Istanbul surprises me almost every day. I like to stroll through the back streets of the old city like stray dogs do. And I must confess that I sometimes think I know the old city fairly well.
But there are always new discoveries to make. And then I realize again that this metropolis, where as many people live as in the Netherlands, is constantly renewing itself. To think that you know a city like this, is really an illusion.
I am fascinated by the ongoing transformation of Istanbul. First thousand years a Greek city: Byzantium. Then more than 1100 years the richest city in the Christian world: Constantinople. And since the conquest by Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 for over 550 years an Islamic city: Istanbul.
All those civilizations have left their marks. And although city officials all too often display a non-professional attitude to the past of the city, there are still numerous remains of the ancient and recent history to discover.
Clichés about Istanbul are plenty. Clichés always contain a grain of truth. But Istanbul is more than the sum of all those clichés. It’s colorful, chaotic, dynamic and confused. The tourist attractions are only a small fraction of this vast metropolis. Even if we limit ourselves to the old town around the Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar, there are a lot of interesting buildings, streets and architectural surprises that we do not find in the tourist guides. All have their own stories. And wandering in the old town I am surprised again and again about the huge variety of neighborhoods within those neighborhoods.
Strolling through the back streets of the ancient district of Sultanahmet I discovered a hidden culinary gem: a fairly new fish restaurant with the beautiful name “Kayıkçı ‘(the Boatman). In an alley on the right side of the Divanyolu Caddesi, when you walk from the Aya Sophia in the direction of the Grand Bazaar.
The owner is Davut Özçelik (47). He lived three years in Rotterdam. He speaks Dutch and is doing well as a businessman. “Kayıkçı ‘is his fourth restaurant in this street. He also manages the Mosaic restaurant, Khorasani and Rumeli Café Restaurant.
Mussels was the main course of the evening we had dinner there with friends from the Netherlands. As somebody who was born in the southwestern province of ‘Zeeland’, close to the Schelde river, I love all shell fish, especially mussels. Boiled, fried or stuffed with spicy rice. Obviously the chefs from Istanbul and Ayvalık didn’t have mussels from Zeeland. And they were not prepared in my preferred way: ‘natural’ – with onion and celery. But the Istanbul mussels from Sarıyer tasted delicious. Smaller and somewhat different in texture, but nice and served in a delicious creamy sauce with chopped red peppers. They were served with fries – thick and cut by the chefs themselves.
Good Turkish white wine, a nice modern interior with frescoes on the ceiling, and a warm welcoming atmosphere meant that we had a lovely evening. Check it out!
Fish restaurant ‘Kayıkçı “
Address: Ticarethane Sokak. No. 9
Credit cards accepted
Open: daily from 10.00 am to midnight