Istanbul Turkey: Back in the Best Western Plus President Hotel I discovered the dining room staff had remembered my preference for decaf coffee.
Istanbul Turkey: Based on their attire a large majority of guests staying in the President Hotel are Muslims. This is one of the more cultured families; many were boisterous with obnoxiously unruly children.
Istanbul Turkey: Stepping out of the Metro station this spectacular view of the Finansbank building in the background presented itself.
Istanbul Turkey: This is the drug store where I refilled two of my prescriptions in the last days of my stay in Istanbul... no questions asked!
5 July - 26 July 2017
Hello again from Istanbul
After that short stay up in Safranbolu and uncertain about where I wanted to go next, I grabbed a bus back to Istanbul with its great value hotels and still plenty of neighborhoods to explore. The truth is, my energy level has been sagging and enthusiasm for adventure travel has declined with the perceived outrageous costs and reservations complexity.
Because the Black Sea coast is so conveniently close to Istanbul city, it made sense to head on up there for a closer look. One of the bellmen at the President Hotel suggested a small coastal fishing town, Rumelifeneri would be a splendid choice because there I'd find the ruins of an old fort as well as a harbor full of colorful fishing boats... not to mention an authentic Turkish country town with it's authentic country folk! That sounded great though I'd really wanted to see the fabled Black Sea beach resorts. Never the less, wandering the tiny village of Rumeli Feneri provided a delightful glimpse into the day to day life of people in a tiny rural fishing town, complete with clutches of old guys sitting around drinking tea and playing Backgammon.
On the trip back to Istanbul the bus got us to the Metro station at Haciosman just fine, but a major Metro system disruption had closed the station. Temporary shuttle busses provided an alternate connection down to the next Metro station at Darussafaka, but directions in Turkish proved nearly useless for us foreigners. Eventually, one of the frequent emergency shuttle buses did get us to the alternate Metro station where everything still worked as designed.
There have been periodic power outages in Istanbul and Wikipedia has not been available at all during my stay. Likewise, Google search has occasionally failed. CNN continues to be blocked in the President Hotel and I've had trouble getting Aljazeera periodically. The organized opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration remains active with street protests and government retaliations. I have seen none of it personally in any of the areas served by the Metro rail system where I've wandered. Looking down on the sprawling city from the sixth floor dining room here in the hotel it is obvious there are thousands of places where the action could be happening. So it is no surprise my random wandering has not stumbled on the protest venues, though I did eventually learn a large plaza at the nearby İstanbul Üniversitesi on the other side of the Metro tracks has been a frequent protest gathering point.
One evening while sitting in the hotel lobby with another guest during the late afternoon call to prayer, I made a flippant comment about the muezzin's odd "singing" voice: "He could benefit from some professional voice training." I quipped to my thirty-something fellow guest sharing the lobby lounge. His response led to a short, but insightful conversation about religion. A French speaking Algerian citizen, I inquired if he was Muslim. Using his phone translator, he displayed "No pray." He did admit to being nominally Muslim, but only culturally. He then translated with a grimace: "Religion is the problem." His parents still practice the traditional religion of of their parents, but none of his siblings do.
Western tourists have been avoiding Turkey since the political unrest and earlier terrorist attacks, so most of the visitors are now Arabic. Children are noisy and rambunctious with parents apparently approving... making a quiet breakfast with the tastefully selected background music in the hotel completely impossible.
While waiting in line to check-in at the Ataturk Airport several Jordanian guys with mountains of 'cargo' luggage jumped into the line ahead of me to join friends with the lame explanation: "family."
Fred L Bellomy