My luck being my luck, civil unrest broke out in the city the day after I booked my ticket! But despite fears among family and even the Foreign Office, I was adamant to make the most of this much deserved holiday. And boy am I glad I went!
Turkey is an unusual country in that it bridges the East with the West, which shows in the fusion of traditional and contemporary cultures and attitudes. Given my limited exposure I saw the respect for women, patriotism, religious values alongside a concerted effort to keep up with Western fashion and social culture.
The middle-class, educated (mostly young) Turks are far more liberal in their attitudes and seemed to branch away from the secular religious working class. They contrast to the other Muslim countries I’ve been to in that they openly drink, the women wear non-traditional clothes and young couples will walk in public hand in hand.
In central Istanbul everyone could speak English to at least a basic level. In the suburbs there was no need to learn the language so hardly anyone knew it. Only half an hour away from the city centre and the attitudes were very different.
Büyükçekmece is a seaside retreat in suburban Istanbul that the middle classes go to for day trips. It’s beautifully scenic, a break from the urban rush and a hotspot for some amazing bargains! It is also home to the fabulous Eser Premium Hotel and Spa, where we stayed!
I was lucky enough to be there for the summer shopping festival and culture festival so there were amazing sales on as well as cultural events.
I also happened to be there during public protests against the Government. I deliberately visited Taksim Square twice in the vain hope of capturing some footage of the demos but instead, I was faced with this (pictured) … construction work and cordons! Unrest only seemed to occur in the evenings and appeared to be exaggerated on British news.
The Turks are welcoming people with a great sense of humour. They are respectful to women, especially elders. However, the sales men in the Grand Bazaar are particularly opportunistic in their chance of being with a foreign woman. Word of advice ladies – expect cheesy lines and even inadvertent brushes across your body if you’re not travelling with a man!
Dining in Istanbul was very cheap. On average, a main dish was 15 Turkish Liras (£5 approx) but the alcohol is quite pricey. The city is a shopper’s paradise with an amazing array of leather jackets and bags, irresistible jewellery (largely silver, gold-plated and precious stones) and lanterns to die for! Best of all – you can bargain away!
I had been warned of the taxi drivers and their extortionate fairs. Unfortunately I experienced it too! A journey that cost 80TL in a taxi booked by my hotel, cost 160TL by a taxi I flagged down for the return journey! The driver literally doubled the price! Of course that led to a dispute and I refused to pay more than the amount I paid on the outward journey.
I plan to make another trip to Turkey. The country is full of intriguing history, an evolving culture, breathtaking sights and VERY interesting looking men! I’d recommend it to everyone!