What I thought would be an easy visit to Beşiktaş became an exhausting day. Near Taksim and Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş wraps along the Bosphorus shoreline on Istanbul’s European side toward the Bosphorus Bridge. The traffic gridlock was horrific, with seemingly endless bumper-to-bumper vehicles. I planned to take the tram from Taksim to Kabataş, and catch a bus to central Beşiktaş. After waiting much too long for a bus, I began walking, but dense street traffic was uncomfortable. To make things even worse, mindless scooter and bicycle riders decided to detour in pedestrian areas, practically running people down!
When I finally saw the bus, I escaped the hectic pedestrian crowd and jumped on it. As the bus inched forward, one slow stop later, the driver shooed everyone off, announcing that it was the end of the line (huh?), and telling passengers they needed to transfer. Waiting for the connection was like Beckett’s famous play Waiting for Godot – clearly, the traffic was causing multiple delays and wreaking havoc with everything on wheels.
Again, I set out on foot for central Beşiktaş and some of its more elusive areas. After passing the soccer stadium, I circled back to stop at Dolmabahçe Palace and take a breather from the heat. I sat at an outdoor café near the Museum of Painting and Sculpture to chill, admire the Bosphorus, and enjoy a cold drink. I thought about touring the palace, but saw the long line and decided against it.
By the time I got back to my apartment in Beyoğlu, it was almost 6:00 p.m. It wasn’t my best day in Istanbul, but not totally wasted. I learned a first-hand lesson about what happens when 16 million people get trapped in a city on a hot day! The bigger lesson – when in Istanbul, if you can’t walk – tram, underground Metro, and ferry are your only viable options for getting around. Otherwise, you could spend your entire life sitting in taxis, buses, motorcycles, and cars. Below is some information about Beşiktaş, (beh she tash). Exploring this interesting area of Istanbul will require several more visits – another time?
Beşiktaş (cradle stone in Turkish) was developed as part of a mass housing venture beginning in 1947. As Istanbul’s urban expansion continued into the 1950s, hundreds of fancy villas were constructed in what is now known as the Etiler Neighborhood, named after Etiler Yapı Kooperatifi, a construction and development partnership. Before development, the area – Levent – “was mostly countryside, with open fields and green hills”.
“Levent is a development area in Istanbul. It was originally designed for middle-income citizens, such as civil servants, teachers, and shop owners. Later, it became a popular area for celebrities. It includes five Levent developments and has road links with the prestigious Maslak region to the north. The area is famous for the Saudi Consulate and skyscraper projects behind the Bosporus hills.”
Since the 1960s, multi-story luxury apartments were built among the greenery and groves on Bebek ridges. Etiler and surrounding settlements developed as “an elite residential area in the 1980s, favored by the middle-upper and upper-income strata”.
Today, Beşiktaş is one of the most prestigious areas of Istanbul and a cultural and artistic center. It’s grown with new neighborhoods and educational institutions like Bosphorus University, Boğaziçi University, Private Yıldız Technical University, and Anatolian Vocational High School. In 1993, Istanbul’s “magnificent business and shopping center, Akmerkez, opened on Nispetiye Street, an area of entertainment centers and fancy boutiques”.
Market District – popular open street bazaars located near the Naval Museum
Turkish Naval Museum – a century-old, renovated museum with Turkey’s largest collection of naval battle artifacts – imperial caiques (barges) of sultans, historic cannons, and navigational instruments
BJK İnönü Soccer Stadium – one of the oldest sports arenas in Turkey replaced by a new stadium in 2016
Dolmabahçe Palace – the largest palace in Turkey extensively decorated with gold and crystal and formerly the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire
Ortaköy Mosque – also known as the Grand Imperial Mosque a major symbol of Istanbul that hosts excellent examples of Islamic calligraphy
Tomb of Hayrettin Barbarossa – mausoleum of a legendary sailor and grand admiral of the Ottoman navy, known as the “lion of the Mediterranean”
My next blog post will be from Athens.