Aside from a brief trip to Kadıköy with Jen while in Istanbul, I had never managed to find myself on the Asian side of Istanbul for any particularly long stretch of time. Although the vast majority of all touristic sites are on the European side – the original site of Constantinople and old Istanbul – the Asian side still always had a certain allure to it. Maybe it was just something as simple as the fact that, although the Asian side is a different continent, it is still completely visible.
Regardless of why I was attracted to this side of the city, I managed to get my wish to explore it in detail after I returned from Germany. I had a one day stop-over in Istanbul before continuing on my way to Tel Aviv the next day, and I was very kindly welcomed to the city by an old student of my mom’s – Umut. Although we had never met before – we had only ever e-mailed each other – Umut and his family instantly and happily took me in and gave me a bed to sleep in for my night in the city. They even lived on the Asian side – lucky me!
After a great night’s rest, Umut did an amazing job playing tour guide across some of the less known, but still beautiful, sights of Asian Istanbul. Our first stop was at the Küçüksu Kasrı – a small pavilion used by the Ottoman Sultans as a summer retreat. Ironically, the Ottoman buildings on the Asian side architecturally have much more European influence than those on the European side, with the exception of Dolmabahçe Palace, due to their construction in the late nineteenth century. You wouldn’t expect that, right?
Our next stop was was significantly larger Beylerbeyi Sarayı – Beylerbeyi Palace. Dating from roughly the same time period as the pavilion, and also built along the Bosphorous, the palace was also extremely European and extravagant. Usually I am not extremely interested in palaces, but I was very impressed by these two. If you are looking for something touristic in Istanbul, but more off the beaten path (at least for non-Turkish tourists), I would highly suggest looking into these two.
After some time wandering the grounds, Umut and I made our way into Kadıköy. From there we walked along the coast until reaching the mouth of the Sea of Marmaris, at which point we looped back around into the beating heart of this side of the city. Kadıköy reminded me of Taksim somewhat, except with much fewer tourists and less crowded on the whole. There was also a giant statue of a bull there – very cool.
In short, the Asian side of Istanbul was different from how I expected. It was much newer, and more lively and yet, as Umut pointed out, also more conservative. No matter, though, I highly recommend anyone who is interested to go see it. Thank you again for the tour, Umut!