The people of Istanbul seem unaware that they are 15 million, each one a resident of Europe’s biggest city. No, they move through their day as if in a small village: shopping at the local greengrocer, sitting in the park, strolling the marketplace. They fish off the bridge that crosses the Golden Horn. They worship at 500 year-old mosques…and then hop on the modern tram to get to work.
Founded in 660 B.C., Istanbul has always been one of the world’s busiest crossroads. It remains a global city and one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the world. It also knows how to welcome foreign visitors…about 13 million a year. (As a comparison, about 50 million tourists come to Chicago each year.)
Any city that has been occupied by multiple civilizations and dynasties has astounding history. Istanbul is the same. But it’s the people who make the city seem warm and friendly. This photo gallery of the People of Istanbul will show you why I loved my time there. (Photos by Suzanne Ball. All rights reserved.)
It’s a good time to visit Istanbul. Over the past two years, the currency exchange rate has increased 35%. This means you’ll have more Turkish Lira to spend at the fantastic bazaars and shops. Look for silk goods, carpets, ceramics, spices, and the blue-and-white “evil eye” ornaments.
Perhaps you’re concerned about your safety in a Muslim country. As with any trip–anywhere–people must be prudent during travel. While the U.S. State Department maintains its warning about visiting Turkey, keep in mind that, because of the constant gun violence, the following countries advise against travel to the United States: United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
One of the most vibrant cities I’ve visited, Istanbul is a wonderful mix of ancient and contemporary, secular and religious. The people are courteous and welcoming. I’d go back tomorrow…