Return to Istanbul (city of kitties)

Guess where I am? (The title gives it away, I know.) If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that in October 2012, Erik and I spent a month in Istanbul. Now we’re back for a week, to attend our friend Z’s wedding. We arrived yesterday evening, after almost 24 hours in transit, and though we’re both a bit jet-lagged, we are already out and exploring — today we walked a little more than 10 km (~5 miles).

It is interesting being back here. Aside from a brief trip to Toronto in 2013, this is the first country from our world travels that we have revisited. We’re staying in a different neighborhood (near Akaretler in the Beşiktaş district; last time we were in Cihangir, in the Beyoğlu district; the two apartments are about 4 km apart) and between the last visit and now we have visited an additional five countries and many more cities/states. Still, what surprises me is not how different everything seems, but how familiar it all feels.

First view of the city, this morning; I LOVE this view.



Of course, when I say “familiar,” I don’t just mean that I remember how to get around (though I do! which is so gratifying). I mean that Istanbul still tantalizes my beauty-loving, food-nomming, walking-happy extrovert self every bit as much as it absolutely intimidates my noise-hating, people-fearing, confusion-disliking introvert self. Last time I chalked this up to being an obvious foreigner and not knowing anything about the culture, but this time I’m thinking there’s more to it than that. Now that I’m a more experienced traveler, I’ve gotten much more practice at deciphering my own reactions to things, and I’m recognizing that Istanbul, more than other cities, pushes hard on certain of my buttons.


(lots of stairs and slopes = good cardio!)




The good thing about realizing the city pushes my buttons, though, is it gives me a foundation from which to push back: if I know just what I’m finding so daunting, I can try to work around that. For instance, today, we went out three times (for meals) and explored a slightly different area each time, and then came back to the apartment and regrouped (with naps or quiet time or what have you). This was so helpful in conserving my physical and mental energy.

Also, since not knowing things makes me feel wretchedly afraid of making a horrible gaffe, I’m just telling myself: “Okay, go out there and make a fool of yourself number of times today. If you feel stupid, you’re doing it right.” Case in point: before we left Oakland I was really anxious about all the things that could go wrong in getting here. I was talking to my friend Adwoa (herself a seasoned traveler) about it, and she wisely suggested that such mishaps could be an opportunity to feel proud of myself for coping. She’s quite right. En route, we almost missed a connection, and then there was a miscommunication with a contact person, and some confusion from a taxi driver that led to us getting lost. I dealt with all those problems, and they were not nearly as disastrous as I’d feared. Sure, there had to be gesturing, drawing of diagrams, talking to strangers, walking around with a map, asking for directions, and fumbling with Turkish words, but all that was fine. It was so much more fine than I anticipated. I am such a social perfectionist; I want to always know the right thing to do, at any moment, and it throws me into a state when I don’t. For someone like me, doing things “wrong” can actually be a meaningful practice.

juice bar




major street (as opposed to the small streets)


It’s also really nice returning here because I’ve already done the major tourist things that I wanted to do. So I’m not concerned about missing out on the sights, or somehow getting only an incomplete picture of the city. This time, I’m here just to hang out and relax — to do nothing, and to do it leisurely.

dog (?) houses near the Naval Museum

Bosphorus boats and ducks

Maçka Democracy Park, very near our apartmentDSCN9818

a much smaller park even nearer our apartment


Beşiktaş fish market


strawberries, grapes, and nuts for saleDSCN9841

And as ever, to remind me of the joys of doing nothing — the city is full of cats. I have to put all the cat photos at the end of this post or they threaten to take over.

This friendly one greeted us this morning, rolled around on the ground in front of us, sat on my foot, meowed a lot, and then escorted us through a park.




Other kitties in the same area were less effusive, but still friendly.



Later, we spied more kitties in the Democracy Park (one of them eating bread that had been put out for birds).DSCN9820


More city cats — we saw one curled up on a motorcycle seat (didn’t take a pic of that one), and another sleeping on a windshield with its face smooshed into the seam between the glass and the hood (again, no pic).






And another park, this one full of kittens!