I’m currently living a short stint in Asia but writing from Europe. It is a glorious reality most days. And, while visitors to Istanbul usually stay on the European side (think: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Galata Tower, Taksim), there are some great spots a short ferry ride away on the Asian side to experience normal local life. If there is such thing as normal here. In this city, more than any other I’ve lived in, anything goes. The diversity is incredible.
One of the best walks for guaranteed diversity and people-watching (and I assure you, more than young lovers canoodling under trees), is the seaside walk from the hubbub of the Kadikoy iskele to the ritzy neighborhood of Bostanci. If walking at an ambling New Yorker pace, allow about 2 hours for the walk, without stopping.
1. Start at the ferry stations in Kadikoy, the modern city of Chalcedon, and walk to your right, (with the ferry behind you) on the path along the water towards the red and white Turk balloon (resembling a hot air balloon with puppet strings). If you see lots and lots of buses, walk in the opposite direction. After you round the bay, you’ll see a small market with cay bahces (tea shops) with nargile (hookah smoking), and various craft stalls, on your left. Keep walking towards and past the Turk balloon and turn right at the T in the road. When you reach the large plaza, you’ll see the walkway to the lighthouse (worth a little detour for pictures and a quiet moment), and a path along the sea rocks to your left. Go left.
Chalcedon is thought to date back to 5500-3500 BC, and was likely first Phoenician, then Greek, and then went through the hands of the Persians, Bithynians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Turks, and finally the Ottomans. It is also the site of the Council of Chalcedon, where in 451 AD Christian church leaders from all cities all over the Mediterranean region came together to hash out the theology of Incarnation, aka Jesus of Nazareth’s god-ness and man-ness. Here, the “C”hurch split. The majority of what became the Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity defended the single nature of Jesus (god and man in one united nature). What is now known as the Roman Catholic and later Protestant branches adopted the theology that Jesus was two natures (god and man), but indivisible and united in one person. It is quite a fascinating and sometimes confusing piece of doctrine to grasp, but one that was obviously very significant in creating separate Christian movements. The point is - there’s quite a bit of history in the port settlement of Kadikoy!
2. Walk along the seaside path until you see a parking lot up ahead. Right before the parking lot is a rugged staircase to your left. Take the stairs to the laid-back, quiet neighborhood of Moda - originally settled by Armenians and Greeks, then Levantines (Levant is the area between eastern Turkey and Egypt - encompassing what is now Syria, Lebanon and Israel) and the English.
If you’d like a cay or tuvalet (WC) break, you can head up an earlier set of stairs leading to the sea of red umbrellas just above the seaside park before you get to the parking lot. Enjoy the views from a higher vantage point, and then continue on your way!
3. Once up the rugged, uneven staircase, walk right along the elevated shoreline path, and follow it as it curves to the left. As the path starts to veer away from the water, take the big staircase down and walk to the right on the dead end road. You’ll see a lighthouse restaurant cafe (another detour worth checking out) straight ahead, and the seaside path continuing to the left. Obviously, go left.
If you’d like a coffee or iced drink from the ubiquitous or local status symbol Starbucks or the British equivalent in Caffe Nero, turn left at the bottom of the staircase and halfway up the hill, you’ll be flanked by both coffee empires.
4. Follow the Moda seashore until you reach the Fenerbahce canal. Turn left with the path, and enjoy the view of the Fenerbahce marina and the futbol stadium of one of the city’s beloved teams. People are crazy loyal to their teams here, so if you happen to support a different team, do so with care. Walk to the bridge, cross it, and then walk on the path to your right, back out towards the sea on the other side of the canal. Follow the path along the seaside until you find yourself in a big park and follow it to its end at the edge of the park.
5. Once the path ends and you’re facing a traffic street, turn right on onto the sidewalk, staying close to the seaside. When you see the sign for the Fenerbahce Marina, with restaurants and stores advertised on the sign, turn right into the marina park.
6. Once in the marina park, follow the path as it turns left, and follows the fenced-in marina docks. Keep following it, as it hugs the marina (generally in the direction of left), until you see a row of al fresco restaurants on your left. Take a break and have a snack or cay. At the end of the row of restaurants, walk over to the adjacent road where you’ll see a small bridge up ahead. Follow the sidewalk on the opposite side of that road in the opposite direction of the small bridge.
7. The sidewalk is narrow here, and there won’t be much to see for a little stretch, as you walk mostly between two walls on each side of the road. There appears to be a few military and affiliated buildings for about 5 minutes on this street. Follow the road as it turns right, then left, then up a little hill and then to the right. From here, follow the sidewalk straight downhill, and you’ll see the sea once again!
8. From here on out, the path sticks to the seaside, and you can walk as far as Bostanci, or stop at Suadiye or Caddebostan. You’ll know Caddebostan because you’ll see a Burger King, and then soon after, McDonalds across the way on the left. In between the fast food giants will be another Starbucks and Caffe Nero. Feel free to stop there or keep walking until you hit the Bostanci iskele station. At any point along the Caddebostan - Suadiye - Bostanci stretch, you can walk inland a few blocks and walk along the shopping district of Bagdat Caddesi (Baghdad Street).
Bagdat boasts a Pinkberry, Caribou Coffee, Camper, and lots of other imports. You can get just about any kind of shopping/food/ice cream/coffee/dessert here. It’s also a nightlife destination if you’re in the mood for karaoke, dancing, drinking, or extended people watching.
To get back to Kadikoy, grab a little blue or yellow minibus that lists “Kadikoy” on its side window. The ride should cost 3 TL per person, and you can get off at the Metrobus stop, the Kadikoy iskele, or anywhere en route.
Happy people-watching and seaside walking!