“Home” again

This is my third time in Istanbul.  Even though my stays have not been for long (i.e. a week or so at a time), I have walked many of the highways and byways of the Sultanahmet district, up to Taksim and some places around the Asian side.  This (walking) isn’t for everyone because some of the side-streets are reasonably steep, slippery (cobbles) in the wet and often tricky underfoot with poorly-maintained footpaths, plenty of roadworks and some pushy drivers. I enjoy seeing the ‘raw’ side of cities as well as their highlights and often look for a different ‘angle’ on a place.  This is readily available on foot.
I like the relaxed friendliness of the people.  For a secular society with a largely Islamic population, the streets are full of people wearing, doing, working and playing just like many other western cities. And yes – the streets are full.  Cheek by jowel with the Suleymanie mosque is a collection of the decrepit multi-storey weatherboard houses traditionally built in the city centre and people living in obvious poverty.  It’s just a few metres off the tourist track.  There is plenty of money around – if that can be judged by the number of expensive cars on the road.  By the same token, most cars, scooters, vans and public transport has suffered damage that goes unrepaired- presumably from “touch parking”, minor incidents and the wear and tear of narrow street driving.
Istanbul is, like many cities, a place of urban and suburban life, centres of touristic business activity, spotted with splendid sights and a mix of cultures.  Street vendors, market stallholders, restaurant managers, tour guides and street sellers all compete for your interest and business. This is just a way of life in the tourist season here so there’s no reason to get annoyed with them as they vie for your business.  They are familiar with rejection so don’t be concerned about being polite and walking on.  A technique I have used in China is to wear earphones but not plug them in to anything so it LOOKS like you can’t hear them calling to you..  Anyway – part of the banter with vendors can give you at least some interpersonal contact with locals which, in turn, can break the ice.  Walking around the Sultanahmet district puts you right in the ‘firing line’ so choose to say ‘no thanks’ and keep moving if that’s your preference.
I’ve fallen straight back into my exploration of the city again – as you do with an old friend.  You just pick up where you left off. Today was a circuit of Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar; I particularly like the very edges of the Bazaar with street sellers and dusty items for sale.  Sometimes the shopkeepers look up from their tea or backgammon in surprise that anyone has ‘found’ them again; down to the moored boats that run from near the Galata Bridge along the Golden Horn to Fatih, then back uphill to landmark mosques, Fev Spasa Cadessi shopping street and then all the way back into Cemberlitas to check in to the hostel.
Tomorrow? Who knows? 🙂