Fun fact: I didn’t love Istanbul.
I know the photos could say otherwise, and yeah, I did enjoy some things. I just didn’t *love* anything. And, erm, to be perfectly honest, I was counting down the days til I could leave.
Just one of those things. An expensive and slightly stressful thing, and it still beat a hot muggy summer in Auckland, but I probably shouldn’t have booked a month there.
My Turkish remained rubbish til the last day. I learned “thank you” and “delicious” and “yes”… and that’s about it. I also learned “how much?” but that was pointless because I didn’t understand any answer I received.
The food is interesting but – sorry, not my thing. Too oily, carb-y, salty, not salty enough. Bread with everything. No greens, apart from a bit of parsley every now and then, or spinach stewed into risotto. The only dish I kinda got into was sosili yumurta: scrambled eggs with sausage. Which, really, you could have anywhere.
And I don’t like kebabs.
I did enjoy the cats. Cats rule Turkey. They perch wherever they please, wander in and out of stores, sleep in window displays, saunter onto tables, paw at your dinner. They are not only tolerated but petted, fondled, fed, photographed, waited upon. Wherever you go, cats are chowing down on kibble left on footpaths or in special dishes, or being called from the doors of fancy restaurants to eat leftovers. Even the tiniest shops in the Grand Bazaar will allocate a good fifth of their floorspace to a cat’s basket and water dish.
And the variety of breeds! These cats aren’t the yellow broken-tailed ferals of Asia. There are Burmese, tortoiseshells, Russian Blues, Persians, tabbies, big ginger toms, everything in between. Bar a few ear-chewed one-eyed members, these felines are healthy asf. And loved. And they know it.
As I said before, the language barrier was the biggest thing. No, the biggest thing was the scowling. I seemed to piss people off just by walking past them in the street. And while I’m not so egotistical to think that I have such an impact on anyone, it was difficult to ignore. Maybe they thought I was Russian (I was asked several times) and maybe everyone just has indigestion.
There were some great moments. Like the old guy who sold me a pair of beautifully handknitted lambswool socks in the subway station and explained (through mime and about four English words) that his wife had knitted them. And the equally old dude next to him who saw my purchase and kept yelling at me to buy the crusty old bags of nuts and herbs that he was selling. I eventually relented and gave him a 20 lira note for a 15-lira bag of peanuts, only for him to pocket the note and tell me he had no change, sorry, ha ha ha. I saw the funny side (the dude had made some effort shouting his wares, after all) and made him take a photo with me.
There was the American guy who I hung out with many times at The Pub (literally its name) including one (not memorable) night on the raki: Turkey’s national drink. Raki is delicious and it is dangerous, and men will drink it all evening and get very red-faced and shouty.
I spent many hours wandering around the markets and bazaars of the European side. The men (and only men) stand at the doors of their shops calling, yes please! How can I help you? Where you from? Espanol? Russish? Yes, you like these. I have many more inside, come. Come look inside. You like tea? I bring you tea. Try something, you will like.
…and so on. They had a way of making you feel like you were the most interesting person in the world… until you moved on and heard them greeting the next person in exactly the same way. But I did eat close to my body weight in free Turkish delight – and bought none – so I can hardly complain.
Will I go back? Eh, probably not. Not for a while, anyway. I do have a bunch of Turkish lira left over, thanks to the string of nightmares on my last day which prevented me from spending/changing them. If anyone is going to Turkey, get in touch. And you should, it’s great! You’ll love it! The food is awesome! Did I mention the cats?
Yeah, probably it’s just me. But there are other countries and other adventures, and more bitching and failures and nightmares. I’ll still never stop travelling.