Things I really like about Istanbul
Cats, mosques, a well used waterfront, and many other things
As I wrote in my first piece, Istanbul is a remarkably beautiful city. It is also functional, in a way many larger global cities are not. There is little crime, addiction, and homelessness, especially when compared to far wealthier cities. The public transportation goes everywhere, is cheap, clean, and easy to use.
It is also a very religious city, beyond the few wealthier neighborhoods most visitors go. That’s led to a misunderstanding of Turkey, both in the foreign press and in the minds of visitors, who tend to stick to the parts where mosques are tourist attractions rather than active houses of worship. Especially when you overlay the simple cartoon image the west already has of the Muslim faith.
Istanbul is still a port city, split by a very busy Bosporus, and port cities are rarely limited to a single ideology, religion, or view. Foreign influences, experiences, and ideas are part of the cargo coming in every day.
The result is Istanbul is a large global city, with a very Muslim core. A place that, if you want, you can sip the latest IPA, chatting in English about Real Madrid, while the call to prayer rings out in the background.
Thing is, while plenty do that, most residents can’t or don’t want to do that. They would rather spend their free time sipping tiny glasses of tea, with family and friends, snacking on pastries loaded with honey, nuts, and various sweet creams.
This mix of the religious wrapped in the secular, coupled with competent management, results in a remarkably pleasant city to live in, and walk.
A city you can walk for months and still keep learning, without ever feeling bored.
Below are a few of the things I liked best about Istanbul, from spending eight weeks1 walking around it.
Once again, none are tourist magnets. Beyond the cats and dogs. Everyone, no matter who they are, loves the cats and dogs of Istanbul2.
The Cats and Dogs
As I’ve written before, Istanbul is chock full of cats. They’re literally everywhere. In mosques. Sitting on cars. Among the rocks on the waterfront. As you rest on park benches, packs of kittens romp around tickling your toes with their tiny tongues. As you sit at cafes, they curl up next to you, looking up expectantly for a snack.
There are also plenty of dogs. Big fat lazy dogs, unconcerned about anything, laying in the middle of streets, only grudgingly moving for cars.