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First Impressions of Istanbul

by irishdon (12/7/2004)

First Impressions of Istanbul

My first visit to Istanbul was in January 2004. When I arrived in Ataturk International Airport and heard the Turkish language for the first time, I was confused but intrigued at the same time; confused in that I understood nothing (!) but intrigued in that it was the first time in many years that I found myself in a country where I didn’t understand even one word of the language and this was a challenge!!


I was met at the airport by my friend Mira (who is from Istanbul) and while we were in the taxi going from the airport to Taksim Square, I bombarded her with questions about Turkey and the Turkish language. Mira was surprised by my interest, especially when I asked her to start teaching me basic words and greetings in Turkish.

The first evening in Istanbul, we met up with some of her friends who naturally were shocked (and pleased) when I greeted them in Turkish!!! They immediately tried to help me learn other words and this made me see for the first time how open and warm the Turkish people are. In fact, throughout the week I stayed in Istanbul, I met only friendly and helpful people.


Being a big fan of football I would have liked to have seen a game, especially with a choice of teams in Istanbul such as Galatasaray, Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Istanbulspor (I have a bit of a liking for Besiktas having once seen the team play in Rome against Lazio). Unfortunately the Turkish Super League was on a winter break in the month of January so I will have to wait for another time to see a game.


The mixture of cultures in Istanbul is very interesting. I was enchanted by the European-Asian “meeting point” on the bridge crossing the Bosporus river; as well as the “meeting” of different religions, all living together in relative harmony.


Some people had warned me not to visit Istanbul because of terrorist attacks in previous months, but I ignored these people. To claim that Istanbul is dangerous because of terrorism is like saying that you shouldn’t visit Italy because of the Mafia or that you shouldn’t visit Ireland because “the Irish are at war with the English”. I say go and visit Istanbul for yourself and you will realize that magic still exists :)


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