The first thing we noticed when coming to Istanbul, was the omnipresent Turkish flags and party posters that decorated the streets for the day of the republic. According to a taxi driver, there were even more flags than earlier years because the Turkish army had suffered rather big losses the week before. I understand why a country with angry minorities and which is at war gathers around naitonal symbols, like the flag and the worshipped Mustafa Khemal. But for those of us who have more Kurdish friends and sympathies than Turkish, and who really doesn’t support Turkey’s foreign politics, it felt uncomfortable. A foreign element to us was the strong element of party politics in the celebration. The party posters were everywhere. Look at Erkan Mumcu in a Jesuslike pose. If you vote for the motherland party you’re bound to get a hug.
The city is full of street cats which are surprisingly clean and friendly, and stray dogs which are neutered and vaccinated by the government before they are released into the streets again. According to the hotel manager, most people don’t have pets, but rather take care of the cats and dogs in their neighbourhood. Being myself, I ended up picking up almost every cat i saw. I didn’t catch hepatitis, and I didn’t bring any of them home.
In the neighbourhood, all the streets had their own theme. There was a shoe street, with shoe makers, sole shops, and one shop that only contained loose stilettoe heels. There was an army-themed street and one tailor street. It fitted my idea of a medieval town to perfection. My favourite was the shop that only carried taps. Taps. No other plumbing equipment, just taps. How can one survive, when one only sells taps, or soles, or bootlaces? The whole town would die the moment a «bademiljø» shop settled there.
Perhaps the most interesting night, was the first one spent in Taksim, a rather trendy part of town. As we were a group of thirty people, we split up and ate at several restaurants, and then went out to several different pubs in the same area. The group I was with first ate at a place called «Fermentasion», and ended up following the waiter at the restaurant to doRock, a metal club in the same area. We watched a Russian metal/industrial band who were touring in Turkey and who were singing «Satan lives» in Norwegian. How surreal is that? They were amazingly fun to watch, with skinny girls in latex banging on big barrels and lots of fire.
The last day was perhaps the most cosy one. We started by taking a guided boat trip up the river. Seeing something from the seaside is always different from seeing it close up. Then we took another boat over to the asian side of town, which was a wholly different experience than the old town and taksim. The asian side felt more modern and alot less touristified. We found a nice restaurant, ate lovely food, and then settled on a cafe, where some man was playing that turkish lute, and some men were dancing while we played backgammon and smoked a shisha.
My predictions were correct. I’m more than averagely in love with istanbul by now, and I really just want to go back as soon as possible. I think this is a town that you have to experience several times before you can get the full experience, and now we are over and done with the virgin-tour. Hagiasophia and the blue mosque and the topkape palace are all seen, and I've been to the grand bazaar and had a turkish bath at a local place where noone spoke english.