Istanbulian Observations

Rat Free Zone

Wherever you are, you are never more than a few metres from a rat. So the saying goes. It is not true in Istanbul. There are no rats. Probably. However, in Istanbul, you are never more than a couple of metres from a cat. In all likelihood, you are never more than a few metres from a dozen cats. With intact testicles. Egypt has locusts. Europe has immigrants. Turkey has cats. Everywhere has to have a plague of something.

Stick it to ’em

I expected to be hustled and bustled by shopkeepers and market stall holders selling their wares. It goes with the tourist territory. Spices, cheese, trinkets, rugs, prints and other assorted pieces of tat, thrust in your face, shoved under your nose or tucked under your arm. The vendors of Istanbul are not, as it turned out, so terribly pushy. Except for the selfie stick sellers. They are everywhere. If it isn’t a Japanese tourist blocking your view of a fine looking palace with his or her latest cell phone, extended four feet in the air on a stick, then it’s a selfie stick seller thrusting his wares in your face. There are more selfie stick sellers in Istanbul than there are cats.

The City That Never Sleeps

The call to prayer is an exotic, entrancing sound. It’s a constant reminder that you are far from home, in foreign lands. Except at 5am, when it’s blared through your window from a mosque across the street. At that time in the morning, the call to prayer can f**k right off. But this is assuming you’ve actually gotten back to sleep from the last disturbance. It was Ramadan, so a kindly local strolls the streets at 2 to 3am, banging a drum loudly. Non stop. To remind you to have something to eat before sunrise.

At the end of the month, he’ll go door to door collecting a fee for his services from grateful Muslim neighbours. And a punch on the nose from anyone of any other religious persuasion. Boy, he must get an adrenaline rush every time he knocks on a door. Still, if the call to prayer and drummer boy haven’t done your sleep in for the night, there’s always the incessant sound of cats mating and fighting. Sometimes doing both at the same time, I’m guessing. Then there’s the seagulls, squawking non stop. I did not know seagulls were at least partly nocturnal. There are more seagulls in Istanbul than selfie stick sellers. Three plagues? This is one unlucky city.

That Dizzy Feeling

Perhaps it’s the ferries that carry you across the river. Perhaps it the outward sloping balconies around tall towers that seem to want to send you slipping to your doom. Perhaps it’s staring upwards at the interiors of the enormous domes of mosques you’re visiting. Perhaps it is the strong Turkish coffee. Perhaps it is the climbing of a thousand steep hills that the city is built on. Perhaps it is a combination of all of them. But if you ever, even just for a moment, stand still in Istanbul, you’re never quite sure which way is up.

Don’t Lose Your Head

Turkey is an Islamic country. Which means, of course, that it contains a population made up entirely of terrorists. I have to say, having now been there, I can’t help but feel that terrorists have been given a bad name somewhat unfairly. They were ever so friendly, and much to my surprise not once did any one try to behead me with a rusty spoon. However, I was the victim of constant biological weapons attack, chiefly on the metro. Deodorant is clearly optional for men in Istanbul. An option which most seem to decline.

iPhoneography

I’m still processing a humungus multitude of raw photos from my Fuji. My iPhone photography processing is much quicker. They auto upload to Flickr, and then I just select which ones to publish. My Istanbul by iPhone album was uploaded ages ago – click here to see it. Or have a look over a small selection of them that I have embedded below. And NO I did NOT buy a selfie stick. I already had one with me, bought in the UK.

8 Comments

  • “not once did any one try to behead me with a rusty spoon”

    Nothing like an Alan Rickman perspective to enliven the prose. I have always been quite fond of Istanbul. Thanks for the walk-through.

    • It’s the perfect destination for those of an indecisive bent. Do I fancy a trip out east? Or should I head west? You can change your mind here every 30 minutes or so. As often as the ferries run, in fact…

    • The night time issue was one of proximity to the noise. Not everyone has a mosque outside their bedroom window. Although, thinking about it. There are quite a few mosques. So my experience is one shared by an awful lot of people!

  • The “drummer boy” comment reminds me of musicians in Mexico who interrupt your meal with loud, enthusiastic, and sometimes even in-tune music that you didn’t ask for, but most certainly must pay for when the time comes.

    I hope this isn’t the only post about Istanbul.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we found your photos quite lovely too.

    • He reminded me more of a mariachi band, brought by a lustful suitor to the window of blushing damsel, long after midnight. Very romantic for her. Not so wonderful for the rest of the neighbourhood, who have to be up at 6am for work!

      There’s more to come….

  • Excellent pictures all! Love the one in particular of the food spread and wondered what all was in the spread. Living in the provincial town of Patzcuaro, Michoacan I can relate to the noise that you were subjected to too as it seems that there wall to wall religious celebrations with firecrackers, dancers and what all to confound one’s nerves! And that noise of dogs and cats just puts us on edge when we try to sleep or get rest. But you seem to be having a great adventure in spite of the terrorists and all! Thanks for posting. It is a great story!

    • That platter of food was breakfast. Olives, a variety of soft cheeses, honey, cherry jam, bread and a couple of other sauces that I couldn’t name at the time, let alone recall now!

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