It started out rather strangely, actually, when we were served French fries with breakfast at our hotel. Maybe that’s common in Istanbul but we didn’t get French fries when we had breakfast elsewhere in the city. So that was the first thing. Then later on that morning, a seagull massively shat all over my husband. I told him being pooped on by a bird is good luck in some cultures but, understandably, it didn’t make him feel any better.
But things could only get better after that, right? And they did. Our first stop on my favorite day was Basilica Cistern, a subterranean structure built in 532 A.D. by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. This underground reservoir is made up of 336 columns, and once held 80,000 cubic meters of water which was delivered to the cistern from the Black Sea via miles of aqueducts. To see the above-ground entrance to the cistern, one might never guess what lies beneath. I definitely was taken by surprise, and I was mesmerized by the symmetry and the rows of columns. It quickly became my favorite attraction in Istanbul, ahead of places like Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
Next stop was the Karaköy ferry, which we rode for 2TL (Turkish lira) per person to the Asian side of Istanbul. Visiting this part of Istanbul was a must-do for me as it would provide me the opportunity to set foot on my sixth continent – a pretty big deal for me. We focused our time and attention on the Üsküdar neighborhood and I was immediately enamored. Üsküdar is quite residential and there definitely weren’t as many foreign tourists as on the European side. The streets were alive. Modern, low-rise apartment buildings looked out over the Bosphorus. There is seating along the waterfront, similar to bleachers, and it all is lined with cushions. People of all ages reclined on the cushions, enjoying cups of tea and the late autumn sunshine. There was just so much for me to fall in love with. I tried my best to take it all in. As in other parts of Istanbul, there is no shortage of cafes and restaurants in Üsküdar. We blindly chose Filizler Köftecisi and we were not let down. The view of the water from our rooftop table was just as delicious as the food.
Later that afternoon, we rode the ferry back to Karaköy without any real plan of what to do next. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves sitting at a table outside a bar on the bottom level of Galata Bridge. We had the most enjoyable evening, drinking a fair share of Efes beer, watching the fishermen above us reel in fish after fish, and taking in the sunset. Maybe it was all the beer but hunger started to set in again, so we headed back to Sultanahmet for döner at our favorite place, Baran 2 Restaurant. The next stop would be our last for the evening – our hotel for a pleasant night’s sleep after the most perfect day.