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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beyoğlu Istanbul

No neighborhood in a city has put me in as much awe as Beyoğlu in Istanbul. Located north of the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Beyoğlu, also known as Pera, is a beautiful old relic of the world filled with people milling around on Istiklal, drinking coffee, Raki, Efes Beer, tea, grabbing a quick snack at a Meyhane, or just staying up nearly all night catching up with friends.

Side streets off Istiklal
I cannot describe in words the vibe and the energy associated with this area of Istanbul. The main avenue through the area called Istiklal, was packed with people every day at all hours of the night. We would stay up fairly late on a Tuesday say having dinner, stay up later due to jet lag, and people were still out. We would wake up at the first call to prayer around 5 AM, and the local antique shops were just getting their business together (ah the memories of a local shop owner yelling HABIB! every morning). The fact is the place never slept, and we loved the feeling of that.

Dinner at a Meyhane

The old stone streets, hidden little sidewalks that wind between buildings, little clumps of
restaurants tucked into secret little parts of the neighborhood, it was unreal what you could find here. Sit down at any table on the sidewalk of a hidden side street in front of the many tiny restaurant with a single room dining area, you will be greeted with fresh bread, a platter with an array of tonight's house fare, made of local seasonal ingredients likely bought from a street market around the corner earlier that day. Take your pick of broad bean salads, pickled
fish, pickled vegetables, the egg plant dish of the day, and many more.

The beautiful thing about Istanbul is the pace and the time people take to stop working for a few minutes and have tea. Watch mid afternoon for local tea shops bring out a tray of 20 glasses of tea to the surrounding shop owners, a ritual taken every day. With so much activity happening in the city, it is hard to imagine anyone stops for a moment to take in life, but it does happen every day, and often throughout the day.

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