Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ISTANBUL

And so the familiarity continues. I am in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Istanbul.

This city of 15 million strong straddles 2 continents: Europe and Asia. (Just for the record, both sides look the same and you don't need a passport to transfer between them.)

The hustling knows no bounds here. Flash mobs of opportunistic business people converge on anyone who walks and talks like a tourist. Ice cream vendors with taffy like ice cream in your face, restaurant staff guiding you to their establishment and carpet sellers whose sales patter is "please look my shop."
Tourist sites in the very touristy district of Sultanahmet with its very touristy prices is a bit like a 3 ring circus.

In ring #1 you have the tourists, in ring #2 the people who profit directly from the tourists and in ring #3 the locals who find the tourists a curious oddity.
The interplay between these 3 groups takes away from the amazing sights to be seen here. On a number of occasions the advertised prices for wares and food suddenly becomes inflated when it comes time to pay.

Much has been said about the friendliness of Turkish people. Most of the Turkish people who've approached me, however, cleverly disguise their capitalistic aspirations with a series of personal questions. They pretend to be interested in my well-being and where I'm from but all they really want is my money (as do the mortgage and credit card companies. Get in line people.)

Local business people who benefit at the literal expense of the tourists can happen anywhere and not just in Istanbul. It is tiresome but unfortunately part of the terrain of popular destinations. With a revolving door of tourists there is sometimes little incentive to make an effort. Such is the tourist trap.

The muezzin has sounded the 1/4 and 1/2 tones over the loudspeaker. It is the call to prayer but no one answers...

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