I’m a sucker for ruins, climbing things, and particularly climbing on ruins. It only follows, then, that Istanbul’s City Walls were high on my list of priorities as soon as I caught sight of them.
For the budget-conscious backpacker taking public transit into town from the airport, the Walls appear through the tram windows well before Sultanahmet starts to slide by.
Just like my favorite parts of China’s Great Wall, the walls in Istanbul are still part of the living city. Buildings abut the walls at points, stairs have been built to the top of some sections, and sections have been carved out or through to allow modern-day roadways to intersect this old-school construction.
I should say, though, before anyone else runs off to have a climb, that most of the sections I climbed were a terrible combination of both filthy and crumbling. Footholds crumbled as handholds shifted, and a lot of it smelled like poo and garbage because it was covered in poo and garbage.
One thing I found particularly odd was that there was at least one encampment within the walls. The guys who lived in these tents seemed friendly enough as I wandered past, but we didn’t share enough language for me to figure how they came to live there (and how do you phrase that tactfully, anyways?).
Definitely worth part of a day for the climber at heart or history enthusiast looking to do some exploring in Istanbul. The two easiest access points I found were by the Topkapi T1 station and a bit north of Chora Church.