Our First Few Days in Istanbul

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Sometimes I think it might be nice just to pay the extra and let a tour guide take care of everything. This time our luggage didn't show up for the first three days in Istanbul. We walked the streets ragged and dirty, prey to every enterprising rip-off artist. A nickel here, a dime there, it doesn't matter. They even try to do it on behalf of their government, charging you a little bit extra to ride the public transit system. In Istanbul, every third or fourth store belongs to a carpet Merchant. Picture yourself walking down Yonge, Street in Toronto and twice a minute being approached by a shopkeeper wanting to sell you a case of maple syrup.

A back and forth in Istanbul might go something like:

"Hello sir, today business is terrible. I eat only bread." as the carpet man good-naturedly shows you a half-chewed loaf. "Come into my store and look at my beautiful carpets."

"How much for the cat? I want to buy your cat." I respond in my best Turkish accent while pointing at a mangy feline sleeping in the doorway of the carpet shop.

"Cat, ha, ha, you can have the stupid animal. Come and look at my wonderful carpets."...his voice trails off as we continue walking, towards the next carpet merchant.
It's universal. It just goes on and on, from Bangkok to Bangalore. The foreign tourist is perceived to be of great wealth. Perhaps I should bring my pension statement along with me on my travels.

After two days of travel and three days of sightseeing we still hadn't received our luggage. Ellen and I had become quite ripe. As other tourists passed by us in the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia and Topkapi Palace, we looked back at them with knowing smiles as they surely asked one another "What's that god awful smell?"

If we went with a group, we would have most likely not lost our luggage. We would not have to be constantly worn down by the sales pitch and we wouldn't get ripped off by public transit authorities either. Then again, if we were with a group, we wouldn't get the chance to ride the local buses or do the one-to-one's with the marketeers. Let's see how it goes.
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