Its Istanbul not Constantinople

Trip Start Sep 05, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Flying into Istanbul was the start of an amazing realization of the size of this city. We were directly over the city 30 minutes prior to landing, and we still appeared to be in dense urban sprawl 30 minutes later at landing. The sheer awe and astonishment at the size of this city continued as we drove 70 kilometers on a coach to the city center. The entire 70 km drive was through city as densly populated as downtown San Francisco. Istanbul is by far the largest city either of us have been in. Its population is well over 16 million in the city limits proper and well over 20 milion in the metro area. Wow.

We finally did arrive in the center of the city, an area called Sultanahmet aptly named after Sultan Ahmet II. DOnt remember much about him, but he did something great for the Ottomans I'm sure. Finding out hostel was easy, provided that we were able to fight the packs and packs of tourist hungry restauranteurs, tour guides, hotel owners, taxi drivers, sock peddlers, shoe shiners, bread sellers, rug sellers, tea sellers...etc It goes on and on. We did make it to our hostel without being swallowed up by the mob.

Day one in Istanbul was full of amazement. Everything is so grand. The old ottoman sultans, until the collapse of the empire after world war 1 continued to build city improvements in their name to show themselves off. They skyline is lined with mosques, literally every block. Every mosque has traditionally 4 mineretes from which the call to prayer is blasted five times a day. The first few times you hear that, its pretty amazing. Every direction you turn your head and ears, the call to prayer explodes from mosques for the general public. Its amazing how quickly you get used to it though. Likeweise, you get used to women clad full burkas covering everything but their eyes.

Residents of Istanbul are proud to be Turkish and proud to be from Istanbul. The Turkish flag flies everywhere, almost as prominent as mineretes, they compete for dominance of the skyline. The city itself relies heavily on its fishing industry. Since the city is divided on three landmasses, cut by the ocean, the bosphorus and the marmara the waters are absolutely essential to the cities' economy. Fishermen line the shores and bridges, and it seams like every 5 minuets or so fishermen pull out rod after rod with 4 or 5 fish. They never run out! The water is crystal clear. I have never seen water through a city of 20 million that is this clear. We counted no more than 3 pieces of trash during the 3 days we were in Istanbul. Apparently, in the early 90s a cleanup effort of some 4 hundred million euro successfully completed a full makeover. Since then, the city and the people have kept it amazingly clean. You can swim in the water, dangle your feet in the water, possibly even drink it, though I wouldn't. Its no Themes anyway, it is the anti-Themes.

We left Istanbul amazed by what we had seen, and incredibly excited to see what the rest of Turkey had to offer. The bus ride was actually pretty neat. Turkish buses are so much better than our buses, complete with bus attendants. For the duration of the 18hr bus ride ride to Channakale a small Turkish man pampered us with hot towels and little cakes.

Of course when you are in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar languages, you have try to figure out how to get along with the basics. Learning how to find the restroom ıs an essential basic. Restrooms, public and private are everywhere in İstanbul, just like in the west, a little picture of a man or woman wherever there are bathrooms. Under the man it always says 'bay' and under the woman it always says 'bayan' For some reason, we are both college educated, we did not make the connection that 'bay' means man and bayan means woman. İnstead we just assumed the words meant 'restroom'. We finally realized that we had been walking around İstanbul for days asking people if they had a 'man' or 'woman' in their shop, a strange question from a western tourıst im sure. We have since been using the correct word 'tuvalet'

Ok, enough for now, there will be more to come. Check the photos.

A Bientot
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erikron on

I'm happy to hear that everything turned out all right for both of you. Turkey sounds like fun. Don't get kidnapped.

boba81 on

WoW! very interesting. We go to Istanbul in one week

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