Istanbul, Not Constantinople

Greetings from the centre of the world, perhaps the greatest city in the history of the world… Istanbul.

I’m staying at the Sari Konak hotel in the Sultan Ahmet district, and am regularly awed by the visual wonders that surround me, everything from gorgeously decorated shops and restaurants haunting ancient cobblestone streets, to the historic mosques of Sultan Ahmet (400 years old) and the legendary Hagia Sofia (1600 years old) a few steps away.

As I write this it’s well past midnight and I’m alone on the roof of the hotel trying to get some work done while bathed in the eerie full moonlit glow of the Hagia Sofia, and while doused in a bottle of cheap wine.  Check out the pic:



Today my fellow epidemiologist friend Adam I enjoyed a boat tour up the Bosphorus straits approaching the Black Sea:



We were supposed to disembark at a place called Anadolu Kavagi on the Asian side.  But our malfunctioning GPS auto-guides convinced us to step off 2 stops too early.  So we were instead treated to a brief jaunt through a non-touristy fishing village.

Thus far, the residents of Istanbul have been nothing short of gorgeous and delightful.  The city is astoundingly beautiful, with depths of history difficult to truly conceptualize.  It’s hard not to consider this the greatest city on Earth, and the greatest city in the history of the world. To paraphrase Napoleon, if the world were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.

What has been surprising me more than anything else is the joviality of the residents.  We took a walk through the spice market:

Istanbul's spice market

There were several shops selling various random items proclaimed to be “Turkish viagra”. Here’s one example:


The vendor said to me, “You look like you need a kilo? No? Then your friend surely.”

Further up was a tea shop. The vendor asked us, “Can I help you?”

Adam replied, “I’m just looking.”

And the vendor said, “And I’m just selling.” 100 points for clarity!

It is such a joy to be in a Middle Eastern market in which no one is harassing me. And it’s an added bonus that they seem to be having fun with their jobs.

We’ve only been here a day. I’m sure another face of the city will present itself. Until then, I’m thoroughly enjoying this city’s magnificent visual offerings, jovial people, and especially her delicious foods. Frankly, I’m especially surprised by the plethora of healthy options. I’ve been feasting on fresh fruits, roasted chestnuts, and freshly caught fish.

Okay, the booze is wearing off and I need to sleep. Till next time!