Another frantic day in Istanbul buzzed by and left me in the dust! I have a few favorite cafés, where I can hide out, when things are too much. I’m 100% not complaining, as I love Istanbul and find it endlessly fascinating, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the fast pace – thought I had lots of energy – ha!
Today, I walked Beyoğlu and Taksim, concentrating on less-traveled sidestreets, where there’s little foot traffic but potential for drama at every turn. Massive pedestrian congestion on the main streets is reminiscent of Asian cities like Phnom Penh, Saigon, and Mumbai – where, if you stop for too long, you’re swept away!
I passed the huge new Taksim Square Mosque. Recently completed and opened to the public, its approval and construction took over 70 years – quite a story.
I changed course and walked near Galata Tower in Beyoğlu’s Galata district. The tower is a famous Istanbul icon. It’s always a busy area, with young Turkish tourists intent on snapping selfies with the tower in the background. Interesting shops spread out along steep cobblestone streets selling music instruments, Turkish linens, art, and locally-made clothing.
After several hours of walking, I wimped out and decided to give my tired feet a treat and get a pedicure at Luxus Istiklal. I used Google translate to communicate, and it worked well. There are expensive apps that translate and even speak for you, but doubt they’re that much better.
My iPhone is definitely a mother, best friend, guru, and babysitter, all in one compact package that can be turned off easily! Love the way it even tells you to be careful and when it’s not a good idea to use trams or ferries, because it’s a busy time. When I’ve misplaced it and briefly think it’s lost, I panic. Travel without a smartphone is unthinkable.
My brain is rejecting Turkish pronunciations, and after butchering so many words – evidenced by looks of disbelief on the faces of the people spoken to – I gave it up. My manicurist at the salon, Nazihe, went out of her way to make the pedicure and foot massage wonderful. She had trouble wrapping her head around “Sue” as a given name, but was very gracious about it. I’m thinking about changing my name to “Safiye” while in Istanbul.
People who live here must sense the trauma Istanbul causes acclimating tourists. Massive crowds of Turkish people on the streets are daunting, but when you interact with them one on one, they’re incredibly sweet and focused on what’s happening at that moment. A woman in the salon was having her hair dyed bright purple, and I couldn’t help but stare. The stylist saw me looking and winked, maybe thinking I’m his next customer…
I sometimes chat with an English-speaking waiter at a favorite outdoor café near the Istiklal tram station. He told me that most employees there don’t last more than a year, because the street noise and hectic environment become too much to bear. He smiled and admitted enjoying the relative peace and quiet that covid has brought the city for a few months. Another fancier more westernized escape place is Caffé Nero, where you can go incognito, lounge in a luxurious chair, and get the best chai latte in the world! The chandeliers and lighting fixtures are exquisite.
I’ve traveled throughout Turkey several times, and in Istanbul, am glad not to experience the discriminatory glances you can get in more rural areas, as a woman alone in a café. As is often the case in larger cities, Istanbul is forever accepting and forgiving.
The multitude of stray street cats never stop breaking my heart, but who knows the answer. They’re treated well and fed by many. A mobile spay / neuter clinic would have their work cut out for them, and who knows what other diseases or problems the cats may have. Haven’t taken many photos, because it’s tough finding space to stop, think the photo out, and then snap it. Sidestreets are easier. Another heartbreaker is young Turkish mothers singing or playing a musical instrument, while their scrawny children circulate the crowd collecting money.
Tomorrow, I plan to branch out a bit and take a ferry to another area – not sure where yet, but will look for some out-of-the-way gems, maybe a neighborhood in Kadıköy? The weather has been heavenly! The Bosphorus islands get busy in the summer with people escaping the city, so my guess is a weekday visit is best! This blog post has turned into a rambling digression. It was that kind of day!