I did wonder … after so many years living in the Virginia countryside, would I take to a city as huge as Istanbul? Would it be overwhelming? Unmanageable? Daunting?
Nah. Not a chance. It’s simply marvelous.
Marvel-ful might be the word for it. The mix of ancient, merely old, and modern are combined in nearly every eyeful. The mosques atop hills, in every direction, are beautiful, and their minarets are charming. The city is so very alive, teeming with life, lively with construction projects, bustling with commercial activities, it is energizing and exciting. Perhaps what thrills me most is how, coming to the crest of a hill, you’ll get a view of the glorious, historic, enormously important waterways that surround the city. And they are full of activity, passenger ferries and commercial vessels chugging along in every direction, at all hours. I realize how much I like to have water in view, best if sea, next best a river, can settle temporarily for a lake … but give me water nearby, please. Oh, Istanbul certainly delivers that.
And – as mentioned, ferries. Istanbul’s terrific public transportation network comprises buses, trams, subway routes and lots of ferries. You already know which transportation I prefer. And they’re as cheap as they are convenient. Such a delightful way to get about!
Then, the craftsmanship. Especially the textiles. I very much like Turkish designs and colors, I find the colors rich and the patterns elegant, well-proportioned, very artistic. The Bazaar has astonishingly beautiful items. There’s a lot of tourist-quality merchandise of course but there are many things – carpets, scarves, jackets, clothing, jewelry – that are exceptional. It’s exciting, I don’t know why, but it is, to see that such craftsmanship exists and apparently flourishes. It’s not just in the ancient mosaics and old architecture, it’s in today’s commerce, too.
The hills can be challenging. If I stayed here long enough and kept walking as much every day, I’d be in much improved cardio shape. As is, I’m just relieved to have managed all the cobblestones and broken pavement, hills and steps, without a single fall. One needs to channel a mountain goat. But the changing neighborhoods, the views, the restaurants, ancient baths and ruins, make the miles fly by. It’s all so fascinating.
And the vibe. Friendly, kind. I found people helpful, polite, friendly. Easy to chat with people who speak English, and not too difficult to communicate a bit with those who don’t. Lots of good will. I felt safe at all times, and very happy to be, finally! in Istanbul. I’ll be back!