One week in Istanbul. One week of exploring, of gazing at the mix of mosques and modern buildings, of waking up to the morning prayer, and gazing at the Bosphorus Strait. Two more weeks await us, too long to be a tourist and too little to truly study abroad.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Istanbul has been our interactions with the citizens, although it has thus been limited to various merchants hawking their wares. Unlike their American counterparts, there is an amusing, even comical nature, to the way vendors attempt to attract our attention. The most notable have been pick up lines. From overtures to our heritage to proclamations that they have been waiting for women like us, the vendors are theatrical in their efforts to lure us to their shops piled with beautiful silk scarves, intricate tea sets, jewelry, and other items designed to be authentically Turkish. My personal favorites include references to Bollywood movies, such as the tea vendor who proclaimed that he was “Shah Rukh Khan”. Coming from Italy, where Indians were viewed with suspicion, the happy embrace of Indian culture was welcome.
Another fascinating interaction with the vendors has been the language interaction. While the average Turkish citizen speaks broken English alongside their native language, the vendors can be expected speak many more languages: English, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, some French. These are the languages of tourism in Turkey, and any vendor in their right mind would know how to haggle with a tourist in their native language, to make them feel like home.
It’s easy to feel like home in Istanbul, what with the welcoming embrace of Istanbul’s citizens. As one vendor told me, “I’ll make you feel like you’re at home”. I already do feel that way.