Walking Around Moda Kadikoy Istanbul

Happy Monday! (yes those exist)

Until my next #Airbnb stay as part of the #AirbnbBookProject, I will be doing a lot of walking around Istanbul to share the best of what this city has to offer visitors. I chose Kadikoy / Moda on the Asian side for my most recent walking tour and what an amazing choice that turned out to be as it revealed so many cool hidden spots around this 3000-year old city. Everything started on a boat.

Imagine you are sitting on the top floor of the Besiktas-Kadikoy Ferry. Wind is blowing just enough to pull your hair away from your face as though it knows it has a mission to make sure you enjoy 

the view before your eyes and

 warming sunshine on your face without heating up. Seagulls accompany you on this 15-minute boat ride making magical sounds that are so closely associated with the whole Istanbul experience that when you don't hear them, you don't feel complete. For the next 15 minutes, you rule the world and sky is your limit. 

Then, you arrive at Kadikoy pier and it immediately shows you who really runs the world: Gypsies, who sell flowers and selfie sticks for 10 liras ($4), but of course. Just as you pull your phone out to figure which direction you should be headed towards, an amazing folk dance circle (halay) completely steals your attention. Men and women, old and young, conservatives and reformists seem to be joining the circle one after another without you even noticing where they come from. They are enjoying the hypnotic rhythm together with no reservations. After increasing political instability in the country since Gezi Parki incident, one would think that the relationship among different parts of the society would have become a little tense. Clearly when the Turks start dancing, there isn't one single politician, who can break their circle. Women with shorts next to men with beards next to more women with headscarves all hand in hand. 

Welcome to Kadikoy, where you will see a true picture of Turkish society right off the boat. 

As I made my way into inner parts of Kadikoy down to Moda, more beautiful surprises found me such as the skateboarding shops right next to Sahaflar (old, mostly second-hand book stores). One, of course attracts customers, who might be born after 1990s and look a little on the edgy side while groups of long-retired men and a married couple looking to find the next hidden treasure of a signed copy of a great Turkish author from the 80s frequent the other. Either way, there is a crystal clear connection between these two shops and their patrons; the joy of doing something they love. Both joy and love must be such strong positivity enforcers because never before have I seen a spiked, pink-haired, 20-year old looking more appropriate shopping for his dream skateboard right next to a 70-year old looking for his next read and talking about how hot the weather has been lately with the bookshop owner while they're both sipping from their Turkish teas. Amazing really how daily life occurs anywhere you go in Istanbul: always in conflict and yet so in peace that anything else would look extraordinary. As a Turkish woman, coming from this heritage, it's not surprising to see why I was so drawn to living in New York: capital of the "melting pot", except we don't melt into each other creating one big single-colored mush but each of us maintaining our own colors, we simply live together as one big colorful salad dish. 

More variations on the Turkish salad soon to come as I walk around new neighborhoods in Istanbul and other cities around Turkey until end of August 2015. Grateful for the

#AirbnbBookProject

for such an amazing summer!

Meanwhile, here are few shots from Moda/Kadikoy walking tour.

Kadikoy dances in circles, where everyone is welcome to join.

Moda skateboards.

"Sahaf" or Bookseller Mr. Erfuz's Place

Moda welcomes you into old, local bakeries.

Moda has little vintage stores called "Zeynep Yenge" or "Aunty Zeynep."

Moda accepts. Moda welcomes.

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Moda likes vintage cars and motorcycles.

People chill at the Moda Park because parks, music and people are inseparable.

No matter what.

Men read.

Cats chill, of course because this is Istanbul and anything else is not.

People drink and laugh at Kadikoy Barlar Sokagi (Streets with lots of bars)

because that's what people do in Istanbul, just like anywhere else.

Tarabya - Istanbul's Richest Hearts Not Wallets

"Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs"

famous American writer Susan Sontag once said. I must agree. Not because we share the same birthday but I, too, cannot help going out of my way when traveling if it means there is a good photo in the end. 

That is why after I left my first Airbnb home in Cihangir that I stayed as part of the #AirbnbBookProject , I went all the way to Tarabya. When I say "all the way" I know some of you might expect a 2-hour trip; it only took me 20 minutes on the subway to reach there but for an Istanbulite, anywhere other than the very next neighborhood will seem far far away. It's kind of limiting for the locals and Tarabya was gorgeous!

Yes, there were lots of good opportunities to take amazing photos by the sea but what I did instead was take photos of the local treasures hidden in the back alleys. This neighborhood is famous for being posh, high-end, luxurious. I didn't buy that and set out to discover what really makes Tarabya the beautiful neighborhood it is today. Turned out to be the people, but of course: real locals, who lived there since the beginning of time for Istanbul.

Being a single, female traveler, I sometimes look like an alien on old, curvy streets around Istanbul, where men seem to be dominant only allowing a few female cats to run as freely as they want. They are conservative but also welcoming. I said hi to a few local shop owners: men who run places like a shoe repair shop that they inherited from their father's father. In a world where not even their neighbors up on the hills (rich guys, who discovered much later than them how beautiful Tarabya is) wouldn't come out of their fancy cars to say hi, always maintaining glass walls between their world and others', when a funny-looking woman approaches and throws a "Hi" , all they do is say hi back and smile. They look at you but not because they might hurt you but because they're curious; they want to understand better what their eyes cannot interpret well.

That has to be the best part of traveling: such human connections. That is the main reason I decided to take on the #AirbnbBookProject . Humans around the world are simply good and we need to trust each other more. 

Good photos turned out to be cherry on top for my short, little trip to Tarabya, meaning of which used to mean therapy. Being so close to the water, it indeed was therapeutic. But I don't think calming sea air is the main reason oldest inhabitants of this place live in harmony with their newer, more gentrifying "guests" (because they tend to leave if the place looses its hip factor). It's because they are tolerant, welcoming and peaceful people. 

They say hi back no matter how different you are. 

Tarabya seaside view with the historical The Grand Tarabya Hotel in the background. It completely burned down in the 50s (like any other large hotel at the time because they were all made of wooden materials) and was rebuilt from ground up and renovated recently. It seems to represent the rich and famous face of Tarabya.

But this little window with its tomatoes, red peppers and vivid colors is the real window Tarabya looks out to the world from and I must say it's one good view. 





First Stay - Cihangir, Istanbul

Hello from a gorgeous Istanbul afternoon!

My #AirbnbBookProject is off to an amazing start at my first home located in Cihangir, Istanbul. My host, Lina, is a cute Italian lady, who moved to Istanbul 8 years ago as a linguist and English teacher at Liceo Italiano (Italian High School in Istanbul). In addition to teaching and having translated books from Italian into English, she is now pursuing her PhD degree at a university.

As a native Sicilian, her move across Europe hasn't separated her from two things: her Italian wines (the fridge is filled with exquisite reds and whites from top to bottom) and her family. She still Skypes every night with her 90-year old mother, who continues to live at her childhood home (now at historical value) back in Sicily. 

It was the most amazing experience to fall into sleep listening to her laughter filled with love and life as she was speaking with her mom. For some curious reason, I had the best sleep since my Istanbul adventure started. It may be that Italian is one of the most melodic European languages and I love the sound of it or that as a foreigner myself living in New York, I know very well that thousands of miles are sometimes not enough to separate mothers from their daughters.

More to come soon on Lina and her sweet story. 


What is #AirbnbBookProject ?

It was about two months ago. I was sitting at my dark, little office doing very important finance stuff very important finance people do (Meaning automated excel calculations, which we don't even do. Excel does.) I suddenly felt overcome by a feeling that was all too familiar yet too scary for me to act upon ever since I launched my hospitality career in New York.

I don't know exactly why I had felt scared of, but only that I was in my dream career of hotels and that I needed to feel satisfied and grateful for having achieved what I did. Except...I couldn't.

Two months ago, on that day, I finally felt less scared to take a break from finance and just do what gives me pleasure: write about traveling. 

Being a host on Airbnb for many years, I decided that it was time to become a guest and just travel a little bit. With that came the

#AirbnbBookProject. 

I will be traveling all over Turkey during July and August, staying at different Airbnb homes, sharing my experiences on Instagram and Twitter under @duyguaktan with the hashtag #AirbnbBookProject. At the end of this travel period, I will write a book about my journey and my hosts' stories in life. Being a strong believer in human connections, especially through travel, my focus will be to reflect the essence of what makes each of my hosts' stories unique and interesting.

I finally know that what attracted me to hospitality was never finance but always the people, places and cultures. It is with this revelation and such excitement that I am embarking on my journey, which is beginning in Istanbul on a wonderful, sunny Tuesday. 

My first host is an Italian lady named Lina; she is an antique collector and has moved to Istanbul 8 years ago with a passion to travel and live in different places around the world.  I can't wait to hear what brought her to Cihangir, the most bohemian and artistic neighborhood in Istanbul.


#AirbnbBookProject.