You may not guess it at first but impenetrable Istanbul does indeed have recluses for the lean- and green-minded. In spite of its seemingly endless sprawl, there are spots found both inside and outside the city to catch your breath, let your hair down and clear your mind.
[caption id="attachment_40546" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The serenity of Büyükada.[/caption]
Getting squeezed[caption id="attachment_40547" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Istanbul health boosts are on every corner. Photo by Boss Tweed CC BY[/caption]
If you grow over-caffeinated (or sick) of the ceaselessly flowing black çay (tea), Istanbulites have been pressing fruit well before the juicing craze of this era. Portakal (orange) and nar (pomegranate) are easily found in Istanbul but don’t shy away from the equally delicious demirhindi (tamarind) and şalgam (turnip). For optimal freshness, insist that your corner büfe attendant squeezes your fruit of choice before your eyes. Sip. Sip. Savor. Repeat.
Getting scrubbed[caption id="attachment_40548" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Sudded up. Photo courtesy of Çinili Hamam[/caption]
While in Istanbul, don’t shy away from the opportunity for the ultimate scrub down at a Turkish bath. Known in Turkey and across the Arab World as hamam, these institutions are true and proven urban oases, frequented by locals and travelers for centuries. In present-day Istanbul they vary along a gradient from full-service hotel spas to neighborhood public baths. Swaddle yourself in a peştemal (the provided red-checkered cotton wrap), breathe out your prudence and watch as the kese erases away the layers of dead skin that you never knew loafed on your being. If visiting with a companion of the opposite gender, be sure to double-check whether the hamam welcomes both of you at overlapping hours. Off the main circuit on the Asian side, consider climbing the hills of Üsküdar to Çinili Hamam, a locally-leaning spot with respective male and female sides. Be sure to confirm prices as you enter to ensure peace-of-mind during your hamam experience.
Getting grounded[caption id="attachment_40549" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] A calm corner of Üsküdar.[/caption]
Some of Istanbul’s most serene spots are in the dead center of it all. Cemeteries of the many Abrahamic religious sects that have made their claim to Istanbul showcase the final resting places for their departed. Armenian Orthodox, Sephardic Jews and Hanafite Muslims have been laid to rest in their historic neighborhoods on both continental shores. Notable are the tombstones in the side graveyard of the Galata Mevlevihanesi, adorned with commemorative turbans carved in stone. These strikingly cylindrical monuments pay tribute to past dervishes in Ottoman Turkish eternalized in the melodic Nastaliq script. For complete solace, on a walk back from the Çinili Hamam, consider stopping by the Bülbülderesi Mezarlığı (Nightingale Cemetery), an especially stunning spot with with views stretching out to the Bosphorus.
If you’re looking for a day-long departure from the bustle of Istanbul, board one of the regular local ferries leaving for the Adalar. Half of the fun of a trip to the Princes’ Islands, as they’re also known, is the one- to two-hour boat ride (depending on your ferry route). Kiss Sultanahmet and Karaköy behind, plant yourself on the outdoor deck and surrender to the trance of seagulls escorting your ferry to Istanbul’s green isles.
The largest of the four Princes’ Islands is Büyükada, a two square mile careless Turkish Nantucket complete with wonderfully whitewashed wooden villas perched above the cerulean waters of the Marmara. Forgo the phaeton (horse-drawn carriages) trotting by and hire yourself a bisiklet (bicycle) from one of the rental shops in the vicinity of the ferry dock. The twelve-kilometer revolution around Büyükada is dramatic to say the least, with surreal vistas as you crest around each cove and rockface.
trivago’s Lean & Green Hotel Pick | Adahan Istanbul
When the hoteliers behind four-star Adahan Istanbul were given the grand Galata apartment block dating back to 1874, they knew restoration was the only route to take. New ‘natural and pure’ materials and exposed original walls and ceilings let this lean & green property’s details speak for themselves. A wide marble staircase links the 40 urban guestrooms filled with understated materials from solid wood, white marble, wool and lime plaster.[caption id="attachment_40561" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] ‘Architectural Digest’-worthy décor. Photos via trivago[/caption]
On the green side of things, Adahan takes the environment and guest comfort into account with all of its design decisions: Solar-powered water heaters and rainwater collection reduce the hotel’s environmental footprint while the conscious use of natural materials over synthetic ones promise easy breathing in-room. Order a round of cold and hot mezze from their rooftop restaurant Cachi and enjoy it under the dining room’s wooden vaulted ceiling or out on the terrace drinking in Galata and Sultanahmet.