On the Bosporus, spanning two continents, Istanbul is truly a city like no other. Sixteen million people live their lives here, among its towering mosques, its countless bars and clubs, and accompanied by an ever-growing number of stray cats.
Contrary to popular opinion, Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey though it was the centre of power for both the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empire. Formerly called Constantinople and Der Saadet, Istanbul was always one of the richest and largest cities of the Mediterranean and it is no wonder why Istanbul was one of the most coveted cities in the whole world and thus a constant target for conquerors until the Ottoman Empire established it as their capital city. Traces of this turbulent history can be seen throughout Istanbul.
Although certainly very touristic, a first-time visitor may want to stay in the historic old town of Istanbul, Sultanahmet. There, you are right in the middle of a number of world heritage sites and landmarks of Istanbul: the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, Basilica Cistern, and Kapalıçarşı, the Grand Bazaar, just to name a few. If the line is too long let’s not fret, there is much to discover away from the beaten path as Istanbul is bursting with historic buildings, sites and things to do.
But first thing first – get an Istanbulkart as it pays itself if you take public transport more than once. The card can be used as a ticket on any public transports and even some public toilets, plus, you will feel like a local using one with feigned confidence in a bus or the metro.
Now, with a Istanbulkart we are ready to take a tram to cross the Golden Horn, an inlet from the Bosporus, into ‘New’ Istanbul (Galata, Beşiktaş, Beyoğlu, Taksim). Be it a traditional meyhane, a fushion kitchen restaurant or a stylish boutique store, New Istanbul has it all. If you haven’t had your cultural fix, here you’ll find Modern art museums, including İstanbul Modern, the Pera Museum, Sakıp Sabancı Museum and SantralIstanbul. But, we are still on the so-called European side of Istanbul and you may want to use that Istanbulkart again to cross the big divide, the Bosporus.
Taking a public ferry from one side of the Bosporus to the other is one of the hidden pleasures of Istanbul. The cries of seagulls, the monotonous hum of the boat engine, and the distant train of buildings are a truly therapeutic experience shared with all Istanbulites. On board you are free to order some tea and simit (a ring of baked goodness, sprinkled with sesame seeds) to further elevate this moment. As a bonus, many of Istanbul’s sites can only be discovered from the water. The Ottoman Palace of Dolmabahçe with its impressive waterfront, or the remaining yalıs, 19th-century wooden buildings, all along the shore need to be experienced from aboard a ferry.
One of these ferries may take you to Kadıköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul. If you are looking for some night-life outside of ‘New Istanbul’ Kadıköy is the place to be. Kadıköy is another youthful part of town with bars, restaurants and shops, but also a bus station that makes discovering the Eastern part of Istanbul a breeze. (If you don’t fancy a drink, you can also take a ferry to Üsküdar). Generally speaking, the Asian part of Istanbul is known to be more conservative than the European side, but you may need to decide for yourself if you can trace these shifts. At the very least, if it’s a pub you are searching for, your chances are better across the sea.
“But what about the food?”
If it hasn’t become clear already, Istanbul is a city with a cuisine as diverse as its heritage. Istanbulites are people who enjoy the pleasures of life and the restaurants here are among the best in Turkey. It is a city where you can find any cuisine, and any mix thereof. However, one cannot go wrong with the simple combination of fish, some mezes, and a glass of rakı.
If you want to get away from the noise and stress of the big city you only need to take a ferry to the Prince Islands, about an hour off the coast. Prince Islands are another popular vacation destinations both foreign tourists and Istanbulites alike. Offering car-free streets, hundreds of stray cats, famous seafood restaurants, and -of course- its unique ice creams, the Prince Islands will ensure you have a memorable and relaxing day. Depending how you’d like to spend your trip you can hop between the different islands. If you’d like to use your legs a bit venture to Büyükada. Situated on top of the island’s central mountain is a pilgrimage church, Aya Irini. Unrolling a string all the way to the top of the summit supposedly fulfils one wish but if that doesn’t work, there is a restaurant that serves local wine (and offers a spectacular view). If a relaxed day in nature and away from people is more to your liking take a ferry to Burgazada; and if you fancy a swim, go to Heybeli, where if it is around July, August, September, you can ask a local to show you the best spots.
Last but not least, we leave a book recommendation for you to read before your Istanbul visit to make the experience unforgettable: Istanbul: Memories and the City by the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, Orhan Pamuk. (Oh, don’t mention it, you’re welcome). Maybe after your visit you’ll understand why Pamuk writes about hardly anything else but Istanbul.
. Look for powered or manual toothbrushes with the American Dental Association Seal of Approval. You can also ask your dentist for a recommendation to ensure your toothbrush has passed quality control tests for safety and cleaning effectiveness.
Bristle options. Manual toothbrushes or replacement heads for your electric toothbrush are available with hard, medium, or soft nylon bristles. Soft bristles are the safest and most comfortable option for most people. You could damage the enamel protecting your teeth, root surface, and gums depending on the strength of the bristles and how vigorously you brush your teeth. Rounded bristle tips offer even more protection.
Toothbrush head size. The best size of toothbrush head is one that permits easy access to the surfaces of all your teeth. A toothbrush head that’s one-inch tall and a half-inch wide is easy to use for most adults and can reach all of your teeth efficiently. The toothbrush should have a long enough handle to hold it comfortably in your hand.
Make sure to replace your toothbrush every three months or when it begins to show wear, whichever comes first. It is also vital to replace your toothbrush after you’ve had a cold because the bristles can accumulate bacteria and result in reinfection.