I said good bye to Burkina Faso and flew to Istanbul, arriving at about 7 am and having a 13 hour layover. This was perfect. I love Istanbul, but had not been there since my 2009 Turkey trip. I paid for a visa and passed swiftly through immigration. Then i was on the Metro. I switched to the tram and about an hour and a half after landing i was in Sultanahmet, gazing on the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sophia.
The city looked in many ways as i remembered, and the basic layout was easy to navigate. I wandered around and found myself on a street that looked like a cleaned up version of the street on which i spent every evening seven years ago, smoking shisha. There were lots of restaurants and i seated myself at the one which most appealed. During my breakfast, chatting with the waiter, i learned that this was the street i remembered, and that it had just gotten fancier. I remembered that there is a picture of me on the blog from my last trip to Istanbul, standing with a hookah in front of my regular joint. I pulled it up and the waiter called the owner over and it was the same place. It had changed a bit, but was basically the same and i had gravitated to it without knowing. This earned me free coffee in exchange for the promise to return again someday.
Istanbul is definitely cleaner and more organized that i remember. Better street signs and more tourist infrastructure. More international shops. These things detract a bit from the atmosphere, but it is still a great city. I love walking the streets past all of the super appealing shops selling scarves, lanterns, hookahs, and pottery. I love the cafes and the ubiquitous cats. And the exquisite calls to prayer that echo out over the city.
It was chilly, especially compared to Burkina Faso, but the cool air felt so refreshing.
I got lured into a lengthy Turkish coffee session with a carpet seller, which was pleasant and i managed to walk carpet-less, which is a small victory.
I then headed for the Grand Bazaar, where i became wonderfully lost amongst the stalls of crafts, handiwork, spices, and sweets. I then had mint tea with a seller of meerschaum pipes. I did not leave empty handed this time.
I finished the day off down my the Blue Mosque again, with a hookah of double apple shisha and just relaxed until i felt it was time to return to the airport.
A delightful day. I hope it is not another seven years before i return.