Turkish Delights By Night 

The Sydney Morning Herald/The Age Traveller

7 November 2015

 

Tatyana Leonov joins the crowd exploring Istiklal Avenue and finds herself in a people- watching paradise. 

Saturday night fever in exhilarating Istanbul. I’m ready! I want to feast on scrumptious local food, talk for hours and then dance all night long.

But most of all I want to people watch. Istiklal Avenue is swarming with all sorts of interesting folk and I don’t know which way to look.

Screeching girls sporting monster heels stumble up and down the stretch laughing wildly whenever anyone so much as glances their way.

Tres chic city slickers walk the walk and talk the talk, donning the latest designer gear and expressionstomatch.

Women in head-to-toe burqas stride alongside their husbands, heads down, eyes, like mine, pirouetting 360 trying to take it all in. It’s addictive, this energetic hum unfurling around me and dragging me in.

Touring with Trafalgar I’ve just dined at 360 Istanbul, one of the city’s eminent restaurants.

We wolfed down modern takes on Turkish favourites, then nipped out onto the deck to take in the Istanbul-by-night vistas where we quaffed wines a tad too quickly.

Later back inside we watched roving entertainers twirl and sing and dance and play with fire. This imaginative dinner-cum-show was just an entre ́e to the night’s proceedings.

Out in the street everything is amplified.

We mosey past shops pumping out old-school dance music, we peek into casual eateries heaving with laughing families devouring dinner,andweallgapeinasmany directions as possible, our heads twisting and eyes dancing their way around this eclectic tapestry of Turkish city life.

There are plenty of other tourists doing the same thing – wandering, gawking, inhaling it all in. I quickly notice the Turks are just as enthralled by their surroundings. Istanbul loves to kick up its heels and Saturday nights are for voyeurs and partakers, tourists and locals, young and old.

Anything goes.

There are plenty of peddlers dotted along the bustling boulevard selling all sorts of local delights – doner kebabs, pides and simit (a sesame-crusted bread ring) to name a few.

They holler to catch the attention of passers-by, trying harder to attract the tourists who mightn’t yet know the standard price for whatever it is they are buying. When business calms down they joke among each other while sipping little cups of aromatic Turkish tea.

And then I notice him. He brandishes an expression of absolute absorption as he attentively roasts chestnuts and corn cobs, only looking up to greet customers when they walk up to his cart.

The aroma of the chestnuts waftstowardsmeandIplod towards the smoke as if hypnotised.

When I approach he looks up at me and gives me the most sincere smile, takes my order and busies himself, weighing out my 150 grams of roasted chestnuts.

A line forms behind me and his smile resurfaces. I smile too, as I stroll back into the night snacking on the most delicious chestnuts I’ve ever tasted.

 

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION: goturkey.com

TOURING THERE: Trafalgar offers two Turkey itineraries: a 14-day Best of Turkey tour from $2285 and an eight-day Highlights of Turkey tour from $1950; see trafalgar.com/aus.

The writer was a guest of Trafalgar.