There are some cities where you simply feel safe, feel well, places you feel a warmth sensation every time you are coming back. Istanbul has a unique type of energy that naturally elevates my mind and my mood. Travelling regularly to a place you appreciate that much and that conveys such great energies is in the end all about practising self-care and mindfulness. It empowers you, it energises you, it enables you to breathe ease and peace.
It is magic, majestic and hypnotic. I never had this feeling of connecting to a place on this level. It is not about what I do or who I find myself with it is about being here, being mindful of the hypnotic energy I get, being totally free.
Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the city bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. Its multiple cultural identities are embedded in its identity which largely contributes to my fascination with the city. The Greeks, the Italians, the Jewish, the Kurdish or the Armenians these communities have lived for centuries in Istanbul and have left a tremendous cultural heritage.
To me, Istanbul is this city with multiple faces, from its historical neighbourhoods to its modern and artistic dynamism, its mesmerising Bosphorus neighbourhoods, its street art, its beautiful mosques, churches and synagogues, its omnipresent music and its peaceful Prince’s islands. There is this unique contrasting atmosphere coexisting in the same city. From a neighbourhood to another, it may feel like you undertook a travel through space and time.
Elif Safak, a well-known Turkish writer, expressed accurately what I feel about Istanbul.
“Istanbul inspires, energises and suffocates me simultaneously. Strangely, it’s both old and young, East and West, modern and traditional. You put everything that sounds like a ‘cliché’ inside this cauldron called Istanbul, cook it for centuries, and the outcome is something that defies all clichés. It is full of vibrant energy and mesmerising contradictions.”
– Elif Safak
The historical area, of course, is a must-see if it is your first time in Istanbul: the Grand Bazaar, Ayasofya, Sultanahmet Mosque, the Topkapi Palace. On the European side, the Beyoğlu and Beşiktaş neighbourhoods are magnificent and essential to explore.
However, the last time I went in the city I wanted to discover another side of Istanbul too and to take my time. I wanted to spend afternoons writing poetry by the Bosphorus and in the loveliest café I have ever been to on rainy days. I wanted to go for the first time to Turkish baths, cycle on the Princes Islands, take part in different activities and classes, interact more with people from Istanbul. My wish was to simply walk, wander and explore the city fearlessly and that is what I just did. During my time, I discovered a bit more the Asian side and the Prince’s Islands.
The Princes Island is a resourceful archipelago of islands situated in the Marmara sea it is a haven of peace. The Asian side is not touristic but has so much to offer with places such as Moda in Kadıköy and Kuzcunzuk in Üsküdar. It is not the more “oriental” side of the city as we can often hear. I would rather say that the coexistence of cultures is omnipresent on both sides.
My favourites things are this sensation when crossing the Bosphorus and of course Turkish food! A fusion of Mediterranean and middle eastern dishes.Visiting places like this, places you love and places that stimulate all the great energy in you, places that trigger unique and mesmerising sensation, explains why Istanbul is great and it always feels great to me.