The Asian Side of Istanbul: Anadolu Kavağı

On the Asian shores of the Bosphorus, a sleepy fishing town is waking up and preparing itself for some mid-day excitement.

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Lunchtime in Anadolu Kavağı is special. It is the time when a ship full of visitors is docking on its shores, eager for some fresh food and a look at life on the quieter and less visited Asian side of Istanbul.

As I pushed my way off the boat and started walking, I noticed that the Asian side didn’t seem much different. It was smaller and more intimate, but the narrow streets were full of the same kinds of restaurants, food stands, and souvenir shops I had seen before.

Shouts from every direction could be heard about where to eat and who had the freshest fish. Even children joined in, selling cold bottled water on the side of the streets. It felt like a set-up.

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I didn’t want to waste any time, so I found an empty food stand and ordered a fish sandwich. It was pretty good. Not the best I’ve had in Turkey, but not appalling like some of the street food I’ve tried.

After my quick but fulfilling lunch I began walking uphill, searching for a road that would lead to the castle ruins I had seen from the ship. I was desperate to escape the touts and wanted to find something I hadn’t seen before.

This time, I passed no souvenir shops. Only houses, small gardens and cats sleeping in the afternoon sun.

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The walk uphill was exhausting. Step after step, after step. I kept climbing until finally, I could see the turquoise- coloured Bosphorus sparkling in the sun.

The steps were then replaced by hills and I kept walking. Eventually, the ground became flat, stone walls replaced gardens, and the remains of an old roman castle stood in front of me. I wiped the sweat off my face and internally congratulated myself. I made it! And while the ruins were interesting, I found the view much more so. Seeing the Bosphorus flow into the Black Sea was captivating and I wanted to stay up on that hill all day.

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After almost 30 minutes of admiring the view, fear that the ship would leave without me set in and I began the descent back to the dock. I passed more houses, cats, and plenty of people. Men untangling fishing nets, children playing, average people just going about their day.

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As I boarded the ship to continue with the second part of the cruise, I started to think about what this town would have looked like had I visited on my own.

What if I had my own boat?

What if I came in the early morning or late afternoon?

Would that have made this experience more genuine?

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As we pulled out of port, my mind was racing. So many thoughts swirling in my head. I do not think Anadolu Kavağı is an accurate representation of the Asian side of Istanbul (especially as part of the Bosphorus cruise), but I do believe it has a genuine side, if only you can escape the souvenir stands to find it.

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What do you think? How do you feel about touristy towns? Do you think they can still be genuine?

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