My flights from Georgia and Doha gave me 12 hours in the city. I hadn’t been for six years and its improved since. Last time was part of a rock n’roll period where incidently I met Linden in the Bauhaus hostel. It seems a long time ago now since she borrowed my hat, a classic girl trick or I piggybacked her to the nightclub. I’ve always been a charmer!
The Turkish economy continues to improve and this is reflected in its main city. It’s been gentrified. It’s still a claustraphobic experience but the streets are cleaner, the hawkers are less pursued no doubt by the policeman on segways and the army of ‘Ask Me’ helpers. Public transport finally made sense despite twice seeing black men ejected from the trams for no apparent reason. The term I thought I won’t use here but the city and the people felt more European (all this is fairly ironic given the accusations of Erdogan’s challenge to the secular state), less intent on chasing the buck by organising themselves so the buck came to them. There were still plenty of hawkers and beggars but less than before.
The Bosphorous twinkled in the sun. I sat down and watched it for a long time before going to Gezi Park to read and people watch at the scene of ‘the scene’ in Istanbul which quickly descended into a stand-off between Erdogan, the democratically-elected Prime Minister and the middle class who sense their rights being slowly eroded by his government. Erodgan won this battle though the protestors may have saved the park. Istanbul needs parks like this. But even Gezi Park is no real getaway. Central Istanbul just doesn’t have the room. This is a massively, crowded city.
So while there, I visited the Sultanahmet area, the Grand Bazaar and tried for the Modern Art Museum but it is closed on Mondays. Despite enjoying it more this time (the weather helps of course), I still don’t know if I want to give it a try. Time won’t tell. I’ll leave that to circumstance and the heart.