My City: Istanbul
Name: Nina Kogej
The best words to describe me would be curious, adventurous and romantic. I am inveterate traveller, always seeking for deeper meaning in travelling. Now all the travels are done with my hubby Simon, with whom we also create Nina Travels travel blog (www.nina-travels.com). We try to focus on adventurous travelling and that is why, we do lots of them by our own 4WD. Even though our off-the beaten paths lead us into harsh reality of poverty, we try to always learn something from these kind of experiences. More and more often we realized that even though we don’t live in strained circumstances, we actually are as poor than they are. Someone who has never left home can never imagine how rich the ones who have nothing are. All you need is to open your heart and mind and they will teach you the most important things in life, which are far from the material things, we believe, make us wealthy.
Where do you live? In Slovenia, in a small town, near the capital of Ljubljana.
Here I grew up: I might not be a true nomad, as I have always been living in one place – surrounded with nature, hills and beautiful countryside.
Why I visit Istanbul: I first lay my eyes on Istanbul 14 years ago. I met a friend from Istanbul when learning English in the UK and we agreed it is time for me to visit Istanbul. I was 18 years old then.
My early memory: Coming from a small town of 3000 inhabitants I was overwhelmed over Istanbul and its population, energy, way of life, history. I stayed there for 3 weeks and I fell in love with it completely. I wanted to move there for good.
How do you find the best places to eat? I don’t use any application on my smart phone, as I rather observe the locals. If the place looks crowded, I know I came to the right place. I love street food, where I can see and smell the food, before getting it in my hands.
My favorite place: I don’t really have a favorite place to eat, as I go by the mood and I never eat anything else than traditional food of the place I visit. Simon and I eat everything and we are not picky. Sometimes is hard, but we try to follow Andrew Zimmern advise, “If it looks good, eat it!” But the whole Istanbul is just an amazing place for foodies!
What do you eat there? If you’re ever in Istanbul or Turkey, don’t miss “mantı» – some kind of Turkish ravioli, served in yoghurt sauce. Try also Gözleme – tortilla like bread, filled with different types of fillings (spinach, minced meat, potato, cheese). There’s also new, trendy fast food in Istanbul – kumpir (loaded baked potato with all kind of toppings). And don’t forget the amazing desserts Turks are famous for!
Meet the locals: A great place to meet the locals and feel the trendy vibe is Ortaköy neighbourhood – lots of kumpir to try there. Taksim Square and Istiklal Street is also a great meeting place and a starting point for bars, nightclubs, restaurant and shopping.
My favorite bar: I do not have any favorite bar in Istanbul, but if you are there for the very first time, you just should spend an hour or two in any rooftop bar, overlooking to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The views are amazing!
Best for a first date: It might be fun to do a cruise on the Bosporus during a romantic sunset. Seeing a city from another perspective is always rewarding, especially if you are there with someone special.
My secret place: Not many travelers find the time to visit this place, as it is a little bit harder to reach as it is in Asian side of Istanbul. The place is called Camlica Hill and has amazing views over Bosporus and Istanbul. Go there for a sunset – also a great place for being romantic or just getting to know the locals.
My best advice: Take your time and don’t just visit Istanbul for a day or two. Istanbul is fabulous and it definitely deserves your attention. I have been there eight times and every time I am there it feels like I have to see and do so much more. Istanbul is a city that will keep on surprising – mixing Asia and Europe is one of a kind experience, which you cannot find anywhere else in the world!
My favorite shop: You cannot leave before visiting its famous Grand Bazar! Try yourself at haggling and meet the best sellers worldwide.
My favorite Event: If you like tulips, visit Istanbul in April for the yearly Tulip Festival in Emirgan Park. If you are asking yourself why tulips – they originate more or less in Turkey!
Taxi or other local transport? I would not choose either of them. The best way to explore Istanbul (Taksim and Sultanahmet) and its main tourist attractions is by foot. Remember, the best things are always between point A and B.
Keep away of: If you are a women and traveling to Istanbul by yourself, avoid eye contact with locals, as they might think you are flirting with them.
Why do you travel? I guess traveling is in my blood. It is my biggest passion, my love, and my world!
Where next: There are always plans and often planned destinations are left behind, because we have managed to find a cheaper flight tickets to somewhere else…or maybe we just found out an interesting fact about a town, which we would never even consider visiting. We are doing an overland trip from Slovenia to Greece before flying to Frankfurt, Germany, to visit some traditional festivals.
Follow Nina´s adventures here: