I spent my last day in Turkey (04 Nov 2013) in Taksim Gezi Park writing in my journal, and observing the comings and goings of the people who live in Istanbul. I used those last few hours to sum up my experience of Turkey. I wrote, “I noticed that the hotels in Turkey don’t have those signs telling you how much you will have to pay if you steal the towels etc. I don’t know if it is because Turkish people wouldn’t dream of stealing, or if it is because the hotels haven’t caught on to this not so subtle way of warning would be thieves.”
“The weather has been amazing! I am wearing a hoodie over a T-shirt, and I am sitting in the shade; I am not cold. Here in Istanbul, people are wearing jackets but not winter coats. Yesterday, in the mountains, I saw people wearing full-length, down-filled coats.”
“Most of the people in the park are men; in fact, most of the people on the street are men. Old men sit at makeshift sidewalk cafe’s smoking, drinking coffee or çay, and talking or playing backgammon. Where are the women? According to Edward, the Irishman in Kusadasi, the women are working. I saw women picking cotton and women working as cashiers in both of the supermarkets I patronized, but not very many women seem to work in the hospitality industry, chambermaids notwithstanding. The waiters and bartenders in most of the places where I ate and drank were men. The sales people in the Grand Bazaar, in the leather shop, in the carpet shop, and in the spice market were men.”
“In spite of there being poor refugees from neighbouring countries such as Syria, no-one has begged money from me. A lady with a cart just removed recyclables from the trash bin.”
The final entry in my journal was a list of ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ points about the Turkey Unplugged Tour. On the plus side was Huseyin with on-hand information about absolutely everything, pre-arranged tickets and no queuing at all of the sites, and moderate to good hotels in good locations. On the minus side was early morning wake up calls, brisk walks through most of the sites, and no time spent where ‘real’ people live. Who should take this tour? First timers to Turkey regardless of age, and singles, couples, and friends. Who should not take this tour? People who are uncomfortable with strangers and people who hate waking up in the morning.