A slight breeze blows around my shoulders. I look across the seemingly endless skyline laced with fruitful parks, trees, parkways and gardens and the soft voices of the group, eagerly chatting about the upcoming days around traditional Turkish Meze, is almost the only sound I recognize. It’s calm up here on the 20th floor of the Mövenpick Hotel in Istanbul and my first impression didn’t fool me that this city is a peaceful place full of wonders, rich history, nature and modernity. It is the night of our arrival and the excitement is rigorous. The anticipation to what IDEE Travel and Movenpick would treat us was high. With a piece of homemade and artistically draped Baklava in my mouth that awaited me at my room, I curl up on my bed and dream away about the city of two continents.
Istanbul is grand. With a population of over 15 mio people and dozens of sights and views and cafes and churches, the urge to start exploring the next morning was tickling us. The first stop, the square around Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, is an historic treasure chest. Just the stress field of the former Christian church Hagia Sophia and the traditional Islam Mosque Sultan Ahmed was still perceptible and left us in awe. They are situated in midst of a picturesque garden overflowing of flowers, palm trees and other plants surrounding impressive fountains. The sun was burning in the sky and I felt sent back in time to the painful and bitter times when people risked their life to build something this grand. Istanbul invites you to take some time to learn about this quarter and its history and get lost in the grandiose beauty of these buildings and their countless stories.
The Bosporus. The Borsporus feels like the aorta of the city. It gives life. It is the centre of life. Fisherman stand at the bank when the sun rises, keeping still and not looking for a catch. They are looking for the calm that only the Bosporus can provide and that is so powerful that people stand in line at the bank as at a bakery on a Sunday morning. Luckily IDEE Travel and Movenpick Istanbul made us discover that the view is even more beautiful from a boat. You will be amazed by the vastness, the fruitful nature, the luxurious villas right by the river and the ever-changing views that fow by while you quietly float along to the next stop. Even an old castle was appearing behind the mountain range, which turned out to be a fortress from the 15th century. Such beauty, such peace and such life are incomparable and define Istanbul to the core.
The boat slows down, we approach the bank, houses become bigger and people wave. A genuinely smiling man, a colourful, silky scarf loosely wrapped around his neck covering his linen shirt, is waving to us. His other hand firmly holds the hand of his wife, a confidently smiling woman, chic but discreetly dressed, who also starts waving at us. Their coast house welcomed us warmly with the kind of antique furniture you desperately look for at every second-hand store, iced mint lemonades served by the Movenpick Hotel chef, space – a lot of space to walk and dance and move and think and of course modern art, beautifully assembled and presented by the resident Faruk Bil, the waving man with the colourful scarf, the artist himself.
A few feet away Dilek Bil, his wife, had already attracted a crowd around her, passionately speaking about her business Sustineo. Her drive to support companies in their sustainability efforts, accompany them on their way to a better future and bring together companies, NGOs and politicians got me hanging on her lips. Some people rarely need to speak, people as Dilek Bil simply convey their message by their sole presence.
The house, the couple and the talks left me fulfilled and recharged to explore the nearby Spice Bazaar Misir Carsisi. Colors and scents were intriguing. While strolling by the endless corridors of spices, sweets, herbs and fudges, the perfect Masala Curry was already assembled in my head. The selection is compelling and friendly vendors invited you to try their beautiful presented goods until your tummy hurts. Off to the vibrant bomontiada, we enjoyed soaking up modern Istanbul. Hundreds of people enjoying their dinner and drinks outside in the square, casually chatting and laughing, sipping on Raki and deservedly enjoying their after-work hours. You also catch them dancing elegantly to the sound of the Turkish buskers and enjoying a piece of tradition in midst of this highly modern metropolis. When you observe them elegantly twisting their hands and rhythmically tapping their feet, you are quickly reminded of their deep rootedness and cultural connection despite their modern environment.
Enjoying our dinner of Mezes, smoked lamb, baked Aubergines and countless baked goods for desert, we contently wind back the day in our heads and deliberate on what would await us the next day in mystic Istanbul.