Istanbul Winter Walk

posted by: Justin

Our last five months in Istanbul has seen lots of sunshine and temperatures high enough to make us wonder at our decision not to continue cycling east. As we stay in touch with some of the passing cycle tourists we have met their photos of snow clogged roads, frozen tents and icy rain have seemed a long way from our toasty warm apartment and serve as reminders of what we were trying to avoid by sitting out the winter.

 Emma on Istanbul wall Sirkeci suburban train

As our own departure date draws nearer the weather seems to have taken a fickle turn for the worse with temperatures falling, weeks of grey skies and the odd flurry of snow making the now temporary warmth of our home seem all the more precious. We are also gripped by a feeling of needing to see all the sights and museums we promised ourselves that we would visit before we left.

We have an overflowing pile of read books waiting to be delivered to the local book exchange and have managed to befriend the local cats with fresh fish suppers, but as far as sight seeing goes we still have many promises left to fulfil.

Sishane notices 

In an effort to get our tourist heads back on, last weekend we headed out for a walk along the historical Istanbul wall. The chilly wind seemed to cut through my layers of clothing like a hot kebab skewer and my un-gloved hands were quickly glowing like they had been freshly broiled. I found myself huddled in my coat wondering what the young men on the streets with slicked back hair, designer jeans and thin cotton jumpers thought of my snowboarder/Michelin man look.

We had taken our queue for the walk route from a quick glance through a few different blog posts one of which reads:

  • “The old Istanbul city wall dates from the fifth century and protected the city for almost a thousand years: it served as a defensive structure till 1453. Since then it has been crumbling down and has never been restored to its old glory. Which doesn’t mean a walk along the wall – about 6.5 kilometres long – is not worthwhile!”

Fréderike Geerdink Sunday 30 Dec 2007

Sishane building Justin with camera

Catching a suburban train from Sirkeci station we began our walk at the Yedikule Hisari end where we left the heated train carriage for the damp muddy streets around the wall. Sticking our heads into the Yedikule Hisari museum revealed a bored looking attendant, an entry charge and a windswept courtyard none of which struck our fancy. We headed North keeping the wall to our left and winding through narrow back streets with our hands deep in our pockets and our heads well hooded. The wall itself was a mix of crumbling masonry and sections looking like the set for a low budget western but without a cowboy in sight. In places the restored arches were home to groups of people huddled around fires spewing acrid smoke and flickers of heat as their beer bottles clinked together.

Climbing a set of stairs to the top of the wall revealed a stream of typical Istanbul traffic on the far side of the wall where the honking of horns mixed with the shouts of a football game in full swing. The purple and orange jumpers of the football players stood out against the grey skies and mud covered pitch as they slowly chased after a sluggishly bouncing ball. The ground was littered with broken glass and the path we had followed quickly turning to a narrow slippery mud track so we headed back to ground level and continued on our way.

Istanbul street

As we reached the half way point of the wall we broke open our emergency caramel buttons with numb fingers and greedily sucked the sweet sugary filling. Ahead of us there was a further 3km of wall still to explore but between us and the remaining wall was a warm tram that could deliver us nearer to home. Our heads switched rapidly between the wall, the tram and each other before we both sheepishly but decisively headed for the tram. Not the best start to our preparation for a life outdoors or to tackling our list of Istanbul tourist sights but as we told ourselves best to make the most of trams, warm apartments and being able to easily opt out of unpleasant weather while we can. As far as we know they don’t yet have trams in rural Mongolia and while our tent is many things, a warm apartment she is not.

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4 responses to “Istanbul Winter Walk”

  • Hi!
    As always happy to “read” you as unfortunately I can’t hear your stories in person…
    About the Istanbul wall, there is a nice place i really enjoyed – Panorama (or maybe Panoramic) museum. It is a museum that has a hemisphere on top of the building. In that hemisphere they created 3D version of the conquer of Constantinopolis by Turks. It is real size painting/decorations/sounds/lights and everything 🙂 It has audio guide that provides some interesting info too 🙂
    And not far from that place there are the fragments of the famous wall that seemed preserved – there you can see the famous 4 walls of Constantinopolis, now Istanbul.:)

    I hope you will have a good time in the city of my dreams! 🙂

    Hugs and kisses from Latvia!

  • Elena Maria on March 1st, 2011 at 9:54 pm
  • Hi Elena,

    Nice to have you with us (in cyberspace anyway..)! Time is rapidly running out on us in Istanbul but we are spending some of our down time reading Istanbul: The Imperial City which has made us want to squeeze in a few more walks and visits to sites before we go. Maybe we’ll just have to return one day…

  • Emma on March 4th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
  • Hey Guys,

    Hope your both good and preparations are going well. Re the sightseeing – don’t feel too bad. I managed around 3 months in Istanbul and didn’t manage Haga Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi – the list goes one….

    I guess my approach to sightseeing doesn’t take in the historic etc. I know without a doubt I’ll be revisiting Istanbul – so maybe next time : )

    P.S. I mixed carab molasses with fine grain bulgar – not exactly gourmet, but it got me through the frosty days.

    I’m back in Europe now – easy, comfy but expensive!


  • Jimmy on March 23rd, 2011 at 12:12 pm
  • Hey Jimmy

    Yep our preparations are going well in fact we are hitting the road on Saturday morning heading east. The sightseeing has improved a bit over last few weeks with Em visiting Topkapi and both of us making it to Hagia Sofia a few weeks back. As you say though leaving things for a future visit is a good way to make sure we come back.

    I saw the pics of your frosty days and I reckon that I would have needed more then molasses and blugar to get me on the bike 🙂

    I see you are now back in western Europe heading back to blighty so take care on the road and maybe our paths will corss again one day.

    Take care

    Justin + Emma

  • Justin on March 24th, 2011 at 10:49 am

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