Friday, June 20, 2008

Istanbul's Positive Impression

Istanbul sits on the Bosphorus Strait dividing West and East, Europe and Asia. The World House hostel under the majestic Galata tower is providing us with reasonably priced accommodation far from the 'typical' backpacker mecca on the other side of town by the Blue Mosque.

View from World House hostel

Our first impressions of Istanbul have been exceedingly positive. There is a deep working class pride; throughout the narrow cobble stone streets in our neighborhood craftsmen are hard at work in street level shops turning wood and aluminum or building fantastic lamps. They also enjoy sitting streetside in their small locality enjoying strong Turkish tea with cigarettes and conversation. After spending the morning in the Istanbul Modern, a loaf of fluffy bread with soft white tangy cheese purchased for an aggregate $1.50 was sustaining us when a group of men arriving for afternoon tea were suprised by the foreign intrusion, but nevertheless kindly entertained our presence. Upon leaving, one purchased a liter of fruit nectar and left it on our table as he walked away.

This is the second time we have been treated by spontaneous acts of kindness in our first two days here: last night while strolling by the Sophia Mosque and snapping photos, a three man photography crew asked us to join them for tea nearby. For the next couple of hours the air was full of laughter and cigarette smoke charged by highly caffeinated tea and Mevleviye dancing (whirling dervishes). The language barrier was tall, but paradoxically provided a subject for conversation as we were taught hello "selamin aleykum" and the appropriate response "aleykum selam" amongst many other words and phrases. Afterwards, the posse went riverside for tripod assisted night photography where I could teach them "aperture, shutter, and shutter speed". Check out Firat Okaygun's great Istanbul photography at (in Turkish).

Turkish Tea