In 2008, when I was 21, I came up with the idea of booking an Interrail ticket and touring Europe for a month. I decided travel to Paris, Madrid, Granada, Barcelona, Venice, Rome, Athens, Istanbul and Vienna. And I felt the strong urge to do this tour alone.
Day 22 to 25 – Istanbul (Turkey)
After Athens, I took a train to Thessaloniki (Greece) and from there a night train to Istanbul where I arrived on Sep 20th. I loved the fact that the city is easily accessible on foot as well as quite affordable and budget friendly from a German perspective. I was able to indulge on delicious street food and baklava without burning a hole in my pocket, all the while taking in the sights and architecture.
And honestly, even though the weather was grey and gloomy, the city and its people were amazing. I was just wandering around the city on foot and got approached so many times by strangers to strike up a conversation in surprisingly good English and German. A couple of times this involved somebody trying to sell me something (I was asked to buy a carpet more than a handful of times even though no one could have seriously assumed that I would want to buy one at 21), but after I politely declined they just continued with pleasant an curious small talk, usually with a glass of tea.
This is very different from street interactions in Germany, we usually don’t strike up with conversations with strangers. Also public street life in Istanbul back then seemed very much dominated by men. For these reasons, I was a little bit taken aback the first couple of times these encounters occurred, suspecting ulterior motives. But with each pleasant meeting and positive interaction, I grew to understand that this was part of the culture and no obligations arose from them. I had so many lovely and insightful encounters with locals. It made my exploring of the city on the Bosporus so much more memorable.
How about you?
Have you been to Istanbul? What was your impression?
Cover picture was taken in Istanbul (Turkey) in Sep 2008
Missing the beginning of this story?
Around Europe in 30 days #1: Forming a plan