On my way to Istanbul, a friend who had already been there SMSed me: “Istanbul is the most amazing city in the world, after Delhi, of course.” Maybe I took her words seriously, but once there, I found myself making comparisons between the European Capital of Culture 2010, that won me over with its night life and street cafes, and the one that has been my home for ten years. Here’s what I felt.
Monuments: Delhi boasts of magnificent monuments such as Jama Masjid, Qutab Minar, Red fort and more. Every inch of this city is lined with monuments with amazing history behind them. If only people would respect and take care of the monuments and areas around these.
NighTlife: Partying at night is for those who can afford a plush nightclub or a restaurant. It’s difficult to imagine a Delhi street with a carnival feel. Delhi streets are unsafe for women at night
Street food: This is one area where Delhi emerges a clear winner. Chhola kulcha, bhelpuri, popcorn, paapad, momos, eggs, kadhi chawal or simply noodles, there’s a amazing menu to choose from, and it’s all within your pocket.
People: Our guides and autowallas harass tourists, we litter, pee and spit around corners, bribe the cops, honk endlessly, eve tease, and clearly ruin the city’s image.
Yamuna: People stand on the ITO bridge and throw flowers and whatever else they have, in the Yamuna. The river which looks more like a strait now is filthy and uncared for.
Monuments: Monuments have been maintained. Lovers don’t believe in defacing their heritage. Topkapi palace, Blue Mosque, Sophia Hague, Yerebetan Sarayi are popular monuments. Every monument has its own café where you can chill after the tour.
Nightlife: Istiklal street is perhaps the CP of Istanbul. It’s lined with small and big clubs. Youngsters often stop their cars to dance in the middle of the street. It’s safe for women to roam in the night unaccompanied.
Street food: There are tea vendors at every corner selling a variety of flavours. Street food is expensive, (a few roasted chestnuts for Rs 200), but hygenic. You can buy chestnuts, corn soaked in sauce and flavoured yogurt which is a speciality.
People: Amitabh Bachchan shehenshah! Shopkeepers in the Grand Bazaar shout out to Indians. Turks are well-versed with world cultures, and proud of their city — you’ll never find a soul honking or spitting here.
Bosphorus strait: A trip to Istanbul is incomplete without a cruise on the sparkling Bosphorus Strait. People tuck chips packets and soft drink cans in their bags to dispose later.