In the year 2013 I was searching for a place to spend my birthday abroad. Istanbul, Turkey came into my mind because I’ve never been there, it was easy and cheap to reach, full of history and also the only city on two continents (Europe and Asia). On the other hand – after booking – there were protests in the city center that were violently struck down by state authorities.
The Gezi park close to Taksim square is maybe the last place in the city center where trees are standing. And this park should have been destroyed to build a new shopping center. That is why the inhabitants protested and blocked the park. The reaction of the police, that was still visible during my stay depicted how far Turkey today is away from being a real democracy.
Nevertheless I used my stay to get to know much about Turkey and Istanbul, about Islam and the old Constantinople. I visited the main sights like the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, but also went to remote places like Kariye Camii and the Black sea. I enjoyed famous buildings like the Grand Bazaar, the Topkapı Sarayı, Dolmabahçe Sarayı and set over to the Asian side and the Maiden’s tower.
On my birthday I visited the Princes Islands within the Marmara sea, not far away from the city. I found a beach club and lay for hours under an umbrella and was served with cool Efes beer. And I got the worst sunburn in my entire life in return. But staying in Istanbul was unique and I would miss a lot if hadn’t been there.