I would imagine that arriving from some fancy European city like London or Paris, Istanbul would present a very Middle Eastern picture. Minarets (perhaps soon to be banned in Switzerland, seriously?), carpets, lanterns, haggling, doner kebap (oh, wait that’s Germany)… it’s all somewhat Arabian Nights. Unless of course, you arrive from actual Arabia, and then everything just seems so European.
First of all there are the prices. Coming from Syria they are just plain silly. The entrance fees are quoted in euros. You have to search a little harder to find authentic food at a good price. The hotels are of a higher quality and you pay for it (in euros). I’m sorry did I blink and Turkey joined the EU?
Then there’s the quantity and quality of tourists. This is a world-class destination fed by connections with all the hubs of Europe. Istanbul is so close, yet worlds away! So all the usual suspects are crawling around: loudly chattering Spanish, camera happy Japanese, refined yet pushy French, tour group clingy aging Americans.
This all being said, I love Istanbul and would certainly go back. The setting, surrounded by rivers and seas and sprawling across continents, is unique. The Ottoman architecture is both familiar and exotic. And the whirling dervishes blew my mind. But it will be interesting to see how it strikes me coming from say, New York, rather than ancient Aleppo.
I have never witnessed such a foreign, nonsensical clusterf as the stampede to get on the Fung Wah bus in New York City. Isn’t that always the way? Grave warnings from friends and family about traveling to scary Egypt and the craziest, pushiest, most incomprehensible people we encounter on the whole trip are just four hours from home.