Likes & Dislikes


Istanbul – Opinion


1. Flowers and neatly trimmed hedges, trees and bushes everywhere. The streets are clean, and there are a lot of newly constructed motorways with sound-reducing walls and green borders (on first impressions, Turkey is closer to Switzerland than a lot of Central and Eastern Europe is)
2. Big new houses, a lot of construction, and plenty of trees and green spaces around them
3. The Hagia Sophia – a spectacularly huge cathedral, which has stood for 1500 years, as a holy place to both Christians and Muslims. It’s astounding that it has stood for so many centuries in its original beauty. The conquering Ottomans simply painted over the original mosaics (since within Islam the depiction of human forms is forbidden in a place of worship). Later, however, when the Blue Mosque was constructed opposite, they uncovered the mosaics once more, and the Hagia Sophia was transformed from a mosque into a museum
4. Taking a boat trip on the Bosporus, with spectacular views of the surrounding hills, as well as a great opportunity to peek at the many luxury villas and pleasure palaces along the coast
5. The favorite café of French poet Pierre Loti (who fell so in love with Turkey that he moved to Istanbul and adopted Turkish dress) still exists at the top of a hill. They still cook. coffee on a coal-fired brazier, and the view over the city from the terrace is simply unmissable
6. It’s worth taking a cable car, at least in one direction, as while the smudged windows make it difficult to take photographs, the view and the experience itself are still great
7. There are great play areas in almost every park. The whole city is full of very modern, colorful playparks, which are clearly well-used by families with young children. They’re all clean and well-maintained
8. I love the way the old Roman aqueducts and city walls were simply incorporated into the modern, living city. They aren’t sealed off as a static museum, people simply built around them
9. The Topkapi Palace – amazing!!! You could almost spend a whole day there… It can also be explored independently. What makes it so special is that it was inhabited for many centuries by the reigning sultan and his court. Everything has a practical function. It was interesting to see the ‘infinity pool’ of the harem, with its views over the city, and the indoor pool which was also available in case of bad weather
10. The Sky Bar on the roof of the Intercontinental Hotel (near Taksim Square). This is a real five-star experience – comfortable armchairs, snacks served free with drinks, and all at a very affordable price (a small Efes on tap is 24 lira, and a large is 36). It’s impossible to get in on a Friday or Saturday evening, since everyone who is anyone in Istanbul comes here, and they don’t let the riffraff in 😊.
11. Driving culture. There are a lot of traffic jams, and at first glance it does appear a bit chaotic. But they only use the horn as a signal – a sort of ‘watch out, I’m coming through’ and there’s none of the cussing and swearing you’d get from other drivers in places like Budapest. Even the taxi drivers seemed pretty Zen to us.
12. The Kiz Kulesi or Maiden’s Tower, on the Asian side of the Bosporus. Even getting there on a small boat is an adventure. Fortunately, it only takes about five minutes, but this usually involves crossing some choppy water. There’s a café/restaurant in the tower, where it’s practically obligatory to try the so-called chocolate lava cake dessert. It’s the prize-winning creation of the restaurant chef, and it’s heavenly. Seriously – and I’m saying this as someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth.


1. The traffic. Our tour bus was practically always stuck in traffic jams, and sometimes it took us an hour to go about 100 meters. In the end, if possible, it was usually quicker to walk.
(Szila, 2017)




In Istanbul, most taxi drivers are friendly and honest, but not all of them are conversant in English. You better show the written address of your destination when you sit in the taxi.

If you happen to take a taxi during peak hours, full of terrible traffic jams, you may tell the taxi driver to stop near your destination instead of sitting in the snail-paced traffic. Look on your map and find out if your goal is a walking distance.


“Nobody pays any attention to rules, and pedestrians simply walk out in front of, behind and between cars – in the best case alone, but we also saw mothers pushing prams out into traffic, or dragging small children behind them as they hurried across the road. Young people will take their lives into their hands, sprinting out in front of a tram, or between two trams, but the representatives of older generations are no better: they don’t even quicken their pace when they walk out in front of traffic, no matter if the car or tram actually has priority.

Drivers seem to have accustomed themselves to this state of affairs and wait patiently until the pedestrians, ignoring the red man, have crossed to the other side of the road at their various tempos. Down by the docks, I saw one driver make a half-hearted attempt to drive through a pedestrian crossing where the green man was showing. Instead, however, he was forced to stop in the middle of the crossing, and the crowd of pedestrians swirled around his car like a flow of lava around an outcrop of rock.” (2019)

Istanbul - metro - Ata photo (October, 2020)

Istanbul - trams - Ata photo

Istanbul - dolmus (share taxis) - Ata photo

Istanbul - T1 Kabataş–Bağcılar tram line, operated by Metro Istanbul. - Ata photo

Istanbul - Tünel Beyoglu - Ata photo

Istanbul - subway - k-t- g. photo (November 2021)


When you enter a restaurant in the tourist area, make sure to see the menu before you sit down. If prices aren't listed, leave. It's a tactic they use so they can charge you whatever they want. Always order from the menu. Sometimes the waiter will make recommendations; this can also be a trap. They do this, so you don't know what you are ordering or the price.


“My favorite is ayran – a savory, yogurt-based drink. I could drink it with anything. Of course, the beer and narghile were also great. I won’t even start on the food, because everything we ate was delicious. We ate döner kebabs (the real thing) and at the fish market, we had a group seafood platter, which was simply out of this world.

Every itinerant vendor looks like he has just stepped out of a Mardi Gras carnival because he’s covered in baskets of fresh local vegetables, which are sold alongside the meat and fish. The combination of aromas, the baklava, the pistachios, the Turkish tea… It has to be seen to be believed because it’s impossible to put into words.

Be sure to carry a wet wipe with you in town. The seafood market it a must-see, and it’s definitely worth sitting down at one of the fish market restaurants for a lunch of fresh seafood. On the other hand, I’d recommend avoiding the mutton/lamb dishes, because the suet in the meat can play havoc with your gut.

It’s possible to drink beer in the street, so long as it’s wrapped in newsprint (this can be bought from virtually any street vendor, with the paper already cut to size(!)).

We found the old guys selling ice-cream on the street really entertaining, and enjoyed watching them, but don’t buy ice-cream from them! It’s inedible! It’s a sort of cold, sticky lump that tastes vaguely of vanilla, and if you bite into it you’ll regret it.

Do try the burek, though, especially with the cottage cheese filling, and get an ayran to go with it. Get a straw and push it in the top, since that way it won’t spill everywhere, and it tastes better too.”


“Everything in Istanbul revolves around eating, and everywhere you go you’ll find buffets, patisseries, restaurants, street bakers, and pizzerias. And of course, the smell of delicious food grilled over charcoal is rarely out of your nostrils.

The one vast, indisputable triumph of Mediterranean cultures is street food, which is cooked almost to the standard you’d expect in a top-quality restaurant. In a place like Istanbul, a merely average kebabist, confectioner, or grill chef simply wouldn’t survive.

Immediately upon our arrival, our first walk took us to a small restaurant/buffet where we ate lahmacun, also known as Turkish pizza – a thin, crisp base topped with fresh lettuce and parsley, and it can be rolled up and eaten like a French crepe. I also tried the local drink, the odd-looking but otherwise tasty ayran, a sort of salted yogurt drink, as well as a spicy concoction brewed from a fermented turnip. As might have been expected, this latter was absolutely revolting.

That’s all right though – it’s still good to try everything once, and I was soon able to restore my internal equilibrium through a visit to a pastry shop, where I found puddings, baked rice pudding, and a totally unique little dish called ashure. This also seemed a bit odd at first, since it consisted of chickpeas and various types of grain mixed together with preserved fruit, but in the end, this was probably my favorite of all the dishes we tried. Its other name is ‘Noah’s Pudding’, since legend has it that when the ark at last came to rest on the summit of Mount Ararat, the family decided to celebrate with a big dinner. They got a pot, and simply threw in everything they still had left in the ark’s fridge…”


“The waiter appeared quickly enough, but again the total bill came to more than we had expected. David paid, but they never put the bill on the table. We tallied up what we’d eaten again, and again it came to much less than what we paid. Of course, we decided to complain. The head waiter, holding a wad of bills in his hand, looked disdainfully at these tourists who dared question his honesty. Finding our bill, he placed it on the table and read the items out loud, while being careful to ensure that we could not see the prices written down next to them. In a couple of seconds, he had rattled off the dishes we had eaten, as well as the drinks. After this – as he saw it – full and complete proof of rectitude, he swept the bill off the table again and strode coldly off. He didn’t speak anything other than Turkish, so we’d had no opportunity to see the bill for ourselves. Fred had, by chance, been able to identify one of the dishes rattled off by the head waiter, and by checking the price on the menu it soon became apparent that they had, in all probability, added a service charge to each and every dish, in addition to the standard gratuity. There and then we decided that we wouldn’t eat in any more restaurants! It’s almost obligatory among Turkish restauranteurs to rip off foreigners, as well as being something of a national sport. If you’re not careful, they’ll easily part you from a 50 or 100 lira bill each time – and I’m not speaking figuratively!” (2019)

Istambul - street food - BBQ fish - i.k. photo

Istanbul - Sultanahmet district - restaurants&cafes - g.l. photo

Istanbul - fresh burek and Turkish tea for breakfast - Ata photo

Istanbul - Turkish omelette for breakfast - Ata photo

Istanbul - street food - mussels - h.i. photo

Istanbul - su böreği (a variety of Turkish borek) and cay (Turkish tea) - Ata photo


“The average Turkish shopkeeper is very clever. First, he tries to overcharge you by getting you interested in the product first, and only telling you the price at the end – then to make you feel very guilty if you try to back out of the transaction. The hospitality of such vendors is not sincere. You’ll encounter such figures both on the street and in the bazaars. They’ll even learn a few words from many different languages, just to elicit some goodwill from you.

Don’t confuse these people with ordinary Turks. Here’s an example: shoeblacks. Let’s say you’ve just arrived in Istanbul, with a suitcase, backpack, and all the rest of it. The shoeblack walks next to you, then goes on ten meters or so ahead. At that point, his brush falls to the ground, seemingly by accident, but it’s all part of the trick. You’re a good, well-meaning person, so you pick it up and hurry after him to give it to him. He can hardly express his gratitude. Then comes the next part: he walks on, still thanking you, but acting as though he doesn’t want anything, and shows you how the brush fell because he forgot to tie it to his bag. After another few meters, he stops and indicates that he’d like to polish your shoes for you, as a token of his gratitude. If you ask how much it will cost he just shakes his head and asks where you’re from, meanwhile beginning to polish your shoes. At the end, he says that will be eighteen lira. They say that too much kindness is suspicious. Keep that in mind.”


“A certain roguishness is part of the charm of Turkey’s national character. To a European it may seem strange at first that wherever you go, people try to part you from a little extra money. Not just at the market, but literally everywhere. Nor do I just mean the usual Middle Eastern propensity for haggling. In Istanbul you could be a victim of a scam at any moment. It could be in the fast-food restaurant, where the menu indicates you get a free tea with your meal, but they tell you that you have to pay extra, or in the pastry shop, where if you don’t speak Turkish they’re certain to misunderstand you and double your order. Not to mention restaurant bills, where little items of a dollar or two are always accidentally being added to your total. So don’t go to Istanbul expecting a city of sticklers for probity and rectitude, but also don’t be afraid to call them out on it – for locals, a bit of banter over their tricks is all part of the game.”

Istanbul - two Barcelona Fan soccer scarfs and one Erdogan Fan scarf with inscription ,,Man of the nation" - v.j. photo

Istambul - shopping - h. m. photo


Most of the nightlife venues can be found in the Galata district which includes Beyoğlu, Tasim Square and  Istiklal Street. .

“One evening we watched a traditional, religious Dervish dance (Sufi). Men in tall hats and white robes, or rather dresses that reached to their ankles, spun around to monotonous music with their arms extended, going ever faster until they fell into a sort of trance. Absolute silence is necessary throughout, and it is forbidden to distract the dancers by applauding or taking photographs, so I don’t have any record of the event. The whole event lasted around an hour, which if I’m honest was a little on the long side for me, but overall it was definitely an interesting and unique experience.”

Istanbul - bellydance show - m.l. photo

Public safety

“In touristy areas, most of the pickpockets, thieves and other assorted ne’er-do-wells aren’t even Turkish. There are also a number of young men whose chief hobby is bothering foreign women. Fortunately, relatively few tourists suffer from such annoyances.”

Istambul - security

Istanbul - Sultanahmet - combat car - h.i. photo

Istanbul - Polis (Police) - Ata photo

Istanbul - tourism police car - Ata photo


“Don’t leave your flat, comfortable shoes at home! Istanbul is, among other things, extremely hilly, so you’re always walking up or down, sometimes on steep flights of steps. In many places, there’s no sidewalk, and the streets are often cobbled. If it happens to rain, meanwhile, the asphalt becomes as slippery as glass. I’d recommend shoes or sport sandals which support the heel, and which have some grip on the soles.

Istanbul - Üsküdar - Black robes matter - v.g. photo


Destination in brief

Istanbul is the only transcontinental city in the world, as situated on two continents, Europe and Asia. The metropolis is surrounded by sea, with the Bosphorus cutting right through it.

Under different names, Istanbul was, for centuries, the capital of 4 great empires resp. religions - Byzantine, Roman, Latin (Empire of Constantinople), and Ottoman Empire. 

The origin of the name of Istanbul: Most of the people informally called Constantinople as “The City” in Greek, pronounced as  “Is Tin Poli.”. Constantinople was officially renamed Istanbul in 1930 - To assure people to use the Istanbul name in and after 1930, the Turkish post office didn't deliver any mail addressed to Constantinople. (In Greece people continue to call the city Constantinople.)

Population (in 2020): 14.8 million - Istanbul is Turkey's largest city, but not its capital.

Istanbul had about 14 million tourist visitors in 2019.

Religion: 99% Muslim - the few non-Muslims are mostly Christian Amenians (Turkish citizens)

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 450 US

Best timing of a tourist visit: late spring or early fall when the weather is pleasant for walks.



Istanbul - December - g.l. photo


Istanbul had about 1400 public toilets around the city during the Ottoman Empire, while the rest of Europe had none.

Istanbul - Panorama 1453 History Museum about the conquering of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, by the troops of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453 - Ata photo


A Turkish company called Pugedon has introduced a vending machine called "Mamamatic," which means "Petfood Matic" that accepts plastic bottles for recycling and dispenses food and water for stray dogs in return.

Istanbul - modern - Ata photo

Istanbul - Ata photo


“First, here are some generalizations: Turks are warm-hearted, helpful, direct, polite towards women, and not intrusive. The inhabitants of Istanbul are much more modern and worldly-wise than their compatriots in other parts of the country. According to some German tourists in Istanbul, the locals seemed much more cosmopolitan even than Turks living in Berlin.

Though there are plenty of mosques (about 3,000 in total), and the vast majority of people are obviously Muslim in faith, the visitor has the impression that the level of religiosity in the city is much lower in this megacity than it is in rural Turkey, and especially in the east of the country.

A huge proportion of Istanbul’s population is under thirty, so it is very understandable that the city has a laid-back, modern atmosphere, and in many ways feels very connected to European mass culture. Almost all young people dress more or less the same as in other large European cities. I say that as though it’s something surprising, but given that Istanbul is, geographically speaking, a largely European city, there is perhaps nothing remarkable about it.

Those who are familiar with Turkey’s history say that Istanbul’s modernity and openness to the world can be explained logically. For many, many centuries, Istanbul was by far the most open part of Turkey (or rather the Ottoman Empire). Its geographical location, and function as a major trade hub, have made it a meeting place of many cultures, and especially urban cultures, since ancient times. Istanbul is also a kind of melting pot of cultures and traditions from within Turkey as well since for many decades people have moved to the big city from all corners of the country in search of work. Though in general, they have preferred to adapt to the lifestyle of the metropolis, they have also added their own traditions as well.

Like Turks in general, the people of Istanbul are, in general, extremely helpful. Tourists should not be shy of asking for help or directions, especially if there is some kind of trouble or rush since locals will be happy to do what they can.

There is not much green space in Istanbul, but it can be interesting at the weekend to go to one of the few parks, or to the beach, where the citizens of Istanbul succeed with great good humor and ingenuity in holding family picnics. They also invariably bring a barbecue, and the smell of grilled meat practically envelopes these spaces at such times. There is more open space on the Asian side of the Bosporus, and many locals are more than happy to make the trip across.

In tourist areas, most people under the age of about 30 or 35 speak some English, though often not very well. Older people generally don’t speak any foreign languages, or perhaps some German if they lived there as a guest worker.

You shouldn’t be surprised if local people stand extremely close when speaking to, since for them this quite a natural and normal thing. Of course, this applies almost exclusively to conversations between two men.”


“Personally, I didn’t find anything particularly exceptional about the hospitality of people in Istanbul. It actually seemed pretty average, by international standards. Young people are as busy and stressed as everywhere else these days, and didn’t seem particularly interested in chatting to tourists. It was a pleasant surprise, however, that shopkeepers in Istanbul are not as pushy and intrusive as their cousins on the Turkish Riviera. There are (my girlfriend says) some handsome Turkish guys, but the girls didn’t do it for me.

I hardly saw any big, melodramatic quarrels in the street. I think you’d probably find more beggars in Budapest or London than in Istanbul, and it was reassuring not to see too many dangerous-looking people on the street. Not once did anyone make us feel uncomfortable or insecure. They’re absolute fiends for cigarettes, but – as we expected – there wasn’t much sign of public drunkenness. We had a couple of annoying situations where taxi drivers tried to con us, but that can happen anywhere in Europe these days.”

Istanbul - girls - Ata photo

Istanbul - driver

Tourist etiquette

“If you don’t actually want to buy anything, the best way to end the conversation is to say an absurdly low price as your first offer. It can happen, however, that if you say a price a quarter of the listed or otherwise indicated price, the seller may simply shake his head and say that’s more or less what he got it for. At that point, though, you may get it for just 10% or so more. If you genuinely do want something, it’s best to be friendly. While many vendors speak a word or two of many languages, this knowledge is generally limited to what they’ve picked up in interactions with tourists.”


1.    People in Istanbul are open and hospitable, and taking photos in the street is rarely a problem. Still, it’s polite to ask permission, at least with a gesture, if you want to take a portrait of someone. In markets and at the bazaar, people are used to tourists with cameras, but if someone does protest, of course, it’s mandatory to cease any attempt at taking a picture. Discretion is advised, especially in the areas around Istanbul’s mosques, since it is not appropriate to photograph people either cleansing themselves before prayer or in the act of prayer itself since it’s considered an invasion of privacy. In fact, foreigners and those of other faiths are not particularly welcome in and around mosques.

2.    If you’re a confirmed atheist, or even just someone with no particular religious beliefs, it’s best to pretend some kind of faith if a local person inquires, since Turks (even in cosmopolitan Istanbul) simply cannot conceive of someone not believing in God. It has been many, many years since Turks considered Christians as giaour, or ‘infidel dogs’, and the people of Istanbul have a deep respect for other faiths. As they say: no matter what religion you follow, make sure you have God. God is all one. Atheists, then, are better off holding their peace on this particular subject. Also, while Istanbul is a relatively modern and free-thinking city, it’s still easiest if middle-aged, co-habiting, unmarried couples refer to themselves as husband and wife.

3.    Tourists should show respect towards Turkey and the Turkish people. They are extremely patriotic, and it pleases them very much to hear a foreigner praise their country. They are a polite people, but they are unlikely to enjoy hearing a foreigner criticize Turkey, even if it is a criticism which they themselves privately agree with.

4.    Turkish men smoke. A lot. If you, as a tourist, end up in conversation with a Turkish man, he’s very likely to offer you a cigarette, and it can cause some offense if you refuse, even if you don’t smoke. The most diplomatic response may be to express thanks but to say the doctor has specifically forbidden you to smoke on medical grounds.

5.    Don’t point at things with an outstretched finger, because if someone thinks you have pointed at them, it may be misunderstood as an offensive gesture. Always make eye contact in a face-to-face conversation. To avoid someone’s gaze is also considered rude.

6.    Be aware of the different body language: ‘Yes’ is expressed with an abrupt, downward movement of the head, while the gesture for ‘no’ involves tipping the head backward while raising the eyebrows. The ‘Western’ way of indicating no – that is, by shaking the head – is also used and understood here.

7.    Tourist couples in Istanbul should avoid any gestures of affection which are too obviously sexual in nature or connotation. What I mean is, it’s fine to give a peck on the cheek, or a hug, or to walk hand in hand, but French kissing or long and overly suggestive embraces should be avoided. There’s no law against it, and the police certainly won’t intervene – as might happen in Dubai, for instance – but it does flaunt local ideas about appropriate behavior. The only consequence you’re likely to suffer is dirty looks from the locals, but I’d still advise behaving ‘respectably’.

8.    If you use a toothpick after your meal, cover it with a paper napkin. Also, passers-by in Istanbul are amazed if someone picks their nose in the street.

9.    Guys in Istanbul will frequently call out to or wolf-whistle tourists women and girls if they are not accompanied by a man. Fortunately, this is almost always relatively harmless, and the easiest response is in fact not to respond at all, but to avoid eye contact and make no encouraging gestures. If a foreign girl or woman smiles at a man he can easily take this as encouragement. That’s not to say women should look perpetually gloomy and severe, but a degree of moderation may limit the likelihood of awkward moments – of course, the exception is if you want to encourage him, in which case by all means smile! In the touristy Sultanahmet district, you have to be careful about people who call down to tourists (I’m not talking about people working at shops and restaurants) since among them are scam artists and con men.


“Don’t drink beer or any other alcohol in the street, if you don’t have to. Of course, most local people are not saints, and many like a drink now and then, but drinking in the street is seen as uncultivated, and you’re likely to receive some dirty looks.”

It is forbidden for a man to enter a mosque with uncovered shoulders, and for a woman to enter with uncovered head, or in a skirt or shorts which end above the knees. At the bigger mosques, which are visited by many tourists, they make sure everyone is appropriately dressed and hand out shawls or head coverings if needed. At smaller mosques, however, these are not always available. If you plan to visit a mosque on a particular day, pay attention to how you’re dressed. In more conservative, less touristy parts of Istanbul, it’s also worth following these rules, to ensure you don’t cause any offense to local sensibilities.”

Istanbul - Blue Mosque - covering - n.m. photo



Istanbul - fresh pressed pomegranate juice for 10 TL (1,30 USD) - Ata photo


The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

,, This is one of the most popular sights in Istanbul, and one of the largest covered markets in the world, so it’s only natural that it piques the curiosity of many travelers, but whether they’ll actually enjoy it or not is another question entirely. The whole place is a vast, tiring, confusing chaos, a real labyrinth, and once you’re lost in it, it isn’t at all easy to get back out.

Everything here is ridiculously expensive – much of the stuff on sale here can be found a few streets away at half the price (!) while the sellers are so pushy and persistent that it’s hard to escape them."

Istanbul - Grand Bazaar - k.m. photo

Istanbul - Grand Bazaar - a.t. photo

Istanbul - Grand Bazaar - pomegranate tea tasting - p.m. photo

Istanbul - Grand Bazaar - g.e. photo

Istanbul - Grand Bazaar - s.t. photo

Istanbul - Grand Bazaar - a.s. photo

The Blue Mosque

Istanbul - Blue Mosque - Elter photo

Istanbul - Blue Mosque - inside is really blue - g.p. photo

Istanbul - Blue Mosque - m.p. photo

Istanbul - Blue Mosque - inside - j.g. photo

Istanbul - Blue Mosque - e.j. photo

Hagia Sophia

,, My first visit was to see how much the Hagia Sophia has changed since it was transformed into a mosque. The change is not that conspicuous. Long queues but not in front of the box office but more to get inside. 
They covered the mosaics depicting figurative people; instead, huge quotes from the Qur'an were placed on the wall. For me, the Hagia Sophia remained a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. (Ata, September, 2020) 

Istanbul - Hagia Sophia Mosque - Ata photo

Istanbul - Hagia Sophia Mosque - Ata photo

Istanbul - Hagia Sophia Mosque - Ata photo

Istanbul - Hagia Sophia Mosque - Ata photo

Istanbul - Hagia Sophia - Ata photo

Kuzguncuk neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus

Istanbul - Kuzguncuk - o.j. photo

Istanbul - Kuzguncuk - o.j. photo

Istanbul - Kuzguncuk - o.j. photo

Istanbul - Kuzguncuk - o.j. photo

Istanbul - Kuzguncuk - o.j. photo

Istanbul - Kuzguncuk -o.j. photo


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