For a city that sweats through summer, Istanbul is frozen over
It has snowed for three days, my connecting flight is missed and I’m hopping trams in feverish search of a bed for the night, thick snow swirling around my hood. I drop off my things in a Sultanahmet backstreet and grab my camera.
I catch a tram to the end of the line. The mosque at Ortaköy sits guard at the Bosphorus’ edge as residents huddle, play checkers and warm their hands against the fire. Wandering back through postapocalyptic Taksim, I wander beside the Galata Bridge and look across at a city hibernating.
Süleymaniye is perched on the Third Hill, carpeted in snow. The place is my own, as the entire city seems to be. I edge further towards the river as bazaar traders stir and wait for the storm to be over. Losing myself in the labyrinth, an open gate leads to a crumbling stone staircase before a dimly lit alley plied by workers. Tiny rooms line the walls, thick
clouds of smoke helping to mask the inhabitants of each. An old gentleman greets me and points towards the ceiling, his key slowly turning in the one remaining iron door.
A former stables for visitors to the Grand Bazaar for centuries, forgotten over decades. Holes in the roof’s structure punctuate the blanket of snow upon which I tread carefully, now standing above the entire old city. Peering over the edge, the winds relent, white dust clears. Birds resume their flight from the heights of Nemi Cami while the city inhales.
Location: The capitol of Turkey, sitting between Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait.
Coordinates: 41.0136° N, 28.9550° E
Population: > 14.16 million
An old gentleman greets me and points towards the ceiling, his key slowly turning in the one remaining iron door.
A Guided Tour
24 hours with Matthew Payne
Rise from your Airbnb place or hostel (you could do a lot worse than Bahaus in Sultanahmet) and head out early. Grab coffee (Turkish, naturally) and a börek, then you’re golden. Soak up the splendour of the Blue Mosque before the tour buses arrive.
Swapping continents before midday, catch the ferry from Eminönü to Kadıköy on the Asian side of the Bosphorus where things really take a change of pace. Lunch is served in one of the cafes lining the neighbourhood. The old train station here is a photographer’s dream.
Views from the Bosphorus are some of the best in the city. Enjoy the ferry back to Europe via Kabataş, putting you within striking distance of several impressive galleries,including Arter and Istanbul Modern.
Lose yourself in alleyways tucked under the Galata Tower before a stroll over the bridge, best rewarded with balik ekmek (fish sandwich) from one of the boats on the Sultanahmet side. Here, locals brush shoulders with tourists, each deliberating over whether one or
two is enough before taking pick of the innumerable nightspots in Taksim.
Lose yourself in alleyways tucked under the Galata Tower before a stroll over the bridge, best rewarded with balik ekmek (fish sandwich) from one of the boats on the Sultanahmet side.
Matthew is a freelance photographer. He has recently left his job as an elementary school teacher behind to explore South America in a 4×4. He prefers journeys over their destination and adventures once something goes wrong.