Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 2 - Thoughts on Turkey

I have to confess that Istanbul has been a wonderful surprise from the get go. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, especially in light of recent events, but on every level it has been pleasant. The city is way more modern and nice than I thought. I guess I was expecting something more like Morocco, a bit more rustic and perhaps a bit backwards. The city is clean, the streets are well maintained, and buildings and accommodations are all first rate, though there are elements of urban blight here and there, including graffiti.

I wonder if it is somehow tied with an effort to join the EU. Plus, instead of Burger King, they have Burger Turk. How can you not love that? Whatever be the case, we've had a pleasant stay, and the one thing that has really made it nice are the people. So friendly, warm, and welcoming.

In fact, it's really big city, so the people don't even really pay attention to you, except when they want to sell you something. Even then, you get a sense that there is genuine friendliness beneath it all. They are always interested in where you're from, and the fact that we're from America draws only friendly and interested inquiry. Plus, people tend to think the kids are cute and charming, so that opens doors for us, as well.

I think Turkey as a whole is trying to promote tourism, and they seem to be doing a good job. The city is in great shape, and they even have a TimeOut Istanbul. TimeOut was started I believe in London, then they moved it to New York, where it really took off, and now they have it in Istanbul. It's all about arts, dining, culture, and night life. It strikes me as a bit of a culture clash, and I know that there is some conflict within this country about the secular vs. religious factions. There is part of the country that wants to make Turkey more pious, while I think many want to maintain it's modern, secular state. It's an interesting situation.

I love our hotel. It's so nice, and so nice. We could have gone lower budget, which speak volumes to me, but sometimes when you're in a far off and exotic land, it's nice to have something comfortable that you look forward to. I may have mentioned this before, but they welcomed us with cold drinks in the lobby, and then we went to our rooms and felt the need to explore the city. At some point we were going to have to hit the pool.

When we first walked out onto the streets, I wasn't sure what to expect. I know there's a lot going on in the world today, so that was in the back of my mind, but I got none of those vibes in the city. We walked down to Marmara Sea, which I'd never heard of, and watched the men fishing and people going about their day. I think it was rush hour, because the traffic was horrendous, and there were thousands of people walking in the streets. We bought roasted chestnuts and checked out the local scene. There is a beautiful park right next to the hotel, and we spent a lot of time just people watching and learning the way home.

We returned to the hotel in time for tea and sandwiches, and then hit the pool. We all love the pool, and swam and sweated in the sauna and Turkish bath. There was a sauna at the Hilton in Boston, as well, so we've been doing a lot of steaming. It seems good for the health, if not the soul.

We were still deep in the throes of jet lag, and in need of sleep in bad way, so after swimming, we showered and hit the sack. It was about 8:00 PM when we fell asleep, and woke up about 8:00 the next morning. After twelve hours, we were slightly caught up, but still felt off from travel. Such is the life of world travelers.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

No comments: