29.3 - 2.5.2017
When we arrived in Istanbul, we had no idea how long we would stay. A week, a few weeks? Well, it turns out to be over a month and i cant wait til we return in the future.
Our hotel, Carme 2 became home. Cengiz (the owner) and Sanne (the housekeeper) became friends. They introduced and shared foods with us. They taught us Turkish and were patient with our ignorance of all things Turkish. It officially became our absolute favourite place to stay on our trip.
The kids particularly loved it. The weather was cool, almost cold. The air was much clearer and reminded them of the fall and winter that they missed. Sidewalks were wide and open for walking. There was a familiar 'Western' feel to the city. The food appealed to them : baklava, rice pudding, salads, cheese, kebabs, pastries,... while there was still plenty of rice and flavourful local dishes to taste.
From the outside, there is much fear about Turkey. With terrorist threats, recent bombings and political turmoil, tourism is at an all time low. Even when we were in neighbouring Greece, people are skeptical about travel to Istanbul. Cruise ships have stopped coming on their coast and skipping over to Greece instead. Interestingly, we have seen many Asian tourists here. Both in large groups as well as individual travelers. There are also many Arabs or tourists from the middle east. We were here during their constitutional referendum. As spectators, we see how propaganda works in an unjust system and hear the worries of it's people fearing a future of authoritarian and forced Islamic regime.
After 3 weeks in Istanbul, we ventured off to central Cappadocia and west coast Izmir and Ephesus. Since boating to Athens (where we have arranged to meet my sister Tia) was both a difficulty in schedule and more expensive than flying, we opted to return to Istanbul before flying to Athens. We were thrilled to spend a few more bonus days in Istanbul.
There is much more to write about our stay here but for lack of time these days, i will pass you over to Emma who has done a beautiful job of writing and recording our days in Istanbul, Cappadocia, Izmir and Ephesus.