Imagine this. At any given moment around the globe, index fingers are hovering above ‘enter’ buttons on computer keyboards – ‘Confirm flight payment’.
Thought one… I’m going to Istanbul!
Thought two… I wonder what it will be like?
And then comes thought three. One that is filled with expectations.
When the ‘booking confirmed’ status is shown on computer screens, the Istanbul ‘tourist to be’ begins a list of expectations.
I asked some tourists what their initial thoughts were before they arrived into this city.
Were their first ideas of Istanbul met, or did they somehow fall short?
Let’s meet our most recent guests to this city.
Bruno, a 21 year old from Brazil’s fashion industry, has a large feather hanging from one ear. He is alternative in looks and free spirited in speech.
He says, “I expected a much more conservative city, not as western as it is.”
But what he has gotten during his few days in Istanbul is a “vibrant” city, where there is “always something going on”.
He tucks a long strand of curly hair behind his feathered ear. His touch is as soft as his earring.
Could a free spirited, gentle and creative mind find a downfall to this city?
No, I didn’t think so. He is only rimmed with happiness and adventure.
He says his favourite thing to do in Istanbul is to “wander around the streets in Fatih or Fener”.
Staying at the same backpacker hostel in Karaköy is Laura. She is a 23 year old consulting expert from Canada.
Laura’s initial expectations before arriving can be summed up in two words, “chaotic and exciting”.
Although, she now appreciates that she couldn’t quite predict just how fast and crowded the city actually is.
We sit at a restaurant in Kadıköy on the Asian side of Istanbul. I entertain the idea of eating ‘kokoreç’, a meal of spit fired sheep intestine fried with spice, between a bread roll.
She is ready for the taste test, but produces a note translated to Turkish.
She shows the waiter the piece of paper explaining her severe nut allergy. It appears life and death.
Still she is ready to taste Istanbul’s treats, and has an Epipen in her bag as back up.
Even at 23, I can see she is already an experienced and well prepared traveller who tells me she loves “walking around and finding tea shops to watch the locals”.
Jonas is also sitting with us. He is a year older than Laura and is a German engineering student.
He thought Istanbul would be “a booming city with a lot of culture and maybe not so safe”.
Much to his relief he tells me it is much safer than predicted.
During his stay in Istanbul, however, one thing has fallen short.
But, don’t worry, it is a positive dressed up as a negative.
“Six days is not enough time to see Istanbul. Not even close!”Jonas
Enjoying a different experience is Veronica, a 61 year old teacher from Australia.
She is staying in a luxury boutique hotel in the backstreets of Istanbul’s entertainment district where the lanes are lined with antique stores.
Veronica seems to be completely satisfied with her decision to press ‘enter’ on the computer keyboard to ‘confirm flight payments’.
She describes Istanbul as “a city everyone needs to visit at least once”.
She gives sound advice to future travellers. “You need to spend several days in the city to really feel what it is like and you need to do more than just visit the major tourist sites. The city has a real vibe that you only feel away from the tourist parts. It is truly a city where east meets west!!”
According to our tourists it seems Istanbul is a destination that out shines other cities from around the globe.
Jonas loves Istanbul, especially Kadıköy and suggests it is because he is being “guided by a local”.
I suppose, how could he not love it? A local knows the hidden pockets of a city after all.
And Istanbul’s pants are well worn and its pockets deep.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Describe Istanbul to a friend back home
Bruno - “The perfect mix of old and new. Edgy and traditional.”
Laura - “A must visit, cultured city with a lifetime worth of things to do.”
Jonas - “Great city with a matchless culture.”
Did Istanbul meet your expectations? Tell me below.
You may also enjoy reading ‘Am I crazy?!‘. Exploring why locals think we are crazy for moving to Istanbul.