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Istanbul – really half Europe, half Asian?

Posted by on October 24, 2012

Apologies all for our email notification going mad and emailing every time I put up a photo 🙁  I am trying to get it sorted so it only notifies you of posts. Bear with me. Thanks. Peg x

We decided to start our world tour proper in Istanbul for 3 reasons. First, Michaela, Peg’s wonderful mate from fashion college over 25 years ago lives there. Secondly we fancied making Egypt our 2nd stop and we had fanciful notions of a night boat to Cairo (we saw Madness live  a few months ago and they were ace. Sadly the Egypt idea never came off). Lastly we thought it would be a good half way house to the culture shock of India. The city that is half European, half Asian; mixed race just like Patrick 🙂

Our only other real joint venture into anything middle eastern was a week in Marrakech one December very early in our relationship. Early relationship holidays are always make or break; the trip was so terrible we both agreed that we were well and truly ‘made’ at the end of a long week. It was the end of Ramadan so there was nothing to do – except watch the Moroccan version of Police Camera Action and sleep a lot.  Although, from our balcony we had a prime view of people transporting their (soon to be slaughtered) sheep for the forthcoming festival. Some opted for back of the car, others back of motorbike and best of all, a man wheelbarrowing it over the road by its back legs!  We’re not making this up. 

We had to call on all our inner resources. About 3 days in, around 3am:

PEG: “Are you asleep?”

PAT: “No. Trying to.”

PEG: “What you doing to get to sleep?”

PAT: “I’m just going through in order every goal scored by Leeds United so far this season, who scored, time and game result.”

We both found Marrakech hard. Peg because of the food (virtually no veggie food around). Pat, unlike Peg, having never been to the middle east at all before, found the culture shock a bit much. Ever since, Djamaa El Fna Square has been thr source of much discussion and comment in our house’. To be fair though, whilst Peg is a city girl at heart and loves the noise and rushing around, Patrick finds it all a bit too much and prefers the quiet of the country side; a feeling even more clear in a strange city

A city of contrasts – and disputed ownership!!Four years on we’ve probably had similar responses to Istanbul. Once we moved on from being homesick we could see Istanbul for what it is – an amazing, huge city, full of life and truly gorgeous around the Bosphorus. On our 2nd evening we went to a fashion designers party in an amazing flat that overlooked the Bosphorus Bridge. The party goers were from all over the world – UK, Australia, South Korea, Japan, France, Germany, USA.  They all love Istanbul and we could see why. It’s so exciting and stylish and Peg was really struggling with her ‘backpackers’ wardrobe in this very trendy city.

On the other hand it’s pretty disorganised and often felt a bit ramshackle. The houses are all built on top of each other. In fact there is an issue about ownership of houses; loads of them don’t have any deeds. There are plans to knock down streets of buildings to build a new shopping centre and people who live there were unable to prove ownership so just had to leave. Michaela owns her own amazing flat just by the Galata Tower near to the main street Istiklal (a street that is totally rammed all times of day and night. Apparently, people just spend most evenings walking up and down it. If you do it enough you start to recognise people!). Her deeds say her house is one number but her address is another. Apparently it’s not uncommon for street names and numbers to be arbitrarily changed. The same for Turkish laws apparently – they can just be changed overnight.

Just too British?

We’ve pontificated on our Britishness (which always seems to be confirmed to us by travelling aboard). Is it just that we both like rules per se? Or, do we like it when we understand what the rules are and everyone else does too? Both of us find it hard if we don’t know what the rules are, or if we think other people are just a ignoring them and we don’t know which ones we can ignore!

It’s such a cliche but that queuing thing is really getting to us. Too many times we’ve waited patiently to buy our bottle of water or Simitci (a large pretzel thing everyone has for breakfast sold by men for 30p with a little street cart) for some local to steam straight in in front of us Old habits (theirs and ours) die hard!

There is, however, so much to do in Istanbul as a visitor. So watch this space, that’s our next blog (when we have sorted this email thing!!!)

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