Friday, 3 January 2014


Istanbul is big and busy. Choked with traffic. Friendly once ice is broken, but with so many people in one place, people mind their own business more. 

My guess is 300,000,000 cigarettes are smoked each day (18m people, 75% smokers, pack a day ballpark). No bike lanes. It's noisy with rushed traffic. We like coming back to our hotel for solace after pounding the pavement. Cities like this would benefit so much from millions of cars with enough battery range to be taxis and take millions of decibels collectively out of the city, and more bikes.  Bike share, electrified bikes, car2go and or electrics would take the deafening roar down - it's loud as streets have either stone walls or buildings on each side.  Even diesel electric hybrids as so much idle traffic time is just sitting. 

I've never been around such a shipping centric trade area. Apparently 120 vessels a day outside of all the little boats go through the Bosohorous. It's like watching a ticker tape and seeing hundreds of millions of seaborne capital and goods go by. 

The history is fascinating and completely beyond grasping in a short trip. The points I get are it's been a key area due to geography and warring religions for thousands of years. Reading about the successful Ottoman Sultans though usually stresses as well that beyond conquering, they derived power from having a strong base. The farmers and peasants were left to their thing, the trade merchants were too, etc. and live as they wanted as long as they paid tax. Might be revisionist history but makes sense. They seem to have the underlying life of citizens doing reasonably well, despite some freedoms, free speech, women's rights issues. 

I'm glad we came in winter. It's cool but comfortable. Being here in summer with the masses they say arrive and dealing with sweltering heat wouldn't appeal nearly as much. 

Very few touts other than at the most obvious tourist places. We took an exact retrace taxi back from the Sultanhamet area and his meter said 3x what it cost to go down there earlier, traffic and duration were the same.  I told him that, at which point his English magically dried up, but the bilingual doormen at the hotel said just give him my amount, they try to do it all the time and somehow jerry rig/hack their standard meters. 

It's very cosmopolitan. Dress was reflective of a fashion sense.  Not much head covering in town. Turkish genes seem to generate a lot of women over 6' tall, it surprised us. There's drinking in bars and restaurants, but no public drunkenness.  It all seems very refined. 

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