As a copywriter and a history and culture enthusiast, author of Indie Guides Istanbul Yağmur E. Giray loves her hometown located at the crossroads between the Middle East and Europe. She talks with us about what it is like to live in Istanbul today, and introduces us to some of her favorite places and artists in the city.
How does Istanbul influence your work?
Istanbul truly connects East and West, so this is a city where I can find plenty of creative material to influence my writing. There are some streets here in particular where I can clearly feel the difference between people’s lifestyles, even though they still live side by side in harmony. This East-West synthesis makes me feel very safe and human, so I feel very comfortable working with these people.
Tell us about your guilty pleasure in ISTANBUL…
On sunny days I often walk my own specific route between Beyoğlu and the famous Grand Bazaar. This area is known as the Historic Peninsula. I was a passionate history student at university, so I love to get lost wandering around old Istanbul. Walking this route is definitely my guilty pleasure.
Recount a funny/moving anecdote that happened to you in ISTANBUL.
Istanbul is a city caught between Middle Eastern and European culture. In all this chaos, funny or weird things happen almost every day. But there is one thing that makes me laugh every time I remember it: One morning, on my way to work, a smiling guy approached me. He gently took my chin and told me that I have a very blessed face and that I will have an amazing life. He also told me that I’m very lucky because I am a Sagittarius (he was right by the way), kissed me on the cheek and left me standing there open-mouthed!
What do you dislike the most about ISTANBUL?
Like the rest of my country, I don’t feel safe in Istanbul. There is a war happening on our doorstep and we suffer the consequences of this warfare severely. And, of course, the traffic!
What would you miss most if you left ISTANBUL?
I was born, raised and have spent most of my life here. My memories from my youth take place on the streets of Beyoğlu, so I would miss this area the most I think.
What is your favorite food/drink in ISTANBUL?
Turkish cuisine is insanely varied and I love it all. But my real obsession is street food – there are stuffed mussels and Turkish bagels on almost every corner. A winter favorite of mine are the roasted chestnuts, which are also famous street food here.
Where do you go when you want to escape the city for an hour?
Belgrad Forest is an amazing place to escape to near the city. I go there some Sundays and just jogging around it makes me feel very relaxed. There is also a big park called Maçka in the center of Istanbul, where I go with my friends to just chill on the grass. This is my ultimate escape during work hours.
Name one local artist that everybody should know.
The graffiti artist Leo and his big, famous panda bear.
What song do you feel best describes ISTANBUL?
For me, Pools by Glass Animals paints the musical image of Istanbul. Its feels like you are in a jungle – it’s overgrown and claustrophobic, but you love it anyway. You want to get out but you are also okay with this mess. Living here feels a bit ironic, so this is the perfect song.
What city do you dream of discovering?
My whole life I have wanted to go to Sydney, Australia. I haven’t had the chance to do it yet, but I will. I want to discover this city by myself with no tourist information, no maps, no locals… Just by myself, on foot.
Discover Istanbul with our city guide Indie Guides Istanbul dedicated to cultural and alternative locations in the city.