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Istanbul, Turkey: Minarets, Ships and Turkish Delight

Istanbul, Turkey: Minarets, Ships and Turkish Delight

Dutch adventurer Bart de Zwart explorers the waterways of Istanbul, Turkey by inflatable paddleboard, and discovers the many hidden gems this city has to offer.


“When we arrive in Istanbul, Turkey, we also arrive in the modern world again.

Istanbul lays at the Bosporus strait, the connection between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, partly in Europe and partly in Asia. Istanbul is Eastern, Western, old and modern at the same time.

Since we are only here for 2 days, we check into our small family-owned hotel and take our bag packs with the inflatables and try to find a few spots where we can paddle in the city.

There is a lot of water in Istanbul but also lots of traffic, many small ferries, fishermen, pilot boats and the container ships. So we have to pick our places carefully because they don’t want you to paddle in the busy areas.

We find a small inlet opposite of the Suluymaniye Mosque. The Turkish men sipping their tea look a little surprised when I pump up the board and put it in the water. Feels great to paddle in a city with a background like this. The small stalls, bars at the waterfront, the high minarets behind that pointing to the sky and the ferries making it very hard to stay dry.

Later we take one of the ferries to the Asian side where things are slightly calmer. Since there is no beach here, everybody is sitting on the boulders and enjoying the sunset with the city in silhouette as a backdrop. We paddle along the coast until the sun is about to set and we are getting hungry.

The following day we wander through the Grand Bazaar and the spices Bazaar.

The amount of little shops is amazing, thousands, the competition here must be killing. In this area you can find anything you need from hardware, ancient daggers, grand pianos to Turkish delight.

With 12 million people this is a big city, where traffic is a disaster.

In the evening, before we eat in a local restaurant, I paddle at dusk at the Ortaköy mosque which is beautiful from the water because it is lighted up from all sides. Again hard to stay dry with the chop from all of the ships. The kids, selling sweets at the mosque, watch me paddling. They chant, hoping I would fall in. When I make it out dry, they watch me, a little disappointed but still with a big smile, how the the big board deflates and disappears in the bag within minutes.

The next day we fly across the Atlantic to Sayulito, Mexico, host of the ISA World Championships…..

Chris Couve

View all posts by Chris Couve

Chris is a Digital Marketing Specialist based out of Ballito, South Africa and also an avid Stand-Up Paddle racer. When he's not working or competing he also teaches SUP and educates communities about sustainability & environmental awareness. Also known for making an epic cup of coffee!

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