Istanbul is more than just geographically located in both Europe and Asia, their whole culture is a mixture of both.
The city felt very different from Europe, and I could see why the nearby Balkan countries had become so influenced by the Turkish culture; there was something so captivating about everything.
The rug shops, the glimmering mosaic lamps, the Turkish tea being served everywhere and the chanting from the mosques several times a day made you feel like you were in a whole different part of the world.
Istanbul is a tourism hot spot. Bus loads of tour groups visit everyday, you see hands sticking up with umbrellas and flags to guide their groups from their hotels everywhere, and the harbor is frequented by cruises every morning and evening.
Perhaps we noticed it so much because it was such a contrast from the previous countries we had been to.
But the great thing about Istanbul was that the city had adapted so well to tourism.
They know exactly how to butter up the tourists, but at the same time they are not pretending to be something they’re not, and they don’t change their habits, culture and goods to please you.
What you see in the shops is what you see in their homes. The handicrafts, rugs, and water pipes is what they prefer themselves, the Turkish pop music or traditional live bands you hear and see is what they listen to themselves, not a show for tourists (although they do know that it’s appreciated).
Istanbul was a place full of experiences, and just like in Asia, you could walk outside the door and five minutes later be somewhere completely different than first planned.
Istanbul was a city full of surprises around every corner, from shoe shiners with their beautifully designed shining copper tool box to people selling melons from wooden wheelbarrows.
Getting lost in bazaars and spice markets, sipping tea from dusk til dawn and walking aimlessly through cobble stoned side streets was something I would gladly have done for weeks …
For example it has the cleanest and most modern trams I’ve seen, which run next to boys dragging wooden carts of fruit and nuts down the streets.
That’s the best way I can describe how East meets West in this city – modern mixes with old-fashioned, like pet food mixes with Egyptian spices in the spice market.
It’s all mixed up in a big melting pot of culture and we LOVED it!