I like storytelling and I work in this genre since three years. Words and photography are my tools to tell stories about people. Photography is a part of my life, it is my passion. When I am working, there is no difference between weekdays and weekend. It is fun, every single day. Human consists of that what they are doing.
Istanbul is a borderline city, a city of contrast. This is the contrast between Asia and Europe, Christianity and Islam, history and modern time, living in the street and outside. Divided into three large parts, two if which are historic centres and the third one is new and Asian, the old and new Constantinople officially houses 14 million people and 22 million people unofficially.
The place smells of fish, kebab, fried chestnuts, corn and citrus fruit. The ubiquitous seagulls, well-fed by people, walk around the city streets, shrieking.
At the same time, you can buy a glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice for 4 liras (it is practically a dollar: 3.7 liras make one dollar), taste a pide, a Turkish pita bread with filling, for 5 liras, sardines in bread near the fish market for 8 liras, pay from 12 to 30 liras for grilled fish and eat it all nearby, in the street, or in one of the numerous eating places, like bars, restaurants and cafes with modern cuisine and fashionable interiors, for totally different money, of course.
Fishermen fish from the Galata Bridge, sitting and standing closely to each other. The fish they catch is cooked almost there, in the restaurants a bit lower, and the restaurant hosts invite us to have it and to smoke a hookah.
We did not go to bars and fashionable restaurants. Every time, we looked for an authentic place with Turkish cuisine and special atmosphere. Mostly those were small kebab place in which Turks had their meals. On the third day, we again wanted sardines in bread, and we started wandering along the embankment, crossed the Galata Bridge and suddenly saw the fish market and an eatery near it. So, together with the locals, we ordered grilled fresh fish and escaped the hustle and bustle of the big city. When I returned to Kyiv, I wondered why we have so few restaurants with authentic Ukrainian cuisine, like those they have in Lviv, for example. We must remember that a country’s culture is perceived through its food.
After the New Year terrorist attacks, the city seems to be empty to the local people, because there are much fewer tourists in it now. However, for those who live in small and cozy Kyiv (although I have always believed Kyiv to be large, now I have changed my opinion), empty Istanbul seems to me to be packed with people. Yet, we were able to discover relatively empty places with antique shops. In one of them, we bought a very old jezve at five dollars. Every morning, when I make coffee in it, I recall our trip.
Or take the work of an Istanbul bootblacker, for example! His profession is as old as the hills but it is still alive here! In ten minutes’ time, we passed by dozens of workshops, where artisans worked with wood and metal and then watched ourselves in a new co-working window. All these things co-exist. It is possible to explore the city forever, immersed into the fusion of gastronomy, architecture and memory.
It is a well-known fact that Istanbul is a city of cats and seagulls. Here everyone feeds them — from tourists to locals. Even the bootblacker I mentioned had a large bowl with cat feed on the pavement next to his workplace. Because there are so many stray cats here, who are not afraid of wandering around and still look very good, I formed an impression that the citizens of Istanbul are all very kind and caring people. Many buildings even have special entrances for cats, which they use to come home to rest. Do you know any other such city which is so comfortable for animals? I don’t.
I have not traveled much in Europe, but I have been able to see Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, and Dresden. After all this, Istanbul is closer to Asia than to Europe for me. Several times a day, muezzins call for prayer from their minarets, and there is a mosque nearly in every quarter of the city. Kebabs are cooked at all corners, and Turks address us all the time and invite to treat the local shawarma.
Istanbul is the centre of trade, where people come from all over the world to buy cheap stuff from the counters and stalls of Grand Bazaar (even my grandma’s sister periodically comes here to be some textiles).. At the same time, on the European side there is the popular Istiklal Street, where one can see the boutiques of famous European brands, which have extended along the street on its both sides. Here is contrast again.
In addition to the world-renowned sights, like Hagia Sophia or the Basilica Cistern, I would suggest just walking on the opposite side near the Galata Tower, then board a steamer and travel down the Bosporus. Visit the Istanbul Modern. When you finish walking around the museum, come over to its bar: a beautiful view of the city can be seen from its balcony.
One trip to Istanbul is not enough. One can come here endlessly to experience new stories. I think I will return. I definitely will.