After the packed, touristy Rome, Istanbul was a charming place to land. Turkish fellas are quite nice and helpful – we had a bit of a problem when we arrived, as Jon didn’t have the address or contact number of our accommodation, though we knew it would be nearby. The chap from a snack-bar nearby approached us and asked if we needed help – coming from Rome and Barcelona, this is the kind of thing that freaks you out. He kindly provided us with the wifi password of the café (yes, it’s eeeeeeverywhere) and called the owner of our accommodation, who happened to have a mini-market on the other side of the street. We got some drinks there as a sign of appreciation but our “landlord” insisted in paying for them. Even if the sympathy is there only because tourists bring money - as a young waiter told us - there are gazillions of touristy places in the world where people don’t make any efort - so, thumbs up, Turkish people.
Turks like to have their nightly walks in parks and gardens and walking around after dinner time is a pleasant experience; there are a lot of kids running around and you see a different side of the city. We passed an ice-cream stand where a young man in a funky outfit was performing tricks with a cone, pretending to drop it but grabbing it on the last moment - to great despair of the lady he was serving and great amusement of the crowd. The ice cream is fished using long metal rods and the funky outfit seem to be common to all ice-cream waiters.
The touts are not very insistent and the quality of products is better than in “similar” countries like Marrakesh and Egypt. You pay more but in general it is a worthwhile trade-off. Istanbul has a few bazaars and speciality shops where you can buy clothes, tiles, glass lamps, and jewellery. The amount of gold, silver and gems in some areas of the Grand Bazaar is almost unbelievable, and you better use sunglasses, or you might be blinded by the shininess ;) (♫ Bliiinded by the light ♫, anyone?)
A post about Istanbul wouldn’t be complete without the mention of cats. They are everywhere, in all kinds, colours and shapes. Most of them are quite young and skinny but the locals don’t seem to mind them and even throw some leftovers at them. As you walk by the streets you can hear people of all nationalities suddenly screaming “Miau!” (or Meow, or Nian, whatever takes your fancy) and grabbing they cameras to take photos of their new found friends.