Yeeee! First trip with baby on board taken, and all went well. We were thinking between Istanbul and Dubrovnik and my parents convinced us that 2 weeks in Dubrovnik with a stroller and a super hilly terrain might be a bit too much, plus they’d fallen in love with Istanbul and so it was decided. Not that Istanbul is a flat city or in any means a loosely fitted one, we managed just fine with a small travel stroller and a carrier.
fresh avocado lunch by the shore in Bostanci
We had booked a place just besides Taksim square but the demonstrations had just started escalating in there and allthough I believed we’d be in no immediate danger, a wise friend of mine said ’tear gas is a very democratic weapon that doesn’t choose its target’. So we quickly made a move over the bridge south of it.
Our new digs were in the suburb of Fatih, described quite rowdy but at least daytime i’d say quite the contrary. We stayed at Balat Suites in their standard room 2 that is located a block behind the main building. No seaview from there but also no noise from the road or the park in front where people enjoyed themselves to the wee hours on weekends. The apartment was clean and spacious with all necessary amenities for a family. The surrounding blocks cater for everything you might need; a bakery, vegetable shop, supermarket, liquour store, general goods store (where the shopkeeper kindly brought a potty to his shop in a couple of days when we asked for it) and a couple of restaurants and cafes are just a minute from the front door. Also playgrounds are abundant around the city, we found 3 just 10 minutes walk from our place.
our 'home shore' from the Ataturk Blv bridge
Turkish people are hospitable, kind and unbelievably nice, lovely and smiley when it comes to babies. (it seemed so overwhelming at least to us coming from Finland where kids are generally unfortunately seen as a nuisanse and behaved even hostile towards…) Our baby bloomed in Istanbul, she cried a whole 3 times throughout the whole trip and became very social and smiley. Strangers would clap, smile, play with her and hold her in their laps everywhere and she seemed to enjoy every minute. Hence, our moving around the city was slow as we’d stop every few minutes to wave to someone or to receive a compliment or a local mashallah! Of course it’s everyone’s own decision if that is a joyful way to pass a day and enjoy the local culture or if it feels too invasive. We loved the effect it clearly had on our child and even though sometimes the 50th passerby who wanted to hold her could have seemed a bit tiring we thought it was worth it because she seemed so happy.
We strolled around the city, used every possible local transportation on land and crossed to asian on ferries a few times. I was astonished to see schools of dolphins jumping alongside regular passenger ferries! I’d never thought Istanbul to be a wild dolphin spot, quite a value for your 3TL boatride!
The distances are long, we walked about 10 km each day and go nowhere by foot. Catch a bus or a tram to the desired location and walk around there. We walked a few times to different locations that seemed very close on the map (8-15 km in reality) but the city is so huge and hilly and hot and humid and…. just ended up being too tired to care when we got there. Eminonu was the closest transportation hub to us, so sometimes we walked there but mostly caught the bus as several lines went right past our front door.
afternoon traffic on the bosphorous
on the steep, bouncy Galip Dede street
We ate well, mostly on the seafood places. Tried to always pick the one filled with locals and besides a couple misses (got my only food poisoning at a fancy restaurant in the posh neigbourhood of Nisantasi..) all were a succes. On the asian side, take the boat or bus to Bostanci, grab a to-go lunch from a local shop and enjoy the few kms walk back towards Kadiköy (catch a bus anytime you feel tired) alonf the shore and the beach. In Kadiköy there are some great seafood joints to get fresh catch of the day with a cold beer.
In Sultanahmet area it’s best to steer clear of the empty touristy restaurants and again grab some food to go and walk into the park for a picnic. Locals seem to barbeque quite everywhere so if you feel like it, join them and buy a small portable grill, some charcoal and maybe a bag of chicken from the butcher. In Turkey everything is available so there’s no excuse not to indulge in whatever you fancy.
fishermen on the Galata bridge
At the tunel end of Istiklal street (right hand side if you’re facing towards karaköy) there’s a great little restaurant. Can’t remember it’s name and in the window there’s a display of maybe a goulash for 7.99 but you see young people entering all the time and it’s got this dark wooden interior. Try it. Great simple food, good value and a friendly staff. Polish/Italian/Turkish, who cares, the food is good!
I’m sure Istanbul has a wonderful nightlife packed with awesome clubs and bars and is a city of romantic restaurants, great sights and excotic shops. This time we just soaked in the streetlife, got lost here and there, met lots of people and ate well. We were also in bed by midnight. Family holiday in Istanbul, very recommended.
our nightlife -shooting artsy streetlamps on a thunder night...