Our first day in Istanbul is a kaleidoscope of differences with masses of people on the streets. Perhaps this is due to the locals joining in with the tourists as it is a Sunday, or maybe it is always like this. Although the streets are crowded, there is no agro, and not a lot of noise. Private cars seem to use the main roads that are tarmac, while these cobblestone streets have mainly trams, buses and yellow taxis. The cobbles are grey and much worn, the buildings are old with new frontages, and the footpaths are narrow and irregular. Some of the streets are incredibly steep. It is immediately apparent that we are in an ancient city.
Although there are few bins, the streets are very clean. People appear in a range of clothing from not much to completely covered. We haven’t encountered a single fly or mosquito, or any dogs, although we have come across a couple of cute kittens. The trams run often and are hugely long with articulated carriages crammed full of patient looking men and women. Apart from an intermittent clanging bell to let pedestrians know that one is approaching, they are quiet and from our hotel room we can look down and see tram tops racing by, their workings exposed.
Everyone is friendly and delighted with our very clumsy attempts to say ‘thank you' in their language. Turkish hospitality means we receive tiny glasses of delicious hot apple tea wherever we go.
We have just returned from our evening meal, consisting of lamb on a bed of eggplant for Trisha and lamb on pita bread for me. Both were delicious. Both waiters were jokers with dark gleaming eyes. The meals come in a good size, not gigantic as they are tend to be in Australia.
All the shops here are open til late anddon’t have prices on anything. The social aspect of shopping seems more important than the sale of goods, with a large amount of preliminary chatting before any mention of prices or sales. The haggling that follows also takes ages and seems to be a hugely enjoyable activity for the shopkeepers. Despite huge temptation, neither of us have bought anything yet.