Turkey is a fascinating country!
After nearly two weeks in one of the most Westernized middle Eastern countries, I came away with a ton of impressions, insights and thoughts. As I traveled through the country, in big cities and small towns, I had a lot of opportunity to get close and personal with its culture.
My visit to Israel immediately before provided a rather interesting perspective on both countries, especially, against the backdrop of their respective religious proclivities. Talking about that in detail will be a whole other piece, so I am going to limit this one to the just energy in Istanbul.
Istanbul is loud (annoyingly so, often and especially, in the touristy areas and bazaars), vibrant, pulsating, capitalistic and almost schizophrenic. It was my last stop in the country and I had ample experience of the culture to compare and contrast with other parts of the region. As in every big city, there is a tradeoff between genuine warmth and profit making. For most visitors, every connection made here with a resident would be one with an undercurrent of a sale.
Yet, if you only step a little away from the business and clutches of its enormous tourism, into the little alleys where real life exists, it breathes nearly the same as rest of Turkey does. Not only are you not waylaid every step of the way, you are also feel a lot less wary and more at ease. There is a lot more of the helpfulness, hospitality and welcome that this culture represents yet, far less of the engagement, genuineness and connection that I had come to expect from my stay in the smaller towns.
For a Westerner, the chaotic functionality of the city would come in amazement and its sheer vibrance compared to the quiet sophistication of the Western cities would be freeing. For an Easterner, it's westernization without loss of tradition will be revelatory. In short, Istanbul is a amazing place to experience whether you are from the West or East.
Nevertheless, wherever you come from, if Istanbul is the only place you travel to, you will indeed be missing out on Turkey.
Today, I have a few photos shot on my phone in the city. Moments that I think captures the life here in its schizophrenic nature. I thought it was apt to portray it in monochrome, this time, to remove the distraction of color from the feel of the place.
Have you been to Istanbul and Turkey? How was your experience?