My days in Istanbul ticked by quite quickly. After my disturbing and disorientating start; I found myself orientated and reasonably comfortable within a few days. I enjoy travelling in smaller towns than big cities, I generally find big cities difficult to navigate, very overwhelming, and unconquerable. That is so a word!
On my first day, I was fortunate enough to be sharing a room with a lovely Chinese girl Leo. After some simple exchanges, I kindly asked if I could join her on her day activities. I was feeling worn out and overwhelmed, and I just did not have the energy to navigate such a ginormous city on my own. She was eager for the company and soon we were away together for the day. It made me feel very happy.
I learnt a lot from Leo. I was so fascinated by her story I wrote a whole blog post on her. You can read it here, its called Leo: A Chinese story of strength and courage. You can read it here.
We first took the ferry over to the Asian side of town, which seemed appropriate. Honestly I hardly saw another Asian there, perhaps not one, so I am not even sure why it is called this. We were not too impressed, I don’t think we made it to THE main street that everyone raves about. We were happy to meander around streets and chatter. We both seemed to be unimpressed and decided to re-board the ferry and return to the main tourist attractions. We were good little tourists after all.
I felt like we walked at least 20 km on this day. The weather was hot and humid, and after traipsing all over the city for hours we were completely exhausted. But it was well worth it. We walked around and saw lots of awesome old buildings and went in and out of at least 5 mosques. Covering our heads and sexy legs, it was so much hotter having to wear the head scarves. How do they do it?
We then wandered through the Spice Bazaar and tried Turkish delight and some dried fruits. There were an abundance of every kind of spice you can imagine. It was a completely overwhelming experience. To create a sense of order, I had to photograph singular things, that made me feel better. Figs, dried flowers, hookahs, shoes, pashminas, gosh you really can buy anything here.
I was so pleased to have Leo’s company this day. For me the highlight was going to this little blue mosque which is very well known for the blue tiles. As I entered the serene environment, I immediately felt more peaceful. I sat down quietly on the soft quality carpet, admiring and soaking in the ambience of this beautiful little mosque. The best part was there was hardly any one in there. I much prefer an experience like this away from the hoards of noisy tourists.
Later in the week I tried to find this little blue Mosque again, and for the life of me I could not find it! So this little treasure will simply remain in my mind as a wonderful and peaceful experience.
Now, if you are afraid of scraggy looking cats, then Istanbul is not the place for you. Cats are in here, dogs are out. Dogs are considered dirty and unclean so you will only occasionally see them around the streets, and they are usually sleeping or chained up, yes quite sad. As for the cats, they are everywhere! Mostly skinny and flea ridden, cats lurk on most street corners. Pet food is sprinkled everywhere for them, the whole city tends to look after the strays. Turks love their cats, and if you are a cat lover then come here. You will find yourself with a million to chose from. I also learnt that there are more cats in Istanbul than people. Now with a population of over 18 million people, that is a heck of a lot felines! I must say they are mostly well behaved, keeping to themselves, sleeping on steps, curbs, in flower pots, on car roofs, just generally chilling out everywhere. Cute. And hence why I would like to rename Istanbul ‘Istancat’. I saw no bulls here. Only bullish rogue taxi drivers! But plenty of cats that is for sure.
My first few days were all about getting orientated in Istanbul. It is a relatively easy city to get around in, with a good tram system taking you directly to all the tourist attractions. Using the transport top up card to scan into and out of stations and on ferry rides for the same cheap price of 2TL, made for an easy, cheap and simple way of getting around this bustling city. Good job Istancat.
In my next post I will write about what I did in my other few days, let me give you a hint… it involves being smothered from head to toe in honey!
Love Anita xx
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain