With its imposing red brick building, it is an unforgettable sight. Before the Ottoman rule, it was one of the oldest educational institutions. Unfortunately only about 50 students study here today.
That would have been a fascinating addition Fethiye Museum It was a Byzantine church that was turned into a museum. However, it was restored during our visit.
Our next stop was Chora (Kariye) Museum This offers breathtaking mosaics that represent essential events in Christianity. Like many of the monuments in Istanbul, it also reveals as much about the city and its eventful past as it does about itself.
Our walk also led us through a tapered one Balat neighborhood With chic cafes and restaurants that led to a kind of urban revolution. With their fascinating facades and bizarre themes, they not only offer photo ops worthy of Insta, but also a pleasant break to try delicious dishes.
Aside from a number of European restaurants, there are some that offer you an authentic taste of local dishes. We dug ourselves into meatballs and had a piece of it Pide (Turkish pizza) accompanied by a glass Raki, Finally we ended our short but delicious lunch lokum (also known as Turkish Delight),
The last station was that St. Stephens of the Bulgarian Church is located along the banks of the Golden Horn. It was assembled at the end of the 19th century and built in prefabricated cast iron in the neo-Gothic style.
Parts of this architecturally beautiful building were made in Vienna and floated down the Danube to Istanbul. The interior of the church is still used by the small Bulgarian Orthodox Christian community and is decorated with breathtaking glass mosaics.
The jewels we discovered in two of Istanbul’s oldest quarters on the Golden Horn were worth the steep climb through the cobbled streets every moment. It was a journey through time in which children played on the streets lined with picturesque houses, which in some cases were 200 years old.
A generation that has seen it all still survives in old, crumbling structures with criss-crossing clotheslines, and the aura in the district is old to the core when I notice older women chatting in a corner in headscarves.
The character of a city lies in such pockets. The next time you visit Istanbul, take a day to explore this vibrant and historic corner that takes you to the heart of this magnificent city. A city that not only spans two continents, but also has a rich heritage that is over 2000 years old.
About the author: Namrata is a travel and food writer for ticker Eats the World. Getting lost in the labyrinths of historic cities is your ideal vacation. She has a penchant for unique and unusual experiences and therefore likes to travel slowly. Although the world is their oyster, India is home. If she doesn’t create an adventure vacation for travelers (and herself), she writes about her personal travel experiences. Continue to follow your travels Instagram and her blog – happypheet.in
Photos: Author, Pixabay and Unsplash
Categories: Europe, Istanbul, TETW Writer, Travel, Turkey
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