This was the first part of our European trip this year. We flew direct to Istanbul, spending 5 days there, before flying to Athens, which is covered in the next post.
Istanbul was an amazing, colourful and friendly place. We did all the tourist things, including a boat ride all the way up the Bosphorus Strait, to the Black Sea. We also spent a lot of time just walking around the narrow streets and exploring cafes, alleyways and plazas. Food was excellent and the people were very nice. The only thing was the population. Istanbul has about 22 million residents, which is by far the largest city we’ve ever been to. Being from the “Great White North”, it’s not surprising that the over-crowding of Istanbul got to us after a few days.
Istanbul is over 90% Muslim and the women mostly have their heads covered; at least in the Old City, where we were staying. We did spend an evening in the New City, which is on the north side of the Galata Bridge (still in Europe, not Asia), where it is much more modern. Here, very few women had head coverings and this is where all the designer shopping was. The contrast was extraordinary, almost like being in Montreal!
We visited the Grand Bazaar, which I thought was just a huge flea market, and the Spice Market, which was incredibly unique and fun to explore. Something that was very evident was the number of hawkers. I think this is the main type of employment in Istanbul, but they are friendly and don’t really persist too much.
One thing that really bothered us was the number of homeless cats and dogs everywhere in the city. They weren’t dangerous or anything, but seeing these hungry animals wandering the streets brought a tear to my eyes more than once.
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