I returned last week to Istanbul after a 25 year absence. How the city has changed and yet, the soul of Istanbul remains the same. It’s a magical place where you feel the full weight of world-changing history with the modern self-confidence of an emerging country that knows its place in the world.
Yes, please see the big-ticket items: The Aya Sofya; The Blue Mosque; and The Topkapi Palace. These are necessities. However, I also wanted a different stream to float down in Istanbul and opted for a walking tour of the city with a native Istanbuli photographer, Ali.
Ali met me at my hotel at 10.00am and we set off along the Bosphorus towards Karakoy and then the Old City. The first part of the journey was scenically uninteresting which was fine as it gave us time to chat about Istanbul, Turkey, photography and all matter of questions I could conjure up. Ali spoke perfect English, was extremely well-educated and interesting.
He explained he would be as hands-on or off with the pictures I wished to take during the day. He recognised that I’m no great photographer but I could construct a picture. Hence, he led me to some wonderful secret spots in Istanbul where I was able to shoot with confidence and I was quite happy with the images from the day.
Highlights included access to a rooftop in the old city which seemed to be on the sly with a few lira and a knowing nod. Different angles at some of the main mosques and some wonderful markets where fish sparkled in the sunlight where even an amateur like me can nail an interesting image. Ali gently pointed out interesting angles and under-stated scenes which showed me a view of Istanbul I had not experienced before.
At 4.00pm on the way back to the hotel Ali mused that we had just walked 18 kilometres. It certainly didn’t feel like it, the time passes quickly when you are searching for that magic shot. I had to take stock and remember we covered just three or four of Istanbul’s fascinating suburbs. The possibilities are endless.