Recently, we headed to Istanbul, Turkey for training. In the middle of the conference, we heard about the attack at the airport, and those moments were surreal. The airport where we had been only days before was now the sight of a horrific bombing and shooting. In the moments following, I became less fearful for our own safety because I was made aware the people of Istanbul deal with this kind of threat every day. Did you know that Turkey has suffered at 8 attacks this year and that Istanbul has dealt with 4 of those? We spoke to one person who said she is constantly listening for the possibility of gunshots or a man yelling and declaring his allegiance to ISIS or Allah. This is their reality.
As I prayed for Paris, Orlando and Brussels, I pray for Istanbul and Baghdad and Bangladesh.
Despite the awful events we did not live in fear, and we enjoyed the remainder of our time there. Thankfully, the city has an extensive metro system so it was easy to get around and see all of the main attractions. The Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar and Taxsim Square were all beautiful. Overall, I think the Galata Tower was our favorite. It offered a 360 degree view of the city which is almost surrounded by water, but it was also close to Istikal Street which is a great location for shopping. We must have walked up and down that street at least 5 times just to enjoy the life and the people there, and if you go, I recommend you do the same.
What you need to know:
Because tourism is down in Istanbul (as much as 90% we were told), prices are also down. You can bargain and get some great deals. One of our all time greatest purchases were two Turkish towels. These things are thin, light weight, absorbent, and overall good quality. Now that we have two, I can’t wait to go back and buy more. Besides the towels, the city has some great Turkish clothing brands, excellent dried fruits and nuts, beautiful jewelry, great ceramics, and a host of other great products.
As previously mentioned, getting around Istanbul is a breeze with their metro system (there is an app for that). If you can though, figure out how to get a 3-day pass because that will save you a little bit of money. Otherwise, it is four lira for each token. Unlike other parts of Central Asia, the taxis are metered, so there is no haggling for prices, and that makes the process a little bit easier.
We stayed in another Airbnb after the conference, and it was fabulous. There are a lot of them available, so just make sure to pick one in an area close to a metro or things you want to see. We stayed near Taxsim Square and we found the it to be a prime location.
Lesson Learned: If you are an expat living abroad, and you need to refill your supply cabinets, go to Turkey. Prices are good.