Istanbul . Fatih . Eminou . Beyoglu . Besiktas . Sariyer . Trakya
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This area comprises Istanbul and the entire European portion of Turkey or the north west corner of the country. Outside of Istanbul, Trakya has some remarkably diverse landscape with forests and lakes along the Black Sea, stunning beaches around Kiyikoy and vast brown wheat fields swarming over the rolling hills. Unfortunately, the area has been one of the worst hit by the ghastly concrete-cube development which is devastating Turkey. Along the Marmara and in the Western suburbs of Istanbul are sprawling developments in various states of completion standing in lakes of mud. The landscape of these almost-build structures is rather post-apocalyptic. It seems some sort of horrible cataclysm has struck the land, but the true cause is base greed.
        Istanbul is something else. A gigantic city of some twelve to fifteen million, Istanbul contains practically everything. It is also the only place in Turkey where you will find a true cosmopolitan atmosphere. You also find some maddening traffic, hopeless crowding, deafening noise, thousands of riot police and millions of slum dwellers in the Varos.


Istanbul is huge – there is simply no other way to describe it. In the past ten years the city has almost doubled in size due to economic migration from the Black Sea region and Kurdish refugees driven out of their villages in the Southeast. Depending on how you want to count it, the population can be estimated at up to fifteen million. The population has grown so fast that no telephone books have been published there since 1992.

Physically, Istanbul is also gigantic occupying the shores of the Bosphorous from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and then the coasts of the Marmara as far as Izmit in theEast and Tekirdag in the west. The land itself is hilly aggravating the tangled and congested road transport system.

The Bosphorous is the defining feature of the city. It is spanned in two places by suspension bridges, one at Ortakoy and the other at Rumeli Hisar. At its most narrow the Straits are barely 600 yards across. A swift current of six knots flows through. A popular activity is to sit on the shore and watch the shipping pass through on its way to or from the Black Sea. At places the channel is very close inshore (less than 100 yards) and the sight of a supertanker sweeping by like a floating tower block is very impressive. It is also very frightening when one thinks about what might happen if one of these tankers should run aground and either spill or explode; this is the middle of a city, after all. The quickest and most pleasant way to get around Istanbul is by one of the ferries which operate across or along the Straits. In some places ferries are the only practical way of crossing.

Public transportation in Istanbul is very comprehensive going practically anywhere and running very late into the night. The problem with the bus system, dolmus and metro (useless), is that they have inadequate capacity and are generally supremely overcrowded. At rush hours it is the cubic capacity of these vehicles which gets filled. At times the doors cannot close all the way. If you are forced to stand in these conditions it is uncomfortable, to say the least. Busses all have their routes printed on a placard hanging on the right side of the bus. Routes are identified by the areas through which the bus passes. To get around Istanbul you must learn the names of these areas. Road names are seldom used and often unknown, even by the people who live on these streets.

Istanbul is divided into districts or ilce each having its own local government comprable to the borough system in London. Much like London, these borough governments have no power to speak of.
The important districts are below organised according to the side of the straits on which they are located, and from South to North.




is on the south side of the Halic (Golden Horn) and contains a good number of historical places. Fatih also contains a good number of yobaz Sunni fundamentalist bigots and the atmosphere can sometimes feel very repressive. To add to the medieval atmosphere, Fatih also has the Eminiyet security building on Vatan Caddesi. This is terror/torture central for Istanbul, although the modernistic exterior of the building makes it seem more like a banking institution. Unless you are looking for hidden Byzantine buildings and monuments there is very little for healthy-minded people in Fatih.

Just through the Topkapi gate though is the Topkapi market which is one of the best markets in Istanbul. This is an excellent place to go to buy household goods, clothing (new and used), shoes, parts for the car, agricultural implements, bolts of cloth, broken bits from various machines, old German porno magazines – practically anything if you are willing to spend the time wandering around looking. There are also a good number of eateries in this market serving all varieties from the Anatolian kitchen. This is a very cheap market.


is the Old Stamboul district with most of the major sites of interest to tourists in Sultanahmet Mahallesi. If you want to know about these things, get a guide book or go to a site like [insert link(s)]. Eminonu has a varied make-up as far as population is concerned. There are more tourist touts per square meter in Sultanahmet than in any other place in Turkey and you are more likely to run into hassles here than anywhere else in Turkey. Tourists there are in legion, from practically everywhere in Europe. There are also a good number of Russian and Eastern European traders (and prostitutes) working in Aksaray and Laleli. And there is a good spillover of yobaz from Fatih here as well. Eminonu is probably the most annoying place in Istanbul.

However, Eminonu also has some of the best markets in Istanbul as well. Around the Sirkeci railway station, heading west along the Golden Horn is a market area specialising in electronic goods, bicycles and photographic equipment. This is the place in Turkey to look for anything in these fields. Further west is the Misir Carsi behind Yeni Cami where all manner of kitchen equipment, spices, and foodstuffs are to be found as well as a very nice garden centre selling whatever you need to grow things, although the likelihood that you have any patch of earth to call your own in Istanbul is extremely slim. Also in this area is a pet market where various birds, dogs cats etc., along with supplies can be bought. Up the hill, in the direction of the bogus Covered Market , are streets crammed with fabric and supply shops. Farther west from Yeni Cami are streets which sell hardware, agricultural goods, cheap wooden furniture, ironmongers goods and firearms. On Sundays behind Yeni Cami when the regular market is closed, the streets fill up with hawkers selling very cheap clothing from tables set up in the alleys. From time to time the police club everyone out and the market is not running, but when it is this is the best place in Istanbul to look for clothing bargains.

Up on top of the ridge, on Divanyolu along the tramline is Beyazit . This is where Istanbul University is located, and beware of the regular riots which are fought out between police and Leftists, police and Islamists, Fascists and Leftists and so on. These can turn very ugly and it is best to stay away when you see the stormtroopers deploy. At weekends there is a market in the square in front of the main gate of the university. This market is mostly run by refugee Kurds so goods from the Southeast like Kurdish tobacco (excellent), smuggled metal and mosaic work from Syria, books and various clothing are sold mostly from tarpaulins laid out on the ground.

A popular mafia hangout is Kum Kapi on the south side overlooking the Marmara. This area has many gazinos where you can get your fill of over-priced, watered liquor, mediocre food and schmaltzy arabesque singing. This is strictly a place for dudes with open shirts, medallions and pointy shoes. Russian prostitutes (known as Natashas) also abound in this area.


is the real downtown, the cultural heart of Istanbul. Most everything that you are likely to want to do is available here, if it is going to be available anywhere. This is the place to go for nightlife, politics, performances and so on, and is arguably the best preserved neighbourhood in Istanbul.

Beyoglu has a diverse population of residents. As it is the old diplomatic quarter of Istanbul, the area contains dozens of consulates, some of them in very grand old buildings. Many foreigners live here as well as much of Istanbul's art community. Along the ridge, on Istiklal Caddesi, the majority of the people are on the Left. This stretch of cobbled road with its restored tram line is one of the two most socially liberal areas in Istanbul. However, when you go downhill on either side, the population goes more and more to peasant immigrant/refugee again. In the numerous abandoned and decrepit buildings live hundreds of street children. On the East downhill side in Kasim Pasa are a lot of gypsies. There still are tiny pockets of Greeks, Armenians and Jews living in the area, although their artefacts are much more obvious than their present. Hidden around the area are many old and grand churches and synagogues, a few of them still in use.

Taksim Square is the centre of it all, and one can get to Taksim from anywhere in Istanbul. This is where most of Istanbul's five star accommodation is as well as most of the airline offices, bus companies and the Taksim bus stands. The square has an unfortunate recent history. On May Day 1977 thirty-seven people died when the Labour Day rally was attacked by snipers on the roof of what is now the Marmara Hotel. Only two of the killed were shot to death; the remainder were trampled as they tried to escape through the single narrow street which the police had not closed off.

The tradition of political violence continues in Taksim. On any given day behind the Republican Monument (Cumhurriyet Hekeli) one can see white police armoured cars parked, their crews lounging around smoking cigarettes and reading sports newspapers. On Saturdays look for the weekly demonstration of the Saturday Mothers in front of Galatasaray Lisesi at noon. Every week for the past three years these old women (most of them Kurds) have been coming to demonstrate regarding their children who have disappeared, presumably taken and killed by the security forces. This demonstration has been attacked several times over the years, and there are always several hundreds of sinister-looking Steel Force riot police ranked up in phalanxes in full Star Wars riot gear complete with automatic weapons and attack dogs. Back on Meshurrieyet Cad. police buses wait to take away the prisoners. In a cynical effort to mislead the media, an Interior Ministry van which reads "Missing Persons Search Assistance" is always parked, unused next to the Lise.

Istiklal Caddesi is the favourite venue for marches and demonstrations of all sorts. Every political party has an office on or near the street. Leftist groups wage poster wars on the hoardings, plastering over each other's propaganda with great regularity.

There are a number of places of interest in this area which are worth visiting.

Political Offices

Bars and Meyhanes


Balik/Cicek Pasaj is the covered street on the right just before you get to Galatasaray Lise. This is a good place to buy difficult to find foods such as duck, prawns and so on. While the prices in the market here are higher than most other places in Istanbul, the quality of the fish and vegetables here is some of the best. As this is so centrally located, it is a convenient place to get things like dried mushrooms and so on. Branching off to the right halfway down the pasaj is Nevizade Sokak, a street lined with mehanes with tables set out on the pavement. In summer this is an excellent place to spend an evening with friends drinking raki and eating meze under grape trellises. It can get very crowded here around nine p.m.

Aslahan Pasaj is on Hamalbasi Caddesi, parallel and very close to Balik Pasaj. For afficianados of Turkish pop culture, this is a good place to browse through used book stalls, junk shops selling old arabesque film posters, postcards and photos from bygone eras and so on. A few stalls have limited collections of English language books at reasonable prices.

Terkoz Cikmazi, if you can force your way into it, is a very good place to look for export second clothing. The prices here are unbeatable, but the crowd in the narrow alley ploughing through the chaotic piles of garments on the tables is so thick it is sometimes impossible to even enter much less make your way to the back where the real bargains are. Terkoz is on the right as you approach the Tunel end of Istiklal. Just look for the alley packed with women fighting over T-shirts.

Away from Istiklal

Tophane on the Bosphorous is where the Russian and other cruise ships dock. While this area is a good place to buy the sorts of things Russian smugglers are interested in (i.e. dishes, cheap furniture, biscuits etc.) there is not much of interest here other than Kilic Ali Pass Hammam, perhaps the best Turkish bath in Istanbul. The bath is not at all touristy like those in Sultanahmet or Galatasaray are, and the use of the bath is about $3 dollars. You must speak at least some Turkish to manage here, but it is well worth it. The bath is some three hundred years old (its outer dome is sprouting moss and ferns) and is never crowded. It is directly across from the miserable Tophane park behind the BP station.

Karakoy is the a ferry terminus with seabus as well as ferry connections to Kadikoy and Haydarpasa. In the alleys behind the waterfront are numerous shops which sell all sorts of electronic components, tiny switches, capacitors, cables etc. More interesting is the fish market on the wharf to the left of the ferry terminal. This is the cheapest place in town to buy fresh fish, and as prices for fish in Istanbul are exorbitant, the values are really stunning. Go early in the day as no one has refrigeration.

Kabatas is about a kilometer up from Tophane and is another ferry terminus. From here you can get ferries to Uskudar as well as ferries to the Princes Islands and to Yalova near Bursa. Seabuses also leave from here.

Sishane is down the hill on the side of the Golden Horn. There is nothing all that interesting here, but there are a number of cheap, clean hotels here which are excellent values considering their location. Accomodation at places like the Yesil Ada can be got for as little as $5 a night.


Going north from Beyoglu along the Bosphorous the next district encountered in Besiktas. While not so interesting as the other districts, Besiktas is easy to manage. The people here are mostly on the left or at least secular and middle class, and there is no hassle here at all. It is a good place for shopping in general and one of Istanbul's major communication centres.

From the Iskeli, ferries cross regularly to Uskudar and Kadikoy. Right next to the Iskeli are the local bus terminals. Buses to almost every part of Istanbul including Anatolian Istanbul leave from here. Across the costal road to the right is the municipal vegetable market which sells high quality produce at good prices. Back in the streets to the left are shops selling clothing, the sort of stuff which appeals to students. There are a good number of private schools (dershane) in the area as well. Up Barbaros Bulvari a hundred and fifty meters is Computer Time where you can by most of the parts you need for your computer for reasonable prices. Back in the shopping section is an overpriced fish market.

Ortakoy is a pretty neigborhood about three km north from the centre of Besiktas. It has some lovely restored Ottoman buildings and a pretty little mosque on the sea side, built by an Armenian architect around 1890. However pleasant Ortakoy is to look at, it is an obnoxious place with snooty trendy rich kids strutting around and overpriced restaurants with bad food. Everyone has attitude here. Who needs it?

Arnavutkoy is a pretty area further up from Ortakoy with some good examples of the old wooden Black Sea houses and some reasonable places to have breakfast. There is also a good deal of the same Ortakoy crowd here in the evenings.

Bebek is the old home for Istanbul's mafia and many expats. The only good thing to say about Bebek is that you can get to Anadolu Hisar by hourly ferry boat from here. There is a park where you can sit and watch Philippina maids take squalling brats to McDonalds and see gangster's molls walking yappy little dogs.


Sariyer is the last district going north on the Thracian side. It runs all the way up to the Black Sea including the fortress at Anadolu Kavagi. Until recently Sariyer was heavily wooded and mostly rural, but now it is one of the fastest growing gecekondu (shanty town) areas in Istanbul. It also has some truly monstrous areas of American style glass-and-concrete office towers set in fields of mud and rubble. For the most part the population are recent immigrants from the Eastern Black Sea region, chiefly Rize and Ordu and they tend to be fairly conservative in the village sort of way. There are also a lot of fascists here which makes things a bit nervy if you know what is going on. The upshot of this is that, besides the coast, there is little of interest to most foreigners in Sariyer, and it is a long way from Taksim.

Rumeli Hisar is really one of the nicest places in Istanbul. Here the channel runs very close into shore and so the ships pass by right in front of you, as big as life, only bigger. To the right of the castle along the road are a number of good places to get breakfast and tea to accompany the parade of vessels on the water. A great place to begin a lazy morning.

Emirgan is a nice, quiet seaside suburb north of Rumeli Hisar, and it is where some of the richer people like the Sabanci live. There is a very pleasant tea garden near the bus stop where the rattle of backgammon dice can be heard from dawn to past midnight.


Only about 5% of Turkey lies on the European continent, much of this area beng taken up by Istanbu's srawling Western suburbs. Strangely, even though rural Trakya is so close to Istanbul, it ahs some areas of surpising natural beauty; unspoilt beaches, green forests, quiet lakes and forgotten ruins in addition to the shithole concrete towns and tangled mess of motorways.

Trakya is also where the frontiers with Greece and Bulgaria are, and if you are crossing through to or from these countries you will have to pass through Trakya.


Edirne is a frontier city only a few kilometers from Bulgaria and Greece. This was not always the case (Edirne was once the capital of the Ottoman Empire) but politics have a funny way of influencing geography. While Edirne has an excellent assortment of Ottoman mosques, bedestens and so on, it is really just a very large truck stop sitting as it does on the main land communications route to Europe.

Getting to Bulgaria from Edirne is simple. The cheapest route is simply to take a dolmus from the centre to Kapikule and then just walk into Bulgaria. On the Bulgarian side there are taxis to Svilingrad where you can get a train or a bus to points West and North. From the otogar in Edirne you can get a bus to Sofia, Burgas or Plovdiv and two trains a day go to Bulgaria (one to Sofia and one to Velinko Tarnovo), but this method is slower and more expensive than just doing it yourself.

Getting to Greece is another story. Due to the perpetual hostile diplomatic relations between Turkey and Greece, walking across is not permitted. The frontier is heavily fortified and most likely heavily mined. A night train leaves from Sirkeci station in Istanbul on to Salonika in Greece passing through Edirne in the early hours of the morning. Busses leave from various places in Istanbul like Aksaray, but there are not as many of them as you might expect. Coming the other way from Greece is much more difficult. Your best bet may just be to show up at the crossing and hitch.


Kiyikoy is an old walled Black Sea town about three hours journey west from Istanbul, but it might seem more like thirty as isolated and uncorrupted as this place is. Kiyikoy has the advantage of being at the end of some bad roads and there is no road along the coast for some sixty kilometres in this part of the Black Sea. This means the beaches on both sides of Kiyikoy are imaculate, unspoilt and empty. Camping on the beach or in the forests behind the beach is a simple process of walking until you find an appropriate spot.

The town itself has a village atmosphere with flocks of sheep being herded through the street and tractors parked in front of shops. There are some cheap restaurants and tea houses here and some nice, but over priced pansiyons (about $15 a night). It is very calm and quiet. Kiyikoy has yet to be hit with the sort of swarming concrete development which has devastated the Aegean and Mediterranean areas.

To get to Kiyikoy by bus you need first to get a bus from the Bayrampasa otogar in Istanbul to Cerkezkoy or Saray. From Saray Kiyikoy Belediye busses leave hourly for Kiyikoy, but they stope running around dark. Hitching from Saray is very easy once you find the right road.

The Marmara

The Sea of Marmara has an ancient history, but it's modern function is primarily to be the cesspool for Istanbul, Izmit and Bursa. More than twenty million people live around this small inland sea and two thirds of Turkey's industry is here. So don't eat the fish, even though they all say its from the Black Sea.

That said, there are some good places here which you should visit. The Marmara islands are beautiful, seldom visited by foreigners and cheap. Bursa and Canakkale are easer to get to than the islands and offer some interesting distractions.


All the English speaking Turks speak with a broad Australian accent here which can be very disconcerting. The reason is that across the Straites are the Galipoli battlefields and it is a major pilgrimige site for Autralian and New Zealand tourists. But don't let this get you down: Canakkale is also the gateway to the North Aegean region.

The town itself is on the East side of the Dardanelles a bit down from the Narrows. It has been a major strategic place for thousands of years and evidence of fortifications from dozens of civilisations litter the area including the disappointing ruins of Troy. Most of the accomodation is near the clocktower about two blocks from the ferry landing. If you go back from there, cheap eateries abound in the market area. A good cheap place to stay is the Kervansaray where beds can be found for around $3 a night.

South from Canakkale are some of the most impressive olive growing regions in Turkey and the coast here is not all that spoilt yet. You can take a local bus to Geyikli which is a nice little Aegean town with a pleasant square and street cafes, and from there hitch farther in. Close to Geyikli is Odun Iskelisi where ferries leave three times a day for the lovely vinyard covered island of Bozcaadi. Bozcaada is a good place to camp on the beach and get blind on the local wine, but there is little cover on the island and you are likely to fry in the sun.

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