DC is Dangerously Delicious

27 06 2013

One of my favorite things about my annual trip to Washington DC is the food.  Even before I depart, I start plotting how and when I will hit up my favorite DC eateries.  This visit was no different, I found my way to most of them while there.  However, I discovered something new this year.  Certainly not new to the locals by any means and actually founded in Baltimore, it’s a place that had slipped under my radar.  They cannot elude me any longer, Dangerously Delicious Pies  has officially found itself on my permanent “must dine” list for DC.

Stephanie graciously poses for me with a blueberry pie.

Stephanie graciously poses for me with a blueberry pie.

Upon hearing their name you could easily assume that this place would be a desert haven.  Thoughts of creamy, syrupy, and sugary treats conjuring thoughts of indulgence creep into your brain and overloads your sensibility.  That image does hold some truth to it, but they also offer a nice selection of quiche and savory pies to counteract the fear of an insulin shortage.  To help ease those thoughts of diet killing temptations, Dangerously Delicious serves the slice of quiche and savory pie with a nice salad of mixed greens and balsamic dressing on the side.  It somehow made me feel a little less guilty when I found myself craving desert.

Mini chalkboards spell out the pies for the day.

Mini chalkboards spell out the pies of the day.

What did I order?  In two visits to Dangerously Delicious on H street, just over 2 days apart, I enjoyed the SMOG (steak, mushroom, onion, and gruyere), Crab and Cheddar quiche, the Baltimore Bomb, and a slice of their Pancake Batter pie.  None of these were easy choices, but I came away very satisfied with what I decided to dine on.  The SMOG was filled with large cubes of tender steak, what a treasure, I’ve had way too many meat pies that were horribly chewy.  That was definitely not the case here.  The Crab and Cheddar was stuffed with so much crab it was hard to find the egg.  A pleasant surprise to a westerner who usually can’t find the crab meat in a so-called crab cake at most restaurants in the Denver area.  Both of these meals were absolutely delicious and left me wanting to try them all.  Now I’m a big eater, but that would have been a bit over the top, even for a bear.  So I reluctantly declined an offer for another slice.

The front counter of Dangerously Delicious Pies declares their patriotism.

The front counter declares their faith.

However, since there were greens served with my savory pies, logic told me I had a salad, so I deserved to have desert.  With that kind of logic my diet had no chance, I decided to go all-in and get desert too.  Now my desert pie selections were chosen because they are unconventional to say the least.  Sure they serve apple pie, cherry pie, and other varieties you might find on any menu, but I just had to know what the hell a Baltimore Bomb was.  I can somewhat more confidently tell you now (although I can imagine they get a lot of differing descriptions).  To me, it’s an amazingly sweet delicious pie that reminded me of bread pudding served in a pie crust swirled with a rich chess filling.  I ordered the Pancake Batter pie for desert on my second trip with blueberries and chocolate chips.  Why not?  If I’m going to do this then I may as well get it done right!  This pie was thick and brimming with the sweet flavors of eating pancakes, but out of a pie shell instead of in a stack.  It oozed with melted chocolate and juicy blueberries.  I can’t say that I wouldn’t have ordered another slice if I wasn’t with a friend and didn’t fear the disapproving look on his face at my indulgence.  If I were alone I’m pretty sure I would have.

Both times I left Dangerously Delicious, I yearned to go back for more.  Sadly, I couldn’t go back because of time.  I did make a stop at their Union Station shop to buy a whole Baltimore Bomb on my way to the airport for the journey back to Colorado.  My intention was to “share” it with those who I believe should experience my new drug.  I did share, but I couldn’t resist one last slice before surrendering it to the salivating mouths of the company break room.

Final thoughts, if you want a fast and filling meal without spending too much in a town known for expensive food, then Dangerously Delicious will fit your bill.  Just don’t forget about desert, The Wandering Bear says, “Go for it!”





Capital Pride in Washington D.C.

12 06 2013
Rainbows decorate P Street along the parade route.

Rainbows decorate P Street along the parade route.

It’s June, the month where gay pride festivals pop up in cities and towns all over the United States.  Why June?  Well, on June 28th, 1969 the Stonewall Riots occurred in New York City.  This was the impetus of the gay rights movement in the US and thus June has become the month we celebrate our diversity and culture. This year, I decided to travel to DC and join the party there.  Washington DC is not new to me.  I have made made annual visits four times now, but one item I have not attended is Capital Pride.  So, this was the year I took a gay-cation to my nation’s capital city.

Over the past visits I have made a number of great friends in the area.  This means I have no need to fret about hotels or finding my way around.  I’m not ignorant of public transportation in DC, but one can focus more on the sights and sounds when not having to constantly orient yourself to the nearest bus or metro stop.  Let’s just say that this blog entry will be more about pride than the logistics of travel in and around DC.

Like most gay pride events, Capital Pride is a week-long affair that starts on a Monday and slowly builds to a climax on Sunday evening (pun intended).  I did not arrive until Friday, but I was able to participate in the main events on Saturday and Sunday.

Peace Corps contingent marching in the parade.

Peace Corps contingent marching in the parade.

Saturday was parade day and my friends and I staked out a shady spot along the route about 30 minutes prior to the start time.  It was a sticky hot and humid day, but everyone was in good spirits.  The streets were closed off by the police and so began a mile long swath of colorful floats, marching bands, dancers, and more glitter than a RuPaul gown all weaved through the famously gay Dupont neighborhood.  It seemed that almost everyone was represented.  Participants ranged from the British Embassy, The Peace Corps, many of the local inclusive churches, gay friendly businesses, most of the local clubs and bars, and gay social clubs.  However, one of the highlights for myself was the Grand Marshal Lynda Carter.

Lynda Carter waves to the crowd.

Lynda Carter waves to the crowd.

Yes, Wonder Woman had us all in a big gay tizzy!  We couldn’t get that theme song out of our heads all day.  She looked fantastic flanked by women in Wonder Woman costumes as she rode past us in a pink Ford Thunderbird convertible.  Then after 2 hours and just as suddenly as it began, the last float went by, and the streets were reopened as the hoards of revelers vanished into the many nearby eateries for dinner.  Parades are not something I see very often, but I found this one particularly fun.  Maybe it’s the fact I haven’t done this in several years, or I am in a different mindset now.  Either way, it was an enjoyable and memorable time.

A group performs with flags behind a marching band.

A group performs with flags behind a marching band.

Sunday morning arrived with an overcast sky that I knew wouldn’t last, but gave me hope that the Pride Festival would not be a scorching affair.  You see, the festival on Sunday is held on Pennsylvania Ave, not in a park.  That means hot pavement.  It would be my only complaint regarding the festival.  So with sunscreen applied, camera in hand, and friends in tow, we set out for a day of festivities.

A swarming crowd descends on Pennsylvania Ave for Capital Pride.

A swarming crowd descends on Pennsylvania Ave for Capital Pride.

Entering the event you must go through a gauntlet of people with buckets asking for donations.  I really didn’t mind this since the festival is run on donations and sponsorships.  I dropped my donation in one of them and proceeded to explore the many rainbow clad booths lined up the avenue.  Once again, it seemed everyone was represented.  From the PFLAG guy holding the sign offering “Free Hugs” to the gay rugby team tossing around a ball in the street, it seemed all were there to have a great time and celebrate.  This festival is not unlike many others you’ll see around the country, lots of color, people dressed in costumes and others dressed in their normal attire.  Families pushing strollers and plenty of dogs wearing rainbow bandanas were walked up and down the festival grounds.  Two performance stages provided a plethora of entertainment options.  Everything from folk/country musicians, dance troops, drag, pop, and rock echoed in the background through the entire day from the huge stage speakers.  The festival runs from noon until 8pm when the headliners finish their set.  And just like the ending of the parade, everyone dispersed into the city high on pride.

I would not say DC has the biggest pride, that honor goes to San Francisco and New York, but I will say it was just about right for me.  Good crowds and a great mix of people made it fun without being overwhelming.  It wasn’t as risqué as I have seen at San Fran Pride years ago. Nobody walked around completely naked and there were no porn star booths.  It was more subtle and celebratory than shocking.  I would definitely attend again.

Who would say no to a free hug?

Who would say no to a free hug?





Vamos a Hablar de España

27 05 2013

When I look at a map of Europe there are a number of places I have not been, but none stand out quite like Spain.  I really can’t say why I never made there.  Spain definitely has its charms, historical relevance, big cities, and a cuisine worthy of attention, yet somehow it was never on my radar.  That is until a few months ago when I began pondering my Autumn 2013 destination.  So I decided this would be the year I would explore the Spanish cities of Barcelona and Madrid.

Like I said, I started to float the idea a few months ago.  It began with my typical pattern of researching flights, hotels, and attractions, but one thing I didn’t plan for was having a companion along for the journey.  As a solo traveler, I have become accustomed to going it alone.  My friends here have lives that prevent the kind of travel I am fortunate to do.  Be it work, college, or family, most of them just don’t have the ability to tag along with me.  Well this changed in a big way when my friend Alex assured me he was joining this trip.

Alex and I enjoying tapas and sangria in Denver while plotting Spain.

Alex and I celebrate our booking over tapas and sangria in Denver.

Now to say I’m not a little nervous at the idea would be a lie.  We are great friends, but my penchant to go off trail and avoid scripting could prove to be a struggle for any travel companion.  So, before we booked anything, we talked and researched.  I shared my stories from past trips and my philosophy.  Luckily, he is easy going and agreed to much of it.  Aslo, I have one other aspect of this trip I am excited about, I have a friend who lives in Barcelona.  David will be a huge asset that I have not been afforded in the past.  A local’s perspective is always a bonus.  I am certain we will be able to find and do things with far less effort by having him show us around.

In the early stages of planning I discovered the only thing I wasn’t pleased about with traveling to Spain, the cost.  Yep, Spain is a bit pricey.  I searched and delayed, I even went beyond my rule of booking 6 months early.  The flights are just going to cost more when flying from Denver to Spain, I just had to accept it.  Our plan is to fly from Denver to Barcelona and return via Madrid to Denver.  When I first started to search the prices were about $1250 each (I know, yikes…my entire flight and hotel package to Istanbul was only $1420), but after a few weeks they dipped to $1145 and stayed there for a few weeks.  Since it is now only 4 months away, I finally got the itch and we decided to just book our tickets before they jumped back up.

One important detail Alex and I had to discuss was the sleeping arrangement.  We might be close friends, but we both want space.  Two hotel rooms would be a little exorbitant for us, and the idea of a twin or double room didn’t appeal either.  This is where we decided to book an apartment through Airbnb (a site that provides an avenue for homeowners to rent out an empty guest room, apartment, or entire home to travelers).

For information on Airbnb click HERE

For information on Airbnb click HERE

Airbnb has a good structure for reviews with pictures of both hosts and their property.  That provided for some confidence even though the concept is quite foreign to us.  We must have spent weeks looking at different apartments before we finally settled on a Barcelona and a Madrid location we could agree on.  In the end, I believe what we booked will make for fantastic stays in both cities.  Our place in Barcelona is a high floor 2 bedroom apartment with a massive patio that affords an amazing view of nearly the entire city.  Our cost for this apartment is $960.  In Madrid it seems everything was less expensive.  We found a nice 2 bedroom place in the heart of the Grand Via neighborhood for $445.  Both of these locations will give us the space and location we desire.  Alex and I couldn’t be more excited.

The final part of the trip still to be booked is the train from Barcelona to Madrid.  The tickets can’t be bought this early, but I already know they will be about $120-140 each depending on the exchange rate at the time of purchase.  With the train tickets included, that brings our total cost for transportation and lodging in Spain to $3960 (roughly $1980 each).  Ouch, I told you Spain was pricey.  All I can say is that I’ll take the bargains when I can, but this one definitely would have been much more expensive without Airbnb.

So now the long months of anticipation and planning begin.  I can’t wait to explore the Gaudí structures of Barcelona, browse the Picasso museum, and photograph the many plazas of Madrid.  This should be an incredible trip.  This will also be the first trip I won’t see alone!





Istanbul Photo Journal

24 05 2013

I just wanted to share my remaining images of Istanbul that were not included in the previous blog posts.  I hope you enjoy them.  Some of these images are available for purchase from my gallery Wandering Bear Photography.  If you see an image you’d like to purchase that’s not in my gallery, please tell me and I’ll make it available.

This concludes my series on Istanbul.  I hope you enjoyed what I had to share.  A new journey awaits and will be discussed in my next posting.





Accidentally Gay in Istanbul

20 05 2013

For My final post on Istanbul I want to cover a more personal topic, homosexuality in Turkey.  When it comes to travel, I am a tourist first and gay second.  The idea of going on a trip simply for gay tourism is rare in my case.  So when I booked my trip to Istanbul it didn’t even occur to me that there might be an opportunity to discover any gay culture in Turkey.  I’m certain that part of this was due to my own predisposed thoughts on the added stigma of being gay in a Muslim country.  Now that stigma isn’t unique to Islam, I have been spurned by Christians many times.  I just didn’t figure there would be much to discover in this arena in Turkey.  Also, I wasn’t sure how safe it would be even if I had found something.  Is that stereotyping?  Probably, but when you are a member of an often denigrated group, you must consider these things.

While doing some web browsing a couple months before my trip I came across an article that listed the top 10 gay travel destinations for 2013.  I was shocked to see Istanbul listed as #1.  Really?  Intrigued, I read through it and discovered that purely by accident I was going to be in Istanbul during the spring IstanBear Fest!  What a crazy coincidence, and thus began a series of web searches looking into the event.  Would I be able to squeeze this in among my other touring desires?  Yep, since I refuse to be structured, I looked at this as something of fate.  I immediately registered for the event.

Istanbul Bears is a relatively small club compared to those in the US, but they are a very close knit group bound out of years of struggle.  The gay community as a whole in Istanbul is somewhat of a fledgling movement when compared to the more progressive Europe, but they are becoming an increasingly more visible group.  There are many gay clubs in Beyoğlu that are becoming quite popular with tourists, but my time was spent with the bears so that is what I will discuss.

A banner hangs at the IstanBear Fest host bar.

A banner hangs at the festival’s host bar.

IstanBear Fest isn’t that much different than other bear festivals I have attended.  It’s an event that is attended by a very international crowd of bears who travel to Istanbul to meet and make friends.  There were nightly parties at the host bar, group gatherings, events at various places around town, and plenty of socializing with lots of drinking.  I met many wonderful people from all over the region.  However, with this event, the difference was subtle but fairly obvious to me.  Sadly, not all of these guys are able to be openly gay in public.  I think too many of us take our ability to be open in public for granted.  Many of these events were in places where the general public would not see them, and a number of guys asked not to have their picture taken and/or requested their faces be blurred out of group pics.  It was a far cry from the open hand holding and kissing that happened when I attended Bears on Ice in Reykjavik last September.  But behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of those who would hate, these men were wonderfully warm, friendly, and caring.  Those who were fortunate enough to be “out” in Turkey were confident and understanding of those who could not.

Tragically, their history includes the story of a man who has become something of a bear community martyr.  Ahmet Yildiz embraced his homosexuality and even represented his country at a gay scientist at an event in the US.  He was proud to be himself, but this was not something his family would tolerate.  He received multiple death threats from family  members.  His refusal to seek a “cure” for his homosexuality led to his murder at the hand of his father.  They’d rather have him dead than gay.  Here is a more detailed article on Ahmet.  This event galvanized the gay community in Istanbul, and has only served to create a stronger movement towards acceptance.  It’s going to take time, but I believe they are on a solid path.  The struggle in America was brought to the forefront by the Stonewall Riots in 1969, in Turkey it was brought out by the 2008 honor killing of Ahmet Yildiz.  Like American gays in 1969, Istanbul gays still have a long way to go. As members of the LGBT community we can do our part by increasing the gay presence in Istanbul, visiting and spending our money at gay friendly businesses in and around the city.  This will go a long way to help their cause.

I am glad I was able to experience gay Istanbul despite it not being part of my original plan.  Travel is about culture for me and this made my visit much more fulfilling.  Gays do exist in the Muslim world, and regardless of what anyone thinks, they will not fade away or be bullied into deeper hiding.  Killing gays will only serve the opposite effect, we only become stronger through oppression.  We are human, we are brothers, sisters, friends, and loving contributors to society.  We deserve respect and acceptance like everyone else regardless of religion, culture, or race.





Feasting on Istanbul

13 05 2013

Turkish food is more than kebabs even though that’s what you’ll end up eating the most.  Why?  Well, because they are delicious.  I can’t imagine anyone struggling to find good food in Istanbul.  It’s literally everywhere.  Like every major city there are high end choices that will bust your budget, and there are street foods that won’t.  I tried to strike a balance between them, but ended up eating mostly street food.  Sure I had some full service restaurant meals, but the cost, taste, and convenience of street vendors made it just too easy to eat cheap and on the fly.  Besides, the money you save by eating cheaply can be put towards a couple expensive meals later on.

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Chicken kebab at Med Cezir.

Now I talk about research a lot, but researching food is one of the most important things one can do.  I couldn’t possibly take a trip with zero knowledge of the local flavors.  I mostly use Trip Advisor to find highly rated eateries, then I’ll make a list of places to dine but never fully hold myself to it (I refuse to be overly structured when I travel).  Trip Advisor also has several offline city guides that’ll allow any traveler to find restaurants on a GPS equipped smartphone without cel service.  I used the Istanbul guide several times to locate what I felt would be gastronomical wins for me.  Thanks to my planning, I had far more hits when it came to my dining experiences than misses.  So, let me point out the restaurants I’d recommend if you ever visit Istanbul.

  1. Med Cezir was just around the corner from my hotel and the place I dined the most, 4 visits to be exact.  I found the food to be simple yet delicious.  This place is not fancy, it was affordable and reliable, two things I look for in a restaurant.  The service was attentive and the manager enjoys a good conversation with his guests.  My favorite meals there were chicken kebabs and a spicy lamb pidé (something of a Turkish pizza without cheese).
  2. The House Café is located along the famed İstiklal Avenue pedestrian zone.  Their outside seating provides you with a great opportunity to people watch while dining on an eclectic menu of international foods.  So it wasn’t Turkish food, but it was still damn good.  I enjoyed one of their customized lemonades, delicious grilled chicken, and a pear salad.  Reviewers complain about the prices, but I always plan on eating a couple of expensive meals each trip and had no complaints here.
  3. Galata Meyhanesi specializes in mezes, Turkey’s answer to Spain’s tapas.  These little plates of deliciousness are varied and plentiful.  There is also live music and plenty of dancing to be had once the raki has taken hold of you.  Raki is a love or hate alcoholic drink flavored with anise, and since I have a taste for licorice, I found it easy and enjoyable to drink.  On that night, after only a few drinks, I surrendered to the Raki and danced the night away to traditional Turkish music.

    Typical Istanbul food cart.

    Typical Istanbul food cart.

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Slicing lamb for a wrap or pita.

When it comes to eating on the go, Istanbul is filled with tasty offerings.  Among my favorite was the tortilla-like wrap filled with chicken or lamb freshly sliced from a spindle.  They don’t offer much in the way of flavor, but they were hearty.  I was easily filled up for only 4-6TL.  Another favorite of mine was the bagel-like sesame seed covered breads that were sold from small red carts conspicuous throughout the city.  There are actually several types of cart foods one can enjoy in Istanbul.  Vendor carts selling corn-on-the-cob and roasted chestnuts were also quite common.

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Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice was a favorite of mine.

As for the need to quell my thirst, I couldn’t resist buying freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.  Honestly, I have never tried pomegranate juice before this trip.  That changed in dramatic fashion after my first cup, and with those little juice stalls everywhere, I seemed to always have it readily available.  Other prevalent drinks are tea and coffee.  Tea is tea, it’s served hot in a glass and saucer with a sugar cube.  Simple, yet delicious.  Turkish coffee is the more interesting of the two in my opinion.  Served in a small cup with saucer, Turkish coffee is sweet and strong.  The extremely fine ground coffee beans must be allowed to settle before you drink, don’t stir it or you’ll get a mouth-full of what can only be described as coffee mud.  Since you have to let it cool down anyway, time will allow the grounds to rest at the bottom of the cup.  I found it appalling that a country with such an amazing coffee drink was littered with Starbucks everywhere, blasphemy!  If you go to Istanbul and get a coffee at Starbucks then you are no longer my friend, you’ll be perpetuating a western coup of their traditional drink.

Trays of baklava tempted me from nearly every angle.

Trays of tempting baklava.

But I must say that my biggest culinary weakness in Turkey came in the form of layered phyllo dough and crushed nuts all soaked in a heavenly sweet syrup or honey, baklava!  Holy baklava, this stuff was staring at me from every window it seemed.  Calling to me, “come taste another variety and savor another blast of sweetness.”  Once I started eating baklava it became apparent I wasn’t going to stop.  My favorite variety contained crushed walnuts rather than the traditional pistachios, but that favorite was by a narrow margin.  I will never turn away any baklava!  I am all about treating them equally and with dignity right down to the last crispy and syrupy bite.  This desert ruined me forever, no baklava will ever compare to what I had in Istanbul.

Endless mounds of spice at the Egyptian Bazaar.

Endless mounds of spice at the Egyptian Bazaar.

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Turkish coffee served with a small square of Turkish delight.

A great place to pick up and sample baklava is the Egyptian Bazaar (also called known as the Spice Bazaar).  This place is filled with booths selling every possible temptation known in the region.  Dried fruits, nuts, baklava, spices, and even some cheeses are easily sampled and bought here.  Are the prices a little high, yes, but haggle and sample your way to a better deal.  What I didn’t get in the bag was made up for by what I managed to eat for free.

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Basil and pear lemonade from The House Café.

The Spice Bazaar is also a good place to find the famed Turkish delight.  This sugary confection is known for it’s varieties.  It’s not terribly sweet.  In fact, turkish delight has a refreshing light sweetness to it that won’t leave you running for insulin the way baklava can.  Funny, I didn’t eat as much of it as the baklava, but I enjoyed it thoroughly when given the opportunity.

A full month after returning home I still find myself yearning for the wonderful flavors of Istanbul.  One of the ways to extend my taste bud’s satisfaction was to bring some food home.  US Customs will allow prepared and packaged foods without problem.  Your only restrictions are fresh fruits, vegetables, and/or meat.  Knowing this, bought a few boxes of Turkish delight and baklava to share with my friends and family.  Nearly every shop, especially at the Spice Bazaar, has a vacuum pack machine and will gladly seal these items for free.  The best part, none of it requires refrigeration.  Baklava can last for about 7-10 days without refrigeration if it’s kept sealed, and Turkish delight can easily go a month or more.  It was a successful way to ease the withdrawal symptoms of my addicted taste buds.

Damn, here come the cravings again!  Does anyone know a place that serves quality baklava in Denver?





Impressions of Istanbul: Beyoğlu and Asia

6 05 2013

As I said before, Istanbul is a city of contrasts.  A patchwork of both old and new creating a broad mosaic throughout the city.  However, there are three distinct districts most travelers will come to know in Istanbul: Sultanahmet, Beyoğlu, and the Asian side.  This post will discuss my thoughts and impressions of the latter two.

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Fishermen trying their luck on Galata Bridge.

Beyoğlu is situated on the European side just north of Sultanahmet.  Getting there requires crossing the Golden Horn waterway.  Most will utilize the easily accessed Galata Bridge either by tram, taxi, or my preferred method, on foot.  The Galata Bridge is a double level bridge with restaurants on the lower level while hosting traffic and fishermen on the upper, and I do mean a lot of fisherman.  They are literally lined up from one end of the bridge to the other.  I found myself captivated and curious each time one would reel in a fish.  Watching this scene from the upper level was fun, but imagine sitting in a restaurant on the lower level and seeing a fish dance at the end of a line as it seemingly levitates to the fisherman 20 feet above.  It was a strange sight indeed.

The historic underground tram.

The historic underground tram.

Upon crossing the Galata Bridge you have three choices to get where the action is.  You can take the historic Tünel underground tram, taxi, or hike up a very steep series of sidewalks and streets.  I just couldn’t resist the historic and unique Tünel.  It seems like a short ride, but it’s all up hill and I wasn’t about to wear myself out walking up streets with angles that would make even a San Francisco resident cringe.  I will say, regardless of how you get to the top, your reward awaits in the form of İstiklal Avenue.  

A bustling pedestrian zone lined with restaurants, clubs, high street shopping, and sprinkled with historic sites, İstiklal Avenue is where fun loving people want to be in Istanbul after dark.  It quickly became my favorite place to people watch while burning the late night hours away into early morning.  Dissecting the crowds of pedestrians is a lovely old red tram that chugs through the masses.  I enjoyed watching it more than riding it.  Kids would hitch rides on the back while tourists would overcrowd the interior to the bursting point, leaving many hanging on at the entrance barely balanced on a tiny platform of foot room.  It moves at a slow pace, thereby keeping passengers and pedestrians from any real danger, but it was fun to watch as it parted the crowds of people like schools of fish in the sea.

The bustling high street of İstiklal Avenue.

The bustling high street of İstiklal Avenue.

As daylight starts to fade in Beyoğlu the crowds become only slightly less dense and the thumping of dance music starts to overpower the typical sounds of the bustling scene.  It seems every side street is lined with multiple dance clubs.  There is definitely no shortage of fun and partying to be had in Beyoğlu.  Unlike the touristy Sultanahmet with its carpet salesmen and Grand Bazaar, I never once was approached by someone trying to sell me something, and it was refreshing to say the least.

Is İstiklal Avenue the only reason to visit or stay in Beyoğlu?  No, it just happened to be my favorite.  There are plenty of monuments and museums on this side of the city.  However, I never made it to any of them except Galata Tower.  From the top of Galata Tower one is afforded sweeping views of the entire city of Istanbul.  Many feel it’s the first place someone should go to get oriented.  I waited until my final day.  As a photographer, I certainly did want to capture these panoramic images, but I also wanted to wait until I knew what I was seeing and photographing.  I feel it was a great way to say farewell to a city that I had become very aquatinted with over my 8 day visit.

I only graced the Asian side of Istanbul twice.  I’ll admit that I’m really not sure what a tourist would do over there outside of what I went for.  It struck me as a mostly residential and business area, but with my limited time, I will have to save exploring for another trip.  I’m more likely to return and take my time to discover the hidden gems that I’m sure exist, but it wasn’t going to happen on this visit.  My main goal of ferrying to Asia was to photograph Maiden’s Tower at sunset with the minarets of Sultahnamet in the background.

Enjoying a tea with Maiden's Tower in the distance.

Enjoying a tea with Maiden’s Tower in the distance.

Getting across the Bosphorus is not as daunting as one might think.  There are a couple of huge bridges to the north, but they aren’t very practical for tourists.  The best way to make the trip is by ferry.  Taking a ferry is easy, reliable, and there are frequent departures.  Your biggest challenge lies in catching the route you want.  I did my research and determined the best route to get me close to Maidens’ Tower was the Eminönü – Üsküdar ferry.  I kept an eye on the forecast and as it turned out, the only day predicted to be clear enough for a sunset was my last night.  I caught the ferry and walked one kilometer south along the shore to view Maiden’s Tower.  There are several tables down near the water maintained by little shops serving them with tea, coffee, and snacks.  It was quite a pleasant atmosphere to sit back and watch the sun go down over the city while I enjoyed a tea.  It was a wonderful and peaceful atmosphere, a far cry from the hustle of Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu.  A fitting last glimpse of daylight that brought my holiday in Istanbul to a close.

Maiden’s Tower with Beyoglu in the background to the right.

Maiden’s Tower with Beyoğlu in the background to the right

Maiden's tower watching over Sultanahmet.

Maiden’s tower watching over Sultanahmet.