Return to Istanbul and home

19 September;

Day in Istanbul.


We are staying a stones throw from Taksim Square which is the local equivalent to Trafalgar Square. This is where political demonstrations occur. This morning an official political event with speeches and soldiers in attendance. In 1977 between 34 and 42 people were killed and 126 and 220 were injured during a May Day event, no one was ever held accountable and sentenced for these crimes. Most people were crushed during a stampede and the police were using water cannons.

Spent the afternoon doing some shopping, went to the Pera Musuem


and another one in and around the side streets of Istiklal Caddesi (street), equivalent to London’s Oxford Street. Packed out, walking is done with skill, dodging people, beggars, buskers, stall holders and the slow moving tram which alerts you by sound of a bell. It is otherwise pedestrianised so no cars to worry about.

Thus morning I realised that we are departing from ‘other’ airport on Asian side. Just as well I checked before I arrived at wrong one tomorrow.

This is my last post whilst in Turkey but will do a final one when home. I have not been thinking about work but I did dream my car was stolen outside SCOPE in Notting Hill the day I returned to working there. Also in that dream was one of my carers who had passed away this year. Not going to waste time interpreting that!

Begging. I can’t give to everyone who begs but I try and give when I can. I know poverty isn’t ended by charity but I am happy to give short term relief. For long term we need political solutions and I try to do my bit there too. Most upsetting is when children and disabled are involved. People in UK who complain about the welfare state should consider if they’d prefer what occurs here. Yesterday a girl was playing a bongo quite well, for money. On our way back she had moved up the street, a minibus pulled up and an official looking adult (I hope), snatched her off the pavement and put her in the vehicle. Penny said she hoped she wasn’t seeing a scene out of Slumdog Millionaire, I don’t think that was the case. No one reacted with any surprise.

In Turkey the retirement age is 56, not sure what life expectancy is.

In the posh shopping malls they do security checks before you can enter.

As I’ve said before there are 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, I think initially many hoped to return when peace returned but understandably with time that dream disappears. Some are putting down roots here and I read that sales of home products are increasing in border towns on Syrian border. Not all want to stay and when I arrived at bus station here yesterday many Syrians are surrounded by police and being prevented from travelling. Turkish charities are handing out food etc but some are starting a hunger strike until they are allowed to move. I am guessing that the telephone calls between Turkish president and Angela Merkel are about this situation and may have something to do with this new development.

In Turkey it is considered rude to leave a plate in front of someone once they have put their knife and fork down. For this reason waiters hover and have to be alert.

The fight for physical space is most intense in a city of 14 million. I have many times described the behavior of drivers. But pedestrians too do crazy things at traffic lights. In big cities the lights show you how long you have to wait and how long you have to cross. Many pedestrians do not care for this and if there is a break in flow of vehicles will walk, not run, across. On the whole motorists stick to the rules although some do jump lights. It is a war of attrition and the pedestrians are winning.

The district we are staying in is Beyoglu. 100 years ago it was called Pera and was considered the Christian


area of the city. Some Christians, Greek and Armenian, do remain and pictured are some of the churches we stumbled across this morning.  Our hotel is located in area where gypsies used to live and it also has a reputation for being popular with transexuals. If you haven’t realised it yet I embrace and love the diversity of this city and the city I was born in. The Musuem we visited had exhibits from Sarajevo in Bosnia. A former part of Ottoman Empire where Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians live together. Still. Despite three years of war where the Serbs tried to eradicate non Orthodox culture and people. I hope it is clear from reading my posts that I am against one ethnic group imposing its weight on another. Not in Turkey. Nor Cyprus nor UK. Life is more fun when we mix with each other. Diversity is good.

Things I reccomend, checking tickets.

Living together. Not being afraid of our differences nor trying to pretend they don’t exist.

Generosity to those who have less than yourself.

Things I don’t reccomend, putting your knife and fork down and pausing whilst eating. If you don’t use it you’ll lose it.

Small mindedness, meanness and fear.

20 September;

I’m back, it was great but nice to be home and around home comforts. Thank you for all your messages during the weeks, no writer likes to think only he reads his own work and it was appreciated. I hope it’s evident from my writing just how much I love Turkey as well as how it sometimes drives me mad. I hope I have demonstrated the value of going off the beaten track and doing things as an individual. As a parent holidays can be a bit of a compromise but those of you with young ones should know it does eventually get to the point where you are having holidays with just adults and that can offer so many opportunities.

Turkey, like most places is hard to define simply because like us all it is complex. I didn’t want to write a Trip Advisor type blog because for me holidays are so much more than whether the toiletries got changed daily at the hotel. I hope what I have done is convey the hospitality of most people. I didn’t want to write about politics for three weeks but it’s impossible to comment on what’s going on around me without making reference to it so apologies for my ranting at times. I did try and use humour and some days that was easier than other days.

Although I have shared my experiences with you I think I should also acknowledge that it wouldn’t have been possible for me to do this without Penny, who saw what I didn’t and enlightened me when necessary. My memory is not what it should be so by writing I now have a permanent record of my holiday and I will try and collate and put in paper format in case Facebook gets wiped off the face of the earth one day.

I will return to my ranting about politics and share my joy when Palace win though that didn’t happen today but hope to live long enough and be healthy enough to have many more holidays which I can write about in future.


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