If Istanbul was an iceberg, the central districts – Üsküdar, Kadiköy, Sultanahmet, Eminönü, Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş – would only be the tip sticking out of the water. Many of the 18 million metropolitans live in suburbs that sprawl inland, far far away from the Bosporus. What used to be neighbouring villages has turned into a dense network of roads, run-down, underpass hamlets and crazy condominium projects.
These peripheral urban areas are the backstage of Istanbul: shopping malls, residential tower blocks, offices, warehouses, logistical hubs, bus stations, factories, and miles and miles of highways. Where common people live and work.
Central metropolitans like me only realise that Istanbul is a Leviathan when we get out of it. A sweet twelve day retreat to more western horizons flew me to and from both of the city’s international airports. A week later, the National Sovereignty and Children’s day allowed us EVS volunteers to go on an extended weekend to Çanakkale, a pleasant city on the mouth of the Marmara sea.
Sabiha Gökçen, on the Asian side, is a half hour trip on the E10 bus from Kadiköy.
Atatürk airport, on the European side, is pretty close to central Istanbul. It’s a half hour trip to Eminönü on the metro and tramway, and another 20 minutes to Üsküdar by vapür.
Çanakkale is 400km away from Istanbul. Several coach companies go there, from either Samandira (16km east of Üsküdar) or Esenler (16km west of Eminönü). The trip is roughly 6 hours long.