Bookish Travels: Istanbul Edition!

               Istanbul Souvenir & Book Haul

So I’ve been mulling this idea since my trip to Singapore back in March and I’ve decided to take the plunge! I’m starting a new feature here on Bookish At Heart: posts on ‘booksploring’ at home or abroad! I tend to either look up bookish places before travelling, or seek out bookstores when I’m visiting new places. For one thing, it’s a great way to get exposure to diverse books and also I just love how different book shops in different places can be! If a book is a window to another world, well then IMO a bookshop or library is a window into a country and its culture 🙂 So this feature will be a way to show off some of the bookish gems that can be found around the world, as well as (hopefully!) give you guys some ‘booksploring’ inspiration when travelling!

                              Topkapi Palace

I was in Istanbul during the August bank holiday – its a city I’ve been wanting to visit for years! The fusion of east and west, and the ridiculously long and colourful history has charmed me from the moment I first found out about Constantinople. It was beautifully hot whilst we were there and we squeezed in tonnes of culture, sightseeing and food (obv!) in the week we were there. One of the best things about Istanbul is that because of its mix of east and west, there are some solid English-language bookshops to be found!

        Stall at Sahaflar Carsisi book market

One of the first places we visited was Sahaflar Carsisi, the book market just outside the Grand Bazaar in the heart of the historic Sultanahmet area of Istanbul. If you’ve not heard of the Bazaar place before, it really needs to be seen to be believed! Similar to the souks in Marrakech, the Grand Bazaar is a hive of activity with around 600 streets of stalls selling all manner of things – it really is a treasure trove worthy of Aladdin’s cave. From souvenirs, to clothes, to ridiculously good fake handbags, you can get lost here for hours.

        Cat lounging on a book stall in Sahaflar                               Carsisi book market

Sahaflar Carsisi is a secondhand book bazaar made up of various stalls, with a pretty big range of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Whilst most of the books were Turkish, the vibe of this place is well worth detouring for, if not purely for the fact that this market has existed since Byzantine times!!! The shopkeepers are super chill, busy with chai and chatter, so you’re free to browse at your leisure. The best thing about this place though? The cats that you can often spot lounging or dozing literally atop the books on the stall – and no one seems to care. You can totally imagine that not much has changed in the hundreds of years Sahaflar Carsisi has been around 🙂

         Homer Book Shop near Istikal Street

On the northern side of Istanbul, where you can find more western shops and nightlife, we made a beeline for Homer Kitabevi. This bookshop is a gorgeous little oasis from the chaos of Istikal Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, which is just around the corner. Homer is set over three floors with endless shelves in nooks and crannies, and its super browsable too. It stocks English-language fiction and non-fiction, and whilst you’ll find books that you’ll be able to pick up in London or NYC, they also stock more specific Turkey-related titles in their history and literature sections. I saw plenty of Elif Shafak and Constantinople titles. But the gem that I managed to pick up was Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey by Ozge Samanci!

      Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey                                 by Ozge Samanci

I first saw this gorgeous graphic novel when I was in Singapore and was very tempted but opted for something else instead. My holiday to Istanbul wasn’t even booked then so clearly fate intervened and me buying it in Turkey was meant to be. Dare to Disappoint, told in graphic novel format, is a memoir of the author’s childhood in Turkey, and has received rave reviews. Samanci explores growing up amongst societal expectations, political happenings and friendship drama in a humorous way and I really cannot wait to read it! 

       Robinson Crusoe Book Shop near Istikal                                              Street

Our last stop was Robinson Crusoe, just a few doors down from Homer. It looks deceptively small from the outside, but is actually pretty big. The shelves go right up to the ceiling and they even have the ladders to go with it *heart eyes*. Robinson Crusoe has an impressively well-stocked comic book and graphic novel selection both in English and Turkish, as well as lots of non-fiction and fiction books. As I’d stocked up on something light already, here we bought Turkey: A Short History by Norman Stone. Although we’d learned quite a bit about the history of Turkey whilst doing tours and the cruise on the Bosphorus, you really can’t squeeze in the thousands of years of history that Turkey has to offer in a few days. I’m looking forward to diving in a deeper into the history, culture and traditions of this gorgeous country! 

    Turkey: A Short History by Norman Stone

Meanwhile, in terms of my holiday TBR, I kept it short and sweet! I read The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James and adored it – check out my review here! Also made a start on Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais which was the perfect holiday read. So that’s a quick roundup of my ‘booksploring’ adventures in Istanbul! Let me know if you found this interesting or enjoyable – would love to hear your thoughts!

          Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais

How do you decide your holiday TBR? Have you stumbled across any must-visit bookish places whilst on holiday? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

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