Get lost in the maze of pedestrian friendly lanes in Istanbul’s Asian side entertainment district.
If Kadıköy were a person, I dare say it would have very big hands and huge feet.
It is a town with so much in its palm that it must have fat, stocky fingers just to hold onto everything. How else would it manage?
One of those chubby Kadıköy fingers/street is a lane with a taste for Turkish coffee. In this street the coffee is given the royal treatment being served on a silver tray. The coffee cup also sits in a casing with a lid. Even a piece of Turkish delight gets the Sultan treatment in its own silver box.
The next swollen Kadıköy digit is a lane that specialises in kokoreç (sheep intestine cooked with spices and served on a bread roll).
If kokoreç were a perfume, no doubt after smelling the tester it would quickly be put back on the shelf. But, for every stubborn nose there is one very happy mouth.
The middle finger… the longest of the streets – at this finger’s base there are fresh fruit, vegetable, fish, olive, cheese and spice markets.
At its knuckle – fish, meze (Turkish tapas) and rakı (Turkish liquor) restaurants congregate.
In the evenings a drool of live Turkish folk music floats between these restaurants. People dine while in the distance a friendly protest may walk past before a gyspy child replaces the crowd playing the ‘darbuka’ (Turkish drum) with the expertise of a seasoned professional before being shooed away by waiters.
And at the fingernail tip, the lane transforms once more. This time into a beer and backgammon alley.
Backgammon’s not your game? Then follow the young and the restless to Bar Street (Kadife Sokak/Street but referred to as Barlar Sokağı). Here one can find an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ rabbit hole sized door – ‘Karga’ bar. Open it. It leads to a three story mansion-grunge where punters enjoy beer on tap while hanging out on one of the many mezzanines.
The bar staff tell me the building was home to the engineers who built the Haydarpaşa Train Station in the early 1900’s. The fireplace is an easy drawcard during the winter months.
It is not just beer that marks its own territory. Even antiques have their own lane way.
In antique strip enjoy a tea on an extremely small stool and lose yourself in the piles of pre-loved Turkish treasures.
One particular shop has an intense overload of what we may consider junk but the store owner may retain is treasure.
Istanbul’s antique history is piled on top of each other and can be seen displayed in windows, on shelves and on streets.
Around the corner music can be heard from buskers who perform to crowds in Kadıköy’s two small squares that are more like perfect diamonds then square shapes.
Different religions seem to live hand in hand with a church at both of these open performance spaces plus a scattering of small mosques. Although, this subtle blend of religion is not uncommon across Istanbul.
In Kadıköy all this is possible, plus more, because most of its back streets are car free. So people can, and do, scurry around like mice in a maze. They only have to dodge each other, not the usual traffic of cars.
A nostalgic tram circles the entertainment hub which is more compact than its European equivalent Taksim.
At the top of Kadıköy’s main road the tram passes a bull that is an ‘American Wall Street’ style figure. It looks through the traffic as if ready to charge across the water to the old town of Istanbul – the Ottoman’s original money and power hungry peninsula.
The bull is a common meeting point for locals to gather and wait for friends.
At any time of day, somewhere in Kadıköy, a mobile beeps. A friend receives a text.
“Where should we meet?”
“Be there in 10.”
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Have you experienced Kadıköy after reading this? What did you think of Istanbul’s Asian side entertainment district? Please comment below.
TIP - After getting off the ferry, enter the pocket of Kadıköy on the right of the main road – Söğütlü Çeşme Caddesi. Find the çarşi (fresh fruit market) from your map. All other lanes discussed stem from this market street. Get lost, explore and enjoy. The bull is at the top of Söğütlü Çeşme Street. Follow the tram tracks from the bull into the pedestrian street for major retail chains.
You may also enjoy reading “Memoirs of a city“. Enjoy the journey from Europe to Kadıköy, Asia with an Istanbul ferry.