Istanbul: day 2

When people tell me they have been to England, then qualify it by saying they only went to London, I sometimes gently point out they haven’t really been to England. The same goes for any ‘honeypot’ tourist destination, and it certainly goes for Istanbul. My arrival in Istanbul was preceded by nearly ten days of cycling through some of the remoter regions of west Turkey, where tourists are rarely seen, and a living is still laboriously squeezed out of small plots of land or meagre herds of goats.


The humble people in the countryside welcomed me warmly as a fellow human being, gave me glasses of tea and waved goodbye as I headed off. In Istanbul, however, I am simply an economic unit on legs. Traders and touters steadfastly ignore fellow Turks in favour of the ‘bags o’ money’ foreign visitor, and they don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. For instance, no sooner had I stepped out of a restaurant having eaten, a waiter from the restaurant next door tried to persuade me to step over his threshold. Even when I told him I had already eaten, he insisted. “maybe you wanna dessert…or a nice Turkish coffee?”. Please go away and leave me alone…..! We Brits don’t like having our personal space invaded.
As a city, Istanbul is very much ‘in your face’, but it is also a captivating place. My visit to the Topkapi Royal Palace provided a stunning panorama of the Bosphorus


as well as an insight into the gloriously self-indulgent lives of the Ottoman sultans, who not only had several wives, but also a harem of concubines to keep them busy. One sultan officially had 15 sons and 18 daughters….and I’m told he died a happy man…..
The backpacker’s hostel I’m staying in has a lot of fascinating people arriving and leaving in a constant flow, and some even of my own generation. Like Roger


a UK born Australian living in Melbourne….he’s here pursuing his amateur passion for photography and shipping, so is spending hours every day monitoring traffic flow through the Bosphorus. Then there’s Alexander


from Russia in the same dorm as me. We had no language in common until I discovered he had been in Cuba long enough to pick up some basic Spanish. So an Englishman communicated with a Russian via Spanish….how rare must that be.
Then when I met Agacir from Brazil (middle)


we chatted at length over a range of topics, somehow taking advantage of the Latin-based connectedness between Spanish and Portuguese. And no, he wasn’t in Europe just to escape the world cup, but had come to visit his son Alex


who is doing a study placement at Budapest University in Hungary. And they weren’t the only parent and child partnership I’ve met these last few days.
And in case your wondering how you might deal with a bad day at work, take note of this


It may not be a cure for the bad day, but…….

About Frank Burns

My journeys around the world are less about riding a bicycle, and more about what happens when I get off the bicycle. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on June 15, 2014, in Kimbolton to Istanbul 4000kms: a crusader's route and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I love Turkey! I’ve been there several times and always enjoy the people there. I also spent a month in far eastern Turkey near her border with Iraq and Iran — it is nothing like western Turkey at all.


  2. Yes….eastern Turkey now holds a strong attraction….and I’m sure it is vastly different to the west. Therein lies the draw of mystery to the adventure traveller…


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