Istanbul - Something of everything


When you travel with other people, they shape the experience you have. Going to Istanbul with my friend Elisa in 2003 turned out to be quite a life changing experience. 
Mostly because of when she said: "Oh, Istanbul - we are going to dance tango every night!" and I replied: "Can I learn it first?"
Yes, she is a tango teacher who lived in Argentina for a while and I was a complete beginner. 3 private lessons later (which of course included my boyfriend) we were ready to go!

I am writing this in May 2015, exactly 12 years later, but trying my best to collect my memories... And bring the random pictures in order.

When I met Elisa it was actually through Oriental dance, and one of our main goals was costume shopping.
We started right away at SIM Moda Evi. The purple costume on the left became mine! They first had to change it though as it was originally a pants costume and I prefer skirts.
I know you are curious, so here's a picture of me wearing it later:

More goodies...
We also went to the famous Bella atelier - no pictures because the don't allow them.
Elisa bought a very pretty baby blue costume there. Actually, after we had gone through what was available and didn't find anything fitting, somebody brought out this costume that they were still working on and Elisa even got to choose some finishing details on it.

We had to go back to both places a few days later to pick up our new sparklies.

Our hotel was in Beyoglu, very convenient for tango dancers because most milongas are in this area as well. So we could walk there and home. On one night we went through the fish market.
Mussels are sold on every street corner at night
The next morning we walked...
...over the Galata Bridge with its ever present fishermen.
Browsing through the Grand Bazaar we soon found out that to determine the price level of a costume shop, you should find out how much they ask for hip scarves. These are the same model everywhere, so it's a good indicator.
Gülseren, one of the top costume designers in Istanbul had her shop there in a basement.
We ended up buying costumes at the big Ali Baba shop - a place that I have been faithful to ever since, and be it only to bring my travel mates there to buy souvenirs.
This time I got a green costume.
This trip was the foundation for my Istanbul Shopping Guide that has been popular with dancers all over the globe as a valuable resource for information.

Of course we also had to go and watch dancers!
The "Turkish Night Show" at the Orient House started with a live band.
We are here and so is our Swiss flag!
Folklore Group
"Wedding" Scene
The famous Birgül, headliner of the Orient House for many years
Audience participation

More Folklore

The folk dancers are actually pretty good and worth watching.

We did not know why this dancer used finger cymbals because she clearly was bad at playing them...
Bellydance "contest". Of course I was called on stage - I practically have "volunteer" tatooed on my forehead...
The presenter claimed:  "I will teach them how to bellydance in 2 seconds..."
There, I learned it!
Another visit at SIM's to get my costume after it was fitted to my specifications.
Meet the People who do the Magic!

Walking around Beyoglu
Steep streets...
An entire street for musical instruments.
Otopark - these parking lots are very common here since parking space is limited.
Topkapi Saray
What a lovely view!




I love tiles! And they have so many there.

At the Harem



Even the sultans need a toilet...






Walking around the Sultanahmet area
Lovely flowering trees - Spring is the best time in Istanbul!

Inside the Blue Mosque

Back in Beyoglu with the historic tram
When I told you that this was a shopping trip, I wasn't lying. I can't remember how many days of this weeklong trip we ended up going to the bazaar - but I DO recall that we were often so busy walking around that all we ate was just a kebap from a street vendor. I only took pictures of the sweets because the looked good - we didn't get any
Oh, and they are still using the "Turkish Viagra" joke today...


Walking the backstreets that connect the two historic bazaars is an experience in itself.
You can find EVERYTHING here!
And you can still see the old walls.
It's also worth checking out the litte side streets in the Grand Bazaar.

Back to tango. Yes, we got plenty of it! A milonga almost every night... At first I was kind of scared because I really was a total newbie. But I just went along and tried to be a good follower.
Fortunately the men in the Istanbul tango scene are good leaders and they were willing to take a chance on me. Elisa sure had fun too!
View from our hotel room on the back side of the building. We were staying at the Silviya in Beyoglu. Cheap and conventiently located.
Old train station - from where the Orient Express leaves

To relax we took a litte boat trip.



On one night we met up with a musician from Zurich. I had agreed to take a saz (instrument) on the plane home for him. In exchange he invited us to a Kurdish restaurant. It was rather small, but there is always space for some line dancing!

This is "our" saz player who was invited on stage.
When we went to a milonga later that night he and his nephew came along. They watched the dancers and finally he said: "So people come here to meet somebody?" We had to explain to him that there are certainly easier ways to pick up somebody - learning tango takes time after all, especially for the men!

All in all it was a successful trip - we came home with new costumes, great memories and me especially with a new found love for tango!

Eleven years later Elisa and me teamed up again for another round in Istanbul together, check out an account of our adventures HERE.