It is with great pleasure that I report I am in Erdogan-land. The weather is pleasant, not Egypt-pleasant – and by that I mean warm – but it is more than tolerable. I can already tell that it will be a low-sleep trip. This city never rests. I have been here for less than two days and I barely had more than 5 hours of sleep. To enjoy the city and what it has to offer you really have to be up and running the majority of the time. The day here does not end before 2am, a typical time for most developing cities, but the day starts at around 5am. There are surprisingly great things to do even at 5-6am. One could have traditional Turkish coffee and watch as laborers start making their early morning commutes. In a busy city like this, there is plenty to watch and even more to do. As I have the better part of 15 days left to explore Istanbul, and perhaps neighboring cities, I have not ventured outside a loosely-defined one-mile radius from the hostel I am staying in. In fact, when I took my morning walk, I found a rather tremendous amount of great-looking restaurants (with unusually low prices) even in that one-mile radius. I could spend the two weeks in this radius and still not finish going through the galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, antique shops, and hand-made goods shops. It is quite fascinating.
In some ways, I got what I expected. What I love about less-developed cities like Istanbul. By less-developed, I am comparing to places like New York City, London and the like. What I love about places like Istanbul is that they manage to preserve some of their original look and feel despite the modernization that they went, and are going, through as part of their development. There is a certain warmth and feel that is still preserved in this city. There is a certain pleasure in finding traditional shops and stores that are catering to those who are seeking a Turkish experience, no matter how unfamiliar it might be. If you want shops that look like the ones you would find in Paris, go to Paris. There is no point in going to Turkey to find that.
Shifting gears now. I have opted to stay in a trusted hostel that was recommended by a few friends. However, I do sleep with three other guys. Two are Austrian software developers who are enjoying a vacation together, and thankfully they all speak English. There is a third, who is a lovely Australian. His Euro trip started in England – the “motherland” as he jokingly calls it – and he has been making his way down. He flies out of turkey in about a week. Two days on and all four of us have some great rapport, and luckily we all have something to talk about. The two software developers are already giving me tips on some coding projects I am working on. They happen to be in the desktop business and I am working on iOS projects, but they have some valuable thoughts to share nevertheless.
There will be more to come.