I guess it is natural that after 10 years I have been giving some thought to what keeps me in Turkiye ( I really prefer the native name, obviously ), and Istanbul in particular apart from the property business. My views have certainly changed, yet some things that appealed to me from day one have remained. Amidst the cacophony of the real estate construction and the back to school traffic madness, I thought I would do well to remind myself of some of the things that provide consistent enjoyment. As it is a top ten Letterman list, there doesn’t seem to be much need for more pre-amble.
1-Well, yes, the PEOPLE. They certainly share the hot and cold aspects associated with the Mediterranean personality. I suppose, I have come to look on the Istanbulite the way you might a family member; there is plenty of haggling, negotiating, hugging, etc., at the end of which you develop a modus vivendi, yet certainly not in any way resembling the Swiss model. I suppose that is fine. It is quite ironic that Family Law is based on the Swiss Code. Food for thought, that one. Fine to have a legal code adapted from foreign lands…but implementation?
Also, as more and more foreigners arrive in the city daily, the Turks’ attitudes have also changed, and part of that is positive. I seemed to get asked less for impromptu tutorials in English, which suits me fine.
2- The food. This was almost an easier choice than number one. Come on, I eat out every single day and for 5-7 USD I can get great, nutritious (for the most part) meals. I am a diehard fan of the Ayran drink, love my baclava, olives, and am well-known for putting away large portions of icli kofte (decidedly, stubbornly non- nutritious).
The only paradox here is that international cuisines are under-represented outside of all but the trendiest areas, not to mention pricey when you do find them. It is hard to get a curry in Istanbul, but I guess I can live with that.
3-The metrobus which connects you very efficiently with areas far and beyond the airport. With its own separate lane, and hence no traffic, nobody using it can again provide traffic as the excuse for being late.
4- I have no need for a stairmaster. The hills can be punishing, steep and endless, but when you see a bloke twice your age slogging up one of them with a santa claus like sack doubling him over, it kind of keeps you in check, not to mention being a decent calorie burn. To be avoided in summer, though. Unless you are on the way home to take a cold shower.
5-Loud music at all public events. No, wait a minute, I don’t like that at all. Gotta keep up the standards. With a demographic composed mostly of 20 year olds, I guess this makes sense. I wonder if the music will be as loud in twenty years time?
6- Being at the so-called “crossroads” of continents, the world, etc. When I haul up my googlemaps, I feel pretty connected. Nowhere seems out of reach…well, except maybe Canada. And naturally, Hawaii. But I could almost throw my jacket as far as such strange places as Tblisi, Yerevan, and Tabriz, home to famous Persian rugs.
7-The first snowfall of the season in Istanbul. Silence, after all. Even the most broken-faced and jaded istanbulites’ jaws drop, as they gaze naively into the night sky. Cars return to their natural state as enemies of the seven hills topography of the ancient city, and the sweet hot sahlep drink returns to the streets.
8- Cihangir Cami/ the Bosphorous. This mosque might have the world’s best view. It is an ideal place to recharge on a late Fall day.
9- The new Marmaray project that connects two continents underwater. Very high cool quotient for that. Also, pretty convenient and time saving.
10- The rush from the subway doors to the escalator at Taksim metro stop. Though not a Dakar motoring marathon, this requires dexterity, sometimes brute force, and wit, of course. A favorite anecdote, this is almost a rite of passage for any newcomer. As the subway door opens, see if you can be the first to get to the escalator. Just a hint, you had better be running and watch out for the covered 60 year old ladies. They are good with the elbows and abound with that free-for-all spirit that pretty much sums it all up; these faces in the crowd, sprinters on a fast, slick track.
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