A BEAUTIFUL ISTANBUL
from the Trails of Sounds and Scents

Article & Photography for Hillsider Magazine , May 2019.

 

When the spring arrives, I love strolling Istanbul streets that get colored with newly blooming flowers and following the sounds and scents. Make no mistake; most of us think that spring and summer are the seasons that become this city the most. 

 

From Galip Dede to Yüksek Kaldırım

 

I hop on the tram at Taksim Square, which makes you desire taking a trip when you hear its bells from a distance, toward the Tunnel. I sit on one of this historical vehicle’s wooden seats which display this city's color red in the most symbolic fashion and enjoy the moment watching the crowd passing by from my window.  

 

After I hop off at the Tunnel, I follow the music sounds and take the street where you can see ‘Lale Plak’ at the beginning of the road. This is Galip Dede Street extending from the Tunnel Square down to Kuledibi (Galata). It is one of the places you can hear the mingling sounds the best. Darbuka, cymbals, double bass, classical guitar, saxophone, saz, clarinet... A few street players in front of the walls a store apart, bringing songs in different languages together. At each step, Istanbul’s sounds are spreading to the street from dozens of stores selling musical instruments. 

 

I feel hungry smelling the scent of the newly-squeezed orange and pomegranate coming from kiosks lined up next to each other. I buy a pomegranate-orange juice mix and continue down the steep ramp of Yuksek Kaldirim in broad daylight.

 

An Unforgettable View: Galata Bridge

 

While walking toward Galata Bridge surrounded by the intensive smell of fish struggling at the end of the fishing rods, I pass by curious tourists, electronics stores attracting attention with their neon signs, stamp workshops, touristic stores radiating soap and incense scents, colorful walls ornamented with graffities. The compassionate Galata, with her arms open, has embraced all, including young, old, local people and tourists. With her colors, sounds and scents that cheer up my breezy afternoon, this city makes me fall in love again with my own city. I follow the “Simitciii” sound of a simit seller down the ramp. Then the tea, which maybe becomes Istanbul the most among her hundreds of flavors and goes great with simit. In a slim-waist glass and newly brewed - that naive indispensable flavor of both summer and winter.

 

At the end of the ramp, it is time to leave this buzzing noise behind. Right across, finally, is my favorite Galata Bridge in the middle of the blue. I veer toward the smell of bonito coming from fish&bread vendors lined up at the lower section of the bridge, which suppresses the smell of the smoke coming from the orange-white chimney of the city ferries best. It is this smell of fish&bread recently served with spicy sauce that belongs to the 174-year old bridge, reminds us of Istanbul.  

 

From within the Colors: Eminonu

 

After a long walk, I find myself in Eminonu. As some would know, Eminonu is a commotion of colors and sounds. Following the crowd, you find yourself among the scents of spices, various candies, dried peppers-eggplants, dried nuts, cocoa and coffee.  You are in Istanbul’s undoubtedly sweetest chaos among kebab houses at the corners, historical confectioners offering kunefe, cake stores having such variety as may dazzle pastry chefs and multicolored stuff.

 

I love getting lost in this chaos and then feeling the smell of freshly ground and roasted coffee again. Therefore, whenever I happen to pass by Eminonu, I keep finding myself in front of the Roasted Coffee Maker ‘Mehmet Efendi’ store dating back to 1871. 

 

Just at the moment I move away from the smell of coffee and the dazzling feeling of the crowd, I veer toward where the spice scents come; the swirl of the Spice Bazaar. Among the colorful spices lined in small compartments, my eyes seek the smell of my favorite cinnamon, saffron, estragon, clove and turmeric. With a small shovel, the spice vendor fills the small packages as much as I need. 

 

Istanbul Trees: Magnolias, Judas Trees and Wistarias 

 

When I leave the Spice Bazaar, I am sure that I want to finish my day calmly. I hop on the city ferry toward the Bosporus to watch the Judas Trees leaning on both sides of the Bosporus. Although they change depending on the seasonal conditions, Judas Trees grow in Istanbul and blooms around mid-April and cheers the entire Bosporus coastline. While watching from a quiet corner of the ferry the spectacular palaces and Judas Trees which make all travelers visiting this city in spring happy, I dream of doing another trip soon to pursue Wistarias next time. 

© 2023 by Deniz Yılmaz Akman

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