To be honest I didn’t like Istanbul all that much when we first arrived at the Sultanahmet, where we stayed, the old city of Istanbul. Here the houses stood closely packed, interiors were tiny, and where the streets were paved with cobblestone. There were no malls, nothing that harked back to the feeling of a city and this, I loved. There were, however, throngs of tourists and their natural prey – hawkers, vendors, touts, guides, every trade you could think of that relied on tourists filled Sultanahmet to the brim, alongside monuments, mosques, historical sites, and locals who still occupied what looked like time had left untouched.
Istanbul is literally a city of two faces. The modern day Istanbul stands across the river, a fifteen minute ferry ride away. Here, it was chocked full with malls, Starbucks, H&Ms, and hip cafés with overpriced salads. Here, a majority of the Turkish lived, people who almost dressed and looked differently from those we had met in Sultanahmet. It was as if a different life was lived, in a different time.
But no matter which side of the city you are in, there are a few things that don’t change – the food (oh, the sweets! the meats!), the pride of being Turkish, and the warm smiles and gregarious friendliness of just about everybody you meet….