Istanbul, part 5– the People

travel blog & musings

Alright, FINALLY. Part five of the Istanbul trip. Finished now more so I can be done with the thing rather than to keep the post timely. I can check this off of the mental to-do list. Have a small moment of accomplishment. This trip was almost three years ago now, and I said I’d finish this much more than a year ago. So, yay me! To recap, the other parts are #1 mostly Hagia Sophia related, #2 places and buildings, #3 cats and patterns and textures, and #4 food and drink.

This one has been the hardest to put together for a couple of reasons:

One, because all too often travel writings or shows end with the phrase “but what I’ll remember most about *insert place here* is the people” and goes on to form some sort of idealistic generalized version of a People. Generally yes, humans are nice and want you, the visitor, to like their culture–so of course they’ll be welcoming. But travel experiences can vary widely based on any variety of human difference: gender, race, economic status, religious beliefs included. It’s an incomplete picture of the area to generalize an entire population based on the few people that you interacted with. So I’ll just share some images with a few words. All that said, I do need to mention that the group of girls in a cafe one night who shared their birthday cake with us, two American strangers at the table next to them, were indeed a friendly and welcoming group!

Two, because it deals with humans living their lives. Not buildings or teacups or native foods that you can write about without added complexity & emotion on the other side. The people in these images have their own daily routines, joys, troubles, none (or very little of which) can be caught in fraction of a second it took for the shutter of my camera to open & close. Their experiences can change daily too–just a few months after we were there, the 2013 protests erupted, in the square we visited for an evening as a wide open and friendly gathering place.

Are Turkish traditions different than mine? Sure. Are customs at a dinner table or around prayer different than other places? Sure. Will I respect these people & try to understand their differences? Absolutely. Was I ok with the friendly cafe owner deciding he wanted to ask me out, but asking my brother if it was ok instead of asking me? Well… not really. I can speak for myself on these matters. But he was being respectful to me and my family as he knew how. A culturally different moment for me, and a new perspective on daily life.

With that, I give you images of the people of Istanbul, living as they know how in their city:


Top: women sold food for pigeons outside of the spice market. Buy a plate of seed, throw it to the birds. Also, the man in white was Seekins-esque, so I had to get this picture. Minneapolitans will understand.

Middle: actually in the village of Anadolu Kavağı, not Istanbul. Cooks at the fried mussels & calamari counter station outside of a cafe. Fried mussels are a snack staple, I enjoyed them.

Bottom left: inside the bustling crowded spice market, plus brother and salep. Salep is delicious.

Bottom right: a few of the fishermen lining the Galata bridge. The bridge was this full of fishermen (I did not see any women) every day we were there, the entire day. Some trying to catch a meal, some trying to find a bit of extra income. When we walked by I did not see a lot of fish caught.



Top: men washing before prayer, outside of the New Mosque.

Middle: this is after 10:00 pm on a Tuesday night, folks. İstiklal street. And New Year’s day even, after the crowds of partiers the night before. There are many many people in lively Istanbul.

Bottom left: whirling dervish whirling during a New Year’s Eve show at an outdoor cafe. We were enjoying backgammon and waterpipe while observing, as were many others.

Not pictured: an image I wish I had captured, but did not. A business man with several phones and a laptop out one night in a cafe, conducting business meetings remotely while smoking a water pipe. A built-in reason for taking a deep breath during a business meeting–sounds relaxing, doesn’t it?

Bottom right: me & the friendly cafe owner who wanted to ask me out. He was really proud of the view from his cafe’s terrace, so had to show me. He was sweet, and this is a really nice view, but I did not go out with him that night. I had to pack for my flight home leaving in a mere 5 hours.

Istanbul, you were beautiful! Until next time…


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