Asian Part Travel Guide

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HAGIA SOFIA MUSEUM

HAGIA SOFIA MUSEUM

Svetlana Ho

There is a local idiom which states that Istanbul is spread out upon two continents. Even the slogan of the advertising campaign for Istanbul in the competition to host the 2000 Olympics read, "Meet where the continents meet." I believe there is some truth in the phrase "Istanbul is spread out on two continents" in real terms - Istanbul accommodates two very different cities on the European and Asian sides, and the difference is not limited to the area codes of the telephones.

When you board a boat at Eminönü or Karaköy and cross over to Kadiköy you will be surprised by the transformation not only in geographical, physical and architectural terms, but also in cultural terms. The cultural level of Kadiköy residents appears to be above that of the average of the population of Istanbul in general. Kadiköy also accommodates higher numbers of university graduates than any other district of Istanbul. It seems that more writers, artists and intellectuals (real or pseudo) prefer living in Kadiköy, such as the renowned pop singer and television presenter Baris Manco who recently died, who lived in Moda, Kadiköy.

Kadiköy is a large district and accommodates different life styles. You can observe the nouveau rich as you move east from the harbour to Bagdat Caddesi, which is a place to see as well as to be seen. It is almost a comical pleasure to watch the foreign brand fanatics displaying proudly their brand clothes and shoes, or people showing off their recently acquired cars. Equally interesting is to see the abundance of cell phones that almost everybody - from the thirteen year old school girl to the seventy year old grandmother - seems to need even for a short walk to the corner store.

If you are a newcomer to Istanbul or if this is your first trip to Kadiköy, after you alight the boat, I suggest you to stay in the vicinity. Walk to the traffic lights and cross the road, keep walking alongside the old council building and then walk across another road where the main post office is on the corner and you will see the fine intersecting streets, which are normally closed to cars. This area is known as Kadiköy Çarsisi. It is a really cool place with its old buildings and some beautiful churches, shops, greengrocers, bakers, open fish markets, pubs that offer inexpensive beer and mussels, bookshops, restaurants and internet cafes. In this area there are also a number of shopping arcades. Akmar Pasaji, which is the most popular among these, is frequented by heavy metal followers such as Metallica and Iron Maiden fans. Here, you will also find second-hand record and book shops, which sell not only the second-hand originals, but also bootleg copies.

If you feel tired or hungry, there are a number of inviting cafes and restaurants with terraces or gardens, which offer tasty home-style meals, run by friendly middle class Turkish women. These women have not only broken the traditionally male dominated eating-out sector, but also have started to recapture our eating culture from the hands of the hairy, moustached eastern entrepreneurs.

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