Today I have been in Istanbul for a week and have already seen and done a lot here. Here are some of my first impressions of this amazing city:
* The city is knows as “the 7 hills” for a reason. You spend most of the days walking up and down when you move around here. Moving around is kind of easy with metro, bus, tram, shared taxi, normal taxi, funicular, boat and so on. The prices are also low and you can get it even lover by buying a metal thing that you charge and use on all kind of transport (except taxi).
* People are really helpful here. On the way here for example (with bus from Sofia) we crossed the border. An old man had 5 bags filled with cheese and some fine wines/champagne. Because it’s not allowed to bring food into the country the custom wanted to throw everything away. Everyone, and I mean everyone, on the bus helped the man in different ways, and after some phone calls from some of them this was fixed and the man could keep his bags.
* Although most people here are really helpful, there are of course also people trying to trick you (as everywhere else). For example in the restaurants when you don’t speak the language.
* If you buy a Turkish mobile card (sim card) you need to register the phone if it’s not bought in Turkey. Normally the people who sell the cards don’t tell you this (see above). This means that after some days your mobile will be locked and you need to go to a certain mobile store to unlock it and buy a new sim card. The official explanation for this is because terrorist use mobiles to detonate bombs, although some people say it’s because they want to sell more Turkish mobile phones. There are no problem with foreign sim cards though. Also, it’s not allowed to talk in mobile phones on the bus.
* The food here are a little bit more spicy than in a lot of other European countries (finally!). If you are a vegetarian you will have problems because most things you eat here include meat. If you love kebab this is the place for you, as there are a kebab place every 20 meters. The kebab meat is usually of very good quality but there is no sauce as most people in the rest of Europe is used to get.
* The store areas are usually grouped in different categories. For example there is one road with only music stores, another one with only water sport stores and so on.
* Prices here are higher than in Sofia, almost the same as in northern Europe, and some things are even more expensive. If you know where to go you can find cheap and good food for around 4-5 euro though. At the markets you can bargain and lower the price to about half of the start price.
* The Turkish language are somewhat difficult to learn but not impossible. About half of the young people here speak English, and almost nobody of the middle age or older people speak or even understand it.
* Movies at the cinema are in original language, although TV is mostly dubbed.
* Guys kiss each other on the cheeks here. Also you can’t enter a club if you are only guys, you need at least one girl to be let inside.
* A lot of web sites are blocked from Turkey. This includes for example YouTube, which you can “unblock” with a special program installed. It’s still not possible to upload movies though.
* Everything here is called something with “Turk”, for example Turk Cola, Turkcell (mobile company), Powerturk (Music TV-channel) and so on.
* There are a lot of homeless dogs and cats here, the same as there were in Sofia. Also homeless people of course, as the minimum salary here is about 120 euro which is far from what you need to live here.
* It rains a lot in this period of year, that is it rains several days of the week, not so much at one time though
* You never get bored here as there is always things happening around you with this amount of people on the streets at any hour.