All things come to an end, and my Istanbul adventure is no exception. As this was by far the least eventful day, this will no doubt be the shortest blog.
Aside from the wonderful people I met, amazing places I saw and emotions they both aroused, I also found a great deal more about Istanbul, Turkey and the Turkish people. I have come away a true fan of the city, and hope to return one day. I won’t repeat all my musings on the importance of travel broadening the mind, you can read my earlier Istanbul blogs for that, but I will say that learning more about a place really enhances any visit to said location. For example, learning more about Mustafa Kamal Ataturk and the revolution of the ‘20s certainly made me understand Turkey’s more recent history far better. Ataturk is a title bestowed upon Kamal by the people: literally ‘Father of the Turks’. He was arguably the founder of modern Turkey; the beginnings of the modern republic and the end of Ottoman Turkey. His image hangs in many places of administration and business, including the main Istanbul airport, which is named after him.
I also found the Turkish people to be generally very hospitable and friendly. But people are people wherever you go, and there is good and bad in all of us. But be sure to meet people with an open mind and a smile, and you’ll be forever surprised at the reactions you get.
A week in Istanbul also broadened my mind about the religion of Islam, not that I was negatively inclined towards it before. What strikes me as a difference between Islam in Asia and in Europe (and Istanbul is both) is, to my mind, its refusal or reluctance to adapt to suit the culture it infiltrates. Christianity has been very good at this, whereas Islam looks the same wherever it goes. That’s not so much of a problem in the countries where it originated, but far from its original home it causes an instant segregation from the populace, which in the long run does its loyal followers no favours and that alienation from the majority often obscures the peaceful and compassionate path the devout Muslim has chosen to follow (recent extremist activity is no more relevant here than, say, the Ku-Klux Clan are to a discussion of Christianity). Turkey is, at heart, a secular country and relatively westernised. However, 99% of the population are Muslim, and the call to prayer echoes around the city streets of Istanbul five times a day, as in all populated areas, and the grand mosques across the city constantly serve to remind one of the country’s faith. Perhaps this is a topic worthy of further discussion, but Turkey seems to have got the balance between state and religion correct, and while the populace are faithful, they are not over-bearing or extreme in their adherence to that faith. Either way, I left Turkey with a renewed respect for a religion I had previously been fed rather negative stereotypes of, particularly in light of recent media coverage.
Anyway, back to my last moments in Istanbul. It had started raining when I came down from my hostel room, surrounded by my bags. The rain was light but persistent, but the air was still warm. The last day was spent doing as little as possible, so my main memories of it involve the airport. After realising I had only 59 Lira left and the taxi ride to Ataturk Airport might be more (it wasn’t) I had to queue up as soon as I got inside the airport. After thinking “what the hell is this shit??” and tutting loudly, as I’m the most impatient traveller imaginable and a long queue is like my kryptonite. Trust me, if I’d have joined that queue I told you about, for the Blue Mosque, I would have expired long before we reached the door. Anyhow, I realised the Turks probably have it right as their security procedure, at least in Istanbul, was relatively quick and painless, and once I was in the airport proper got through passport control in a flash.
I could regale you with tales of the plane journey and train from the airport, but it’s not all that exciting to be honest. The real excitement had already happened in Istanbul; the journey home was all just reflection really.
So here ends my Istanbul adventure log. I hope it’s inspired and helped anyone planning a solo trip abroad, and if you’re reading this and you live in Istanbul, come to England! But be prepared for the wet weather that keeps it green and pleasant. But wherever you’re from and wherever you go, go with a smile on your face, an open mind and good will in your heart, and I promise you that you’ll experience some wonderful things. Plus, when you go it alone, there’s a good chance you’ll never be quite the same again. But that’s the point isn’t it? You’ll hardly be able to wait until the next trip.