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07 February 2019
Today is the penultimate day of our short stay in Istanbul. Of course, there is a lot that we didn’t get to see – mainly because of the weather, rather than lack of time. For example, had the weather been good we could have headed to the Prince’s Islands or the Rumeli Fortress. Instead, we had to dedicate the day to shopping, which is actually also interesting and also a source of impressions. Besides, it turned out to be a great bargain: first, the lira is rather cheap at the moment and second, we were lucky to be here during big winter sales.
A drive to the Istinye Park shopping mall, located quite far north, near the Technical University, is also an introduction to previously unexplored parts of Istanbul. I guess, this is the perfect time to share my general impressions of the city, taking, of course, into account the fact that the trees are all bare now and will certainly add a lot more colour to the landscapes in the spring. So, the city is not homogeneous, some parts of it look a bit shabby, although I would say that overall, buildings in one area tend to follow the same style – it is unlikely to see a tall new building among old five-storey houses, like it is often the case back home.
The shopping centre is a huge building, topped with a dome, which, of course, gives it a distinct Middle-Eastern look.
Shopping-wise, we were interested specifically in Turkish brands. Generally, shopping in Istanbul is very pleasant, primarily because of the high quality of service. The shop assistant immediately greets you but does not pounce on you or tread on your heels, as, again, they annoyingly like to do back home. And when you address them, they show a maximum of friendliness, patience and willingness to help you make a purchase that you are really going to like.
The same, by the way, applies to waiters in restaurant: the service is very quick and they are really friendly (which doesn’t look fake and forced).
Funnily, the only time when we saw neither of these qualities was the day before yesterday, when we had lunch at our hotel’s bistro. We waited for our most basic sandwiches for so long that we could vividly imagine the waiter running into the kitchen in a panic and shouting: “They ordered sandwiches! Be quick, run to buy chicken and meat!”
But overall, we really liked the local people. Not once did we even observe any quarrel, rudeness or swearing. People are polite and friendly to each other. The degree of friendliness towards us increased even more when they learned that we were from Azerbaijan. And their attitude towards animals, which I have already mentioned, simply wins one’s heart and mind!
On this day, dedicated to shopping, we got a chance to visit not only a large modern mall, but also the little shops of the Old City. The impressions are completely different, of course. Shops are strictly specialized – bags only or hats only – but on the whole, there is some feeling of chaos. Yet, this chaos has a certain charm to it.
We finished the day with dinner at the same restaurant near our hotel, which we liked so much yesterday.
08 February 2019
Today, on the day of our departure, we enjoyed a very pleasant walk along the rainy Istiklal Caddesi after breakfast.
We decided to have lunch at the airport, and we headed there rather early – as it turned out, it was a good idea. The queues at the Istanbul airport begin not at the check-in counter, but from the entrance, where a full security check is taking place. Actually, the measure is quite understandable, remembering the terrorist attack at this airport three years ago.
Interestingly, everywhere around the airport we could spot bald men, with bruises on their seemingly burned heads. We’d come across such men previously as well, in the city. We wondered what that could be – some kind of sect? Later it turned out that everything was much more trivial and that Istanbul is a Mecca of hair transplantation, with lots of clinics and prices more affordable than in other countries.