29 Surprising facts about the people of istanbul!

Igetting to know stanbul and its inhabitants?

The easiest way to do that is with stories, data and pictures about the faces behind the metropolis of millions.

1. Are there 15 or 17 million people living in Istanbul?

No one really knows the answer to the population of Istanbul. Although there are official figures, they do not include the illegal settlements in and around Istanbul.

The inhabitants in the so-called Gecekondus, namely seem as good as not on.

Gecekondu is the Turkish name for a simple or primitive settlement on the outskirts of a big city. The word is not to be confused with a slum. Literally translated, Gecekondu means "put down at night". This is a hint to the often fast and also very simple way of building these settlements.

Some Turkish sources believe that more than 20% of the apartments in Istanbul were built without permission.

2. Istanbul was home to "only" 2.7 million people until 1975

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

Istanbul is the fastest growing city in Europe. No other city gains so many inhabitants so quickly.

This means that nowhere else in Europe so many new apartments have to be built. That is why Istanbul’s real estate market is one of the hottest in Turkey.

The increase in the number of inhabitants is extremely fast at the moment. This is mainly due to the influx from Central and Eastern Anatolia. More than 20 million people are expected to live in Istanbul by 2025. This is one of the many reasons why there are construction sites on every corner in Istanbul.

3. Is there a rivalry between Istanbul’s European and Asian sides??

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

Asian side

It depends on whether you’re talking to a soccer fan or not:

Istanbul Besiktats and Galatasaray are the teams in Europe. Fenerbahce Istanbul is the team of Asia.

Otherwise, there is no real enmity between the two sides of Istanbul.

4. Istanbul is the largest city in Europe

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

If you add up the European and Asian sides, Istanbul is the largest city in Europe.

If you count only the European side of Istanbul, you get about 8 million inhabitants in 2016.

This would still make Istanbul the second largest city in Europe after Moscow.

5. Istanbul’s Galata district was mainly inhabited by Greeks

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

By the end of the Turkish-Greek War in 1923 and the Cyprus War, 10% of Istanbul’s residents were Greek.

They lived mainly in the Galata district – now Beyoglu.

The same proportion of Greeks already existed in the Ottoman Empire. Which is also logical. After all, the Ottomans conquered Istanbul / Constantinople from the Byzantines – they spoke Greek at that time.

6. Huzun is the collective feeling of the..

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

Huzun describes a way of life.

There is no direct translation into German for the Huzun feeling. The easiest way to describe it is this:

Huzun is a mood of failure and loss. It is comparable to wistfully looking back at old, past memories. Memories that will never come back. In a mixture of dreariness and melancholy. In black and white colors.

The Turkish Nobel Prize winner for literature Orhan Pamuk described Huzun like this: "Huzun, the Istanbul feeling! A collective mood of failure and loss."

7. The capital of several empires

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

Istanbul’s residents learn about their city’s rich history while still in school.

The first name of their city was Byzantion. This was one before 2.Greek settlement founded 700 years ago.

The heyday of Istanbul begins in the year 336. In this year, the Roman Emperor Constantine moved his residence to the then still small city of Byzantion on the Bosporus. Constantine gave the new city its name of the time, Constantinople "The City of Constantine.

Istanbul kept this name as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and later the Byzantine Empire. Even the Ottomans did not change the name after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Istanbul was only an alternative name.

For 600 years, Istanbul was the capital of the Ottoman Empire, until 1923. At that time the Turkish founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk moved the capital to Ankara.

Ataturk also made Istanbul the official, single name of the city.

8. The Mahalle is the village in Istanbul

The Mahalle in Cukur Cuma Street

Cukur Cuma Street

The Mahalle is something like a small village, in the middle of the metropolis of millions. Simply explained, a mahalle is your own neighborhood in a turkish city.

Istanbul residents know their neighborhood – for better and for worse. The Mahalle still exists in Istanbul. But the influence of the own quarter disappears more and more.

Mahalle was originally a street, often a cul-de-sac or a rather demarcated area of the city. It consisted of old stone or wooden houses.

Because Istanbul’s inhabitants now live in apartment buildings like in any big city, the influence of the mahalle has all but disappeared. Young Istanbulites do not mind, as the mahalle was often a guarantee of very conservative influences and an existing peer pressure. They lived in a village in the middle of the city. This is no longer the case.

For those who want to know more about it, I recommend the book "Museum of Innocence" by the Turkish Nobel Prize winner for literature Orhan Pamuk. It is set in the Mahalle in Cukur Cuma Street in Beyoglu.

9. In Istanbul, there are Russian, Polish and German neighborhoods

The German Fountain stands in the square between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, where thousands of Istanbul residents walk by every day

German fountain – in front of the Blue Mosque

Polonezkoy is a village with 400 inhabitants, 30km east of the city center of Istanbul. The name says it all, Polonezkoy is a Polish village in the middle of Istanbul. Settlers founded it in 1842.

The place is a kind of insider tip in Istanbul. This is due to the appearance of Polonezkoy. The small village has, for example, a Roman Catholic church with a cemetery. In addition, there are Polish half-timbered houses that their inhabitants cherish along with fenced gardens with fruit trees and shrubs.

I have found various figures on how many Germans now live in Istanbul. Some write that there are 15.000, others even mention numbers up to 45.000. It is certain that Istanbul and Germany have a long, common past.

The inhabitants of Istanbul recognize this every day at busy places like the German Fountain – at the square in front of the Blue Mosque, the Haydarpasa train station or the Istanbul Lisesi ("Istanbul High School"). The school is considered one of the best in Turkey, where German and Turkish teachers teach together.

Germans and Poles are joined by many other countries, including some streets in Fatih with a lot of Russian stores. Beyoglu is still home to the descendants of Jews who lived in the 15. The people who fled from Spain to the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century.

When talking about emigrants, the inhabitants of Istanbul often think of the Cihangir district in Beyoglu. It has the reputation of being the most European neighborhood in Istanbul.

10. Cliche: Orient and Occident

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

The link between Orient and Occident: the East and the West. The cliche has long weighed on Istanbul.

But there are many truths in it.

Istanbul is the link between Asia and Europe. And Istanbul is the westernmost city in Turkey.

11. Istanbul’s inhabitants still shop at the Bakkal

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

A bakkal is a kind of grocer’s store in Turkey. The stores are often just three or four square meters in size, but you can find just about anything you can imagine in that space.

Newspapers, ice-cream, toilet paper, bread – Istanbul’s inhabitants buy everything in their little "corner store" or better bakkal.

The stores are still holding their own in Istanbul compared to the big supermarkets. This will probably not change in the next few years.

12. The most water bottles in all of Europe are sold in Istanbul

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

Unfortunately, no drinking water comes out of the water pipes in Istanbul. For this reason alone, the inhabitants of Istanbul buy water bottles in large quantities.

In addition, everywhere in Istanbul you have the opportunity to buy water. The simit stalls offer water bottles as well as the Bosporus ferries.

13. Fishing, target shooting and barbecue are national sports in Istanbul

Inhabitants of Istanbul stand with fishing rods at the Galata Bridge

Fishing is self-explanatory: go to the Galata Bridge or to the Bosphorus shore from the Asian side, between uskudar and Kadikoy. Day, night, rain or sun – there are always fishermen there!

Barbecue as a sport? Yes. I would declare barbecuing the national sport in Turkey. Among the fishermen on the shores of the Bosphorus, some of them light a small fire to grill their fresh catch.

In the streets of Istanbul’s old town you can sometimes even see small barbecue ovens. I haven’t even written about the thousands of Istanbul residents who go to the barbecue areas around the city every weekend.

14. Istanbul’s inhabitants are crazy about tulips

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

Tulip Festival

Not Amsterdam is the world capital of tulips. The Dutch only imported tulips from Turkey.

The nation that is actually craziest about tulips is Turkey.

They have shaped their tea glasses like tulip blossoms. The International Tulip Festival is held every year in Istanbul.

The logo of the Turkish Ministry of Tourism – Turkey Home – contains a tulip.

15. The inhabitants of Istanbul are not less superstitious than their fellow countrymen

The Turkish Eye (Nazar Amulet) can also be seen on every street corner in Istanbul.

It is the most popular good luck charm in Turkey. With its power it should keep the evil eye away from its wearers. Because this one brings bad luck.

Even if Istanbul’s youth is not so much into such lucky charms anymore, they are still omnipresent.

They hang over front doors, hide on key chains, people wear them as bracelets or hang them on the rear view mirror of their cars.

Just keep your eyes open. You see them everywhere.

16. Istanbul’s residents have separate hairdressers, just like in the rest of Turkey…

… for men and women.

There is the Berber and the Kuafor.

You should not confuse the two. If you are a woman, Kuafor is the place for you. As a man, go to the Berber.

17. Istanbul is crazy about soccer!

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

Besiktas flag in the Grand Bazaar

Istanbul Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce: these are the three big soccer clubs of the city.

Home games of the teams drive tens of thousands of people to the soccer stadiums every time. In addition, there are at least as many fans who watch the games in the bars in Istanbul. For Fenerbahce games, for example, Bagdat Caddesi on the Asian side of Istanbul, is the hot spot.

Visit the bars and clubs during a Fenerbahce Istanbul home game. Then you know what I mean.

18. Built on seven hills

29 surprising facts about the people of Istanbul!

What else does Istanbul have in common with Rome? Besides once having been the capital of the Roman Empire?

Because of the emphasis on tradition and superstition in those days, Constantine built his new capital on seven hills, just like Rome.

That’s why the city was called the "City of Seven Hills" in ancient times.

In Rome today, churches or palaces stand on hilltops. On the hilltops of Istanbul are mosques or the Topakpi Sultan’s Palace.

One of the mosques on top of a hill is for example the Suleymaniye Mosque.

19. Turkish coffee disappears from Istanbul

Kronotrop Coffee Bar

Coffee and Istanbul is a centuries-old symbiosis. 1550 opened the first coffee house in Europe in Istanbul. Since then, it has been hard for Istanbul residents to imagine life without coffee.

The original Turkish coffee (mocha) is disappearing more and more from daily life.

The big coffee house chains are taking over the market. This includes, for example, the Turkish coffee house chain Yemen Kahvesi, which is a clone of Starbucks.

More interesting to me are small cafes, with a good flat white, such as Kronotrop Coffee Bar& Roastery in Beyoglu.

20. Subtropical climate with snow in winter

The people of Istanbul are used to pretty much any weather you can imagine.

Continuous 35° in summer? No problem.

Snow-covered roofs of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque? This is also part of the standard repertoire of the climate in Istanbul.

21. The "young and hip" Istanbul?

The question is: Beyoglu or Kadikoy? Asia or Europe?

Beyoglu, the district full of bars, clubs, art galleries, boutiques and the shopping street Istiklal Caddesi. It stands for the "young, artistic and hip Istanbul". At the same time, the district also stands for 50.000 new guest beds, in just one decade.

Kadikoy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, is the counterpart to Beyoglu with the shopping and party street Bagdat Caddesi.

Istanbul’s youth is now increasingly drawn to Kadikoy.

22. Istanbul is in an earthquake zone

Istanbul’s inhabitants are prepared for an earthquake at any time. Just south of the city, the Anatolian Plate pushes past the Eurasian Plate.

This caused more than 50 major earthquakes in Istanbul since the beginning of the historical record. People were already prepared for it in ancient Rome.

For the future the inhabitants of Istanbul expect a big earthquake. The city is already preparing for this now.

With this history, I find it even more impressive that a building such as the Hagia Sophia has been a world.500 years undamaged in the old city of Istanbul stands.

23. Istanbul is the 21. largest city in the world.

Istanbul, with its official population of 15 million, is the 21st largest city in the world. largest metropolitan region in the world. On the first-placed city of Tokyo, Istanbul still lacks no less than 25 million inhabitants! The metropolitan area of the Japanese capital is currently home to 37 million people.

In total, 25% of Turkey’s inhabitants live in the greater Istanbul area – together with Izmit and Bursa.

24. The Bosphorus separates Istanbul and two continents

The Bosporus strait separates Istanbul’s Asian from its European side.

It was not until 1973 that the first bridge across the Bosphorus was opened. Before, the inhabitants of Istanbul could only get to the other side of the city by boats and ferries.

Leonardo Da Vinci had a plan to connect the Bosporus with a bridge. However, its plan was never implemented. The distance from 1.500m was probably too long then.

Only the Persians managed to build a kind of bridge over the Bosporus for a short time on their way to Greece. They tied dozens of boats in a row on which their army could cross the Bosphorus.

25. Beach vacation in Istanbul?


Bathing in Istanbul? Goes the? Of course!

The city’s residents have quite a few beautiful sandy beaches to choose from. Both the Sea of Marmara in the south and the Black Sea in the north.

Istanbul’s urban area includes, for example, the seaside resorts of Sile and Kilyos. A beach directly in the city center, on the Asian side is the Cadebbostan beach.

On weekends, Istanbul residents make a pilgrimage to the Prince’s Islands, in the Sea of Marmara. Together with their beaches they are part of the urban area of Istanbul.

26. Different cuisine than in the rest of the country

Topkapi Palace

This means especially the Ottoman palace cuisine. In the Topkapi Palace, more than 1.000 cooks for the sultan and his court.

Thereby they created many fancy dishes. Much of it is still on the menus of good restaurants in Istanbul.

How about, for example, a stuffed honeydew melon or Hunkar Begendi (Sultan’s delight)? This is a lamb stew on a creamy eggplant puree.

27. Istanbul’s inhabitants generate one third of Turkey’s economic output

40 to 50% of Turkey’s economic output is concentrated in the region around the Sea of Marmara. This includes Istanbul with a share of about 30% of the total gross national product of Turkey.

In addition, cities such as Izmit, with a million inhabitants, and Bursa, with 3 million inhabitants, are less than 50 km from Istanbul as the crow flies.

This, along with its population, makes Istanbul the clear center of Turkey. Although the Turkish capital has been Ankara since 1923.

28. 4 UNSECO World Heritage Sites

Hagia Sophia

The old town Sultanahmet with the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace belongs to the world heritage.

World Heritage also includes the area around the Suleymaniye Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and the Theodosian Wall.

Istanbul’s inhabitants partly take their landmarks for granted or are proud of the fact that Turks conquered Constantinople, today’s Istanbul.

29. Street food capital of Turkey

Street food is an integral part of the city for the inhabitants of Istanbul and for travelers.

Think of the Galata Bridge without Balik Ekmek, or an Istanbul without simit stalls! This would completely change the face of the city!

All the stalls with corn, simits, chestnuts, balik ekmek and all the other street food is just part of Istanbul!

This was the last item in my numbers, dates and pictures about the inhabitants of Istanbul.

Do you know any other interesting stories about the inhabitants of the city?

Then post them below in the comments column!

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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29 surprising facts about the inhabitants of Istanbul!

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