Monday, November 02, 2015

In Istanbul: Istiklal Street – The Crowds, Midnight Shopping and Being Picked Up by Men

I have never seen this massive number of people come down on a street, and I mean, Istiklal Street in Istanbul. The worse I have seen so far was Venice, followed by Rome, but I think Istanbul beats both cities hands down, especially if we are talking about Istiklal Street at night.

This 1.4 kilometre long pedestrian shopping avenue is where everyone goes to when the sun goes down. I mean, literally, people flock here in the evening.

It is said that nearly 3 million people come here on Istiklal Street each day. The crowds become thicker as it progresses through in the afternoon and into the night. Located in the historic Beyoglu district, it is the place to be (together with Taksim and Galata on both ends of the street) when Fatih, the ancient historical part of the city and the rest of Istanbul closes down. Beyoglu comes to full life with Istiklal Street as its main artery. This is a must place for first time visitors. You cannot go wrong here.

The shops are also open until past midnight here. You will naturally be inclined to do some shopping even if you are not a big shopper like me. I mean they are open! What can you do? Look around right? I couldn’t believe myself that I was window shopping at half past midnight. Time flew quickly when you browse through windows of displays, shop after shop. I did manage to buy something that I really like so that was fine.

In addition, there are loads of entertainment, bars, cafes and nightlife options located on the many side streets of Istiklal. Thus, I highly suggest first time visitors come here in the evening as well to experience the soul and energy of this place.

But there is another side of Istiklal, something that women travelling alone should in particular know about. It is the main hunting ground of local men in search of foreign women who are on their own.

I cannot remember how many times I have been hit by young and old men alike on this street. It has become some sort of a little game to me already. I could easily predict when I am going to be picked up, even if the guy concerned is 10 metres away lurking from a corner. At some point it became very annoying. You know, I adore architecture and on Istiklal Street there are stunning late Ottoman buildings designed in Neo-Classical, Neo-Gothic Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Beaux-Arts and I love to ogle at them endlessly. But every time I do this I get interrupted by someone trying to start some small talk with me. Honestly? Irritating.

So I was forced to become creative and found an escape solution. Every time this happens, I quickly excuse myself and walk right into a shop. Men, I realised, will not follow you inside the shop, they will however wait for you for a few minutes outside, hoping that you would go back out on the street. If you don’t, they will eventually lose interest and move on, searching for another prey. Perhaps this is the reason why I managed to shop until past midnight because I was, as you can see, somehow was compelled to shop? Haha!

Now this one is really funny. A young man in his 30’s picked me up twice without him knowing it even! This guy is like an ultimate sales person; he is going by the numbers, lol. Basic statistics rule: You have more chances to date when you talk to more women. He really didn’t recognised me the second time he hit on me, but I did. Well I didn’t actually at first, but when he started talking I felt some kind of déjà vu as if the scene was a rewind from yesterday. It turned out that he uses the same pick up line with every woman he hits on—that he is working in Dubai and is in Istanbul for a long weekend holiday just like me, and that he likes how I look, and if I would like to have coffee with him. Not bad for a pick up line huh?

Seriously, I have to wonder if these men are really able to score? I mean, how many ‘naïve’ women are out there who would fall for their smooth talk? Although I am sure there are women out there as well who would welcome such attention? You tell me.

Istiklal at Night:

There is always a festival of lights here on Istiklal. In the Netherlands we call them winter lights.

This Konak Kebap on Istiklal is one of the impressive restaurants. All that glitters is gold, gold colour not real gold. I was tempted to eat here but since I did not fancy eating kebap, I never made the jump.

This is funny. I did not know the guys joined me in my selfie. I only knew about it after =).

In the evening as well, Istiklal comes to life with street food vendors. Read here my entry on street food: A list of street foods in Istanbul

Istiklal by Day:

Just look at the hordes of people. It is like this every single day here.

I passed by the Dutch Consulate which is located on Istiklal. Beside the gate hangs a belated King's Day party poster. I was there first week of May.

Travel Period: May 2015
Destination: Beyoglu, Istanbul (Marmara), Turkey

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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