surprises and reflections of a recent istanbul visitor

Midgeo visited Istanbul recently and wrote his surprises and reflections about the city in a wonderful way. Enjoy…

Surprise: the cats of Istanbul. Cats are everywhere (except, evidently, indoors as pets), even in the restaurants. Turks and tourists alike seemed to like them and be caring for them. We even saw a tram driver stop to let a young cat cross the tracks. They seem quite the hardy souls!

Surprise: how many, many ways you could die in Istanbul! Drive a car. Cross the street when a car is barreling down a narrow street about 50mph. Step out in front of a car. Get hit by the tram. Ride in a taxi with no seat belt. Trip and fall on the cobblestones. Fall down the steep (often dark) narrow spiral staircase in your hotel. Have a heart attack from climbing too many stairs. Breathe too much second-hand smoke!

Surprise: that there are not hundreds of traffic accidents and pedestrian deaths per day. We saw at least that many near misses! Turks have good reflexes (and brakes)!

Surprise: how much watermelon is consumed on a daily basis. And tomatoes and cucumbers.

Surprise: workers rebuilding a cobblestone street by hand!

Surprise: the mixture of old and new. An old abandoned mansion next to a restored or new building. A crumbling roof next to the terrace of a nice hotel. The past and the present mingling as they probably have for thousands of years. How very old “old” is! The mixing of old and new with women’s dress as well. Women dressed conservatively in a buttoned up coat and head scarf alongside a woman in a short dress with spaghetti straps. The gorgeous ball gowns in the store windows we saw from the bus.

Reflection: Istanbul is an amazing and magical city. Layers and layers of history, and we only scratched the surface. Always we found the Turkish people to be friendly and helpful, going out of their way to help guide us when we were clearly bewildered. We were also impressed with their work ethic. What some perceive to be pushiness by shopkeepers is their industriousness – going to the customer, inviting him/her in, working hard to earn your business.

We met Nuuri – who could have any name – when looking for a hotel near the tram that we’ll return to. He not only found the hotel for us, but invited us back to his restaurant where he served us watermelon and apple tea while we chatted with him in English (he was very fluent) at no charge. We became such fast friends – and we truly did enjoy visiting with him – that he offered to sell us an antique bowl he’d had for some time, perhaps it was his grandmother’s, in the morning. Hmm, well…. But this is part of the magic of Istanbul. Dare to be friendly, and unique opportunities will come your way! Written by Midgeo and published by his permission.

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