bağdat caddesi (baghdad avenue)

7 kilometers long, straight as an arrow, and almost impossible to capture its essence in photographs as I am slowly beginning to find out...

Bağdat Caddesi, or simply "cadde" ("the avenue") as İstanbulite's affectionately refer to the place, is one of the thoroughfares which splits through the prosperous southern shore district of Istanbul on the Asian side. This is actually a very large chunk of geography, running well over 20 kilometers along the shore and going about 10 kilometers inland.

The chart above (page link here >>>) shows that Istanbulites are strongly divided between the love of "cadde" on the Asian side and İstiklal Avenue on the European side. While I was preparing this post I have also been vastly entertained by some heated fights between the two factions which are being carried out on local blogs and fora. Which is hardly surprising, since the two avenues have very distinct styles: While Taksim and İstiklal are "rough and tumble", Baghdad Avenue is "chi-chi" to the nth degree! And thus, while hanging out on the sidewalk with a beer in Taksim is perfectly acceptable, indeed expected behavior, on Baghdad Avenue this would not really fit in with the overall ambiance, I'm afraid. So, in that sense "cadde" is far more exclusive than İstiklal. But as for pricing - funnily enough, chi-chi Baghdad Avenue is not significantly more expensive than places elsewhere...

And this is where I should probably point out that, contrary to expectation, the Asian side of Istanbul is actually the side which is "newer", having been almost completely re-built over the past 5 decades, to house a recently emergent, very large and very affluent stratum of Istanbul society. Before all this happened this part of the city was made up of old, wooden gingerbread houses nestling inside mostly huge run-down old pine tree gardens. So, it was a district of impoverished old gentility. Very beautiful, very romantic - alas, almost impossible to maintain for a mostly penniless old Istanbul bourgeoisie.

However, the huge Anatolian migration which Istanbul received during the second half of the 20th century, very quickly created its own haute bourgeoisie, and within the space of a generation what used to be small-time provincial shopkeepers, and even impoverished farmers and shepherds back home transformed themselves into a massively populous nouveau riche class of rolex clad beemer driving industrialists, contractors and entrepreneurs. And it is they and nowadays their children and grandchildren that make the southern shore of the Asian side of Istanbul into what it is: A glitzy, chic shopping and entertainment area which makes it a joy to shop there and to eat there.

"Cadde" is not about taverns, but self service fast food places with wide seating terraces (top image) where you can sit for as long as you like (so not really fast food places in that sense, I guess). And then there are lots of leisurely gourmet cafes (lower image), most of which also serve wine, beer and cocktails. Making a recommendation is not easy: Almost anywhere you go will be very pleasant. That said, Divan pub, Cafe de Paris and Midpoint cafe are very well known and popular cafes. And the steak and french fries with their special secret sauce at Cafe de Paris are completely delicious. Eating at the self service places will be from 5 to 10 Euros, 18 to 25 Euros for the cafes for a meal with soft drinks, to which therefore you should add the price of alcoholic drinks.

One notable exception to the lack of taverns around "cadde" is İskele Sokak, which is a narrow, long street that joins Baghdad Avenue to the sea front thoroughfare, which is actually where you will be arriving.

Iskele Sokak houses many fish taverns as well as beer pubs, all of which have big terraces which front the street. Noted here should be that beer pubs in Istanbul, which serve international fried cuisine such as fish and chips and burger plates, have also ended up becoming a funny sort of re-invention of old fashioned Turkish coffee houses where folk used to sit and play backgammon all day long (no longer much evidence, although some can still be found here and there). And following this tradition a lot of beer places nowadays will also provide backgammon boards. The ones on İskele Sokak are no exception. In terms of pricing I have to be honest and admit that I have never eaten on İskele Sokak. However, my guess is that the prices for taverns will be in the ballpark of what you would pay elsewhere (30 to 50 Euros for a rakı meal with tapas and main course) and 20 to 30 Euros for a meal with beer in one of the pubs.

The part of the long avenue which has the most activity is between Caddebostan and Suadiye, with cafes and food places giving way to larger department stores as you move further towards the latter. This busy stretch is about 2.5 kilometers long and a good idea is to start out in Caddebostan and to walk east towards Suadiye from there.

A Mado ice cream cafe is also to be found on Baghdad Avenue, of course... ;-)

Getting to "cadde" is easy once you come to Kadiköy, which you do by taking a commuter ferry either from Beşiktaş (Barbaros Hayreddin ferry port is the one further south closer to the Dolmabahçe Palace walls), Kabataş or Karaköy. From Kadiköy you will need to get a minibus. Consult the map here >>> to see the exact location of where the minibus dolmuş stops are in Kadiköy. Because of the metro works they are currently hidden behind the big aluminum boardings, however you will see the entry way both for vehicles and pedestrians which goes in there and leads to the stops. There are dolmuşes going in different directions form here, also to Taksim via the bridge (they are all painted yellow by the way). The one you need goes to Bostancı. Once you are on it the dolmuş will go a short way up the sea, then cut through the back streets of Moda, then down a hill, along a park, over a small inlet bridge - and from there on will go a long way inland. When you finally see the sea on your right again, this is where you get off. Also just ask the driver to let you off at Caddebostan, İskele sokak. As a further landmark there is a big Migros supermarket with the three big orange M's there as well. And as for a length indicator, if there were to be traffic whatsoever the trip would take just over 10 minutes. But needless to say, this being Istanbul, there will be traffic...

Once you get off, start walking up İskele sokak, and you may well just end up staying there since it is very nice indeed. Or keep walking until you hit Baghdad Avenue, then take a right, and keep walking...

Finally, to get back to Kadiköy from where you will catch the ferry back, stay on Baghdad Avenue and flag down one of the minibuses going back in that direction. And also, sometimes there will be minibuses going to Taksim, across the bridge. So, keep an eye out for the sign posted on the bottom right of the windscreen. If it is past 21.00 hours (any time earlier will mean that the bridge will be horrifyingly jammed and it just isn't woth it!) you could take one of those and go directly across the water that way as well. 

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