Friday, 10 December 2010

Istanbul - Istiklal Caddesi Haven - Baraka Bar




Wherever we've travelled to in our lives, we've always hunted out - or stumbled across - a bar where we feel comfortable; somewhere that feels local to the town or city we happen to be in. We're bar people (as you may know!) so we feel we know a city and it's people better once we find the right bar - that haven away from the sightseeing, getting lost and everything else that goes with being in an unfamiliar place. 

When we travelled through Eastern Europe, we were only in each city for two or three days but we have memories of our favourite bars. In Fethiye, we stumbled across Deep Blue Bar over ten years ago and well, there are a good few stories from there. I can honestly say though that we have met most of our Turkish friends either in Deep Blue or through people who go in Deep Blue. Bars are fantastic places!

Baraka Bar in Istanbul
The wonder that is Baraka Bar - Istiklal Caddesi
So, in this post, I'd like to introduce you to the fabulous Baraka Bar. It's the row of windows directly above the maroon canopies. You're supposed to be able to see the sign in the middle window! Baraka Bar is on Istanbul's famous pedestrianised shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi - of Robinson Crusoe's bookshop and Taksim-Tünel historical tram fame - and there's a secret to the best bars and cafes of Istiklal Caddesi...look up! 

Okay, hands up to this one. We were introduced to Baraka Bar by a Turkish friend who used to work in Deep Blue. See, I told you bars were good! She's an Istanbul girl and it's her local. Well, are two Brits really going to walk down a side street in a big foreign city, see a concrete stairwell in a building with one of those open, historical, wrought iron lifts and think, 'Ohhh, let's see what's up here!' This Brit isn't! I'm glad we were shown though. Baraka is our far-from-obvious (from the outside)  Istanbul haven.

Baraka Bar Artwork
Artwork on the walls of Baraka Bar
The owner and staff are just very chilled out, pleasant guys! Last time we were there, I commented that one of them had really good English. 'Oh, that's because I used to work in Hisarönü.' Hisarönü is a resort next to Fethiye. For such a big country, Turkey is very small!  

Apart from the friendly, relaxed atmosphere and good music, the best thing about Baraka Bar is this...

A Crowded Istikal in Istanbul
View of Istiklal Caddesi from a balcony of Baraka Bar
Istanbul has an estimated population of 15 million people and I'm pretty sure a hefty proportion of this population walk up and down Istiklal Caddesi at all times of day and night! (See photo). It's great to walk up and down there and to explore all the side streets of Beyoğlu - but it's also great to be able to nip through those unnoticed doorways (when you know where they are!), climb the stairs and enter the different world of places like Baraka Bar - high ceilings, wooden floors...and Venetian balconies from where you can look down on the masses of Istiklal, wonder where they're heading to, what they're doing...and take a few pics. 


You'll find Baraka Bar by heading towards Taksim Square from the famous gates of Galata High School for about 100 metres. Look left - and look up!

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