Istanbul

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Back in the Western World!  I guess it takes two years of living in Azerbaijan to make us feel this way about Turkey!

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Yes, Azerbaijan was far away.  Far away indeed.

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Mike and I have had a lot of amazing memories in Istanbul.  Romantic, inspiring, magical, and this time our last stop before leaving our life of the past two years.  What a way to go out!

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We stayed in our favorite hotel, the Hotel Niles, where in the morning we could watch the boats floating in the harbor and have breakfast on the rooftop.  Turkish breakfast is the best!  Simit rolls, olives, figs, and fresh cheese.  I don’t know why, but even though they had all of this food in Azerbaijan, it tastes better here.

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Since the weather was beautiful, we decided to take a boat trip up the Bosphorous. Istanbul is SO pretty!  Minarets pierce the skyline by the hundreds, and the bridges are so graceful.

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This is me, praying that the huge hole I ripped in my pants stays together.  Somehow, they caught on something on the boat, just over my right hip.  Bad place to rip your pants!

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They are very innovative here.

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Mike and I stopped in Ortakoy to have some drinks.  We sat right at the water’s edge, sipping wine and watching the boats go by.  It was blissful!  Good service, good wine, and we never tire of being polite while speaking English.

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Ahh, we have missed this.

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There are so many reasons to love Istanbul… food, culture, history, architecture.  The people are so friendly, and so interesting too.  There are men selling chestnuts and roasted corn everywhere, like men selling street food in any big city (hot dogs, pretzels, or if you’re in Seattle, lattes).

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These colorful women were sitting in the square talking on their cellphones:

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These men were enjoying a game of backgammon:

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This woman had taken her two boys for some ice cream:

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And these guys were going for a swim:

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People are not so different, you know.

We lingered at the Spice Bazaar over mountains of Turkish Delight.  Our favorite is pistachio with pomegranate and honey.

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Pondered the soap,

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And take a look at all these sponges!  They are real sponges.  This city is totally sponge-worthy.

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The gradual evolution of culture, from East to West or North to South, is so evident here.  Azerbaijan and Turkey are brothers, or at least close cousins, and they have many things in common but at the same time could not be more different.  The Turks have a long history of military strength, cultural pride, entrepreneurship, and education.  They are working on democratic government and religious tolerance, but like all countries, those seem to be the hardest… even our own country is still working on those.  In the meantime, Turkey has traditions of hospitality, an integrated male-female culture, education for the younger generation, and the economic savvy to export the things they do best.  Surely, outside the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul, things are very different and maybe just as medieval as the way they often felt in Azerbaijan.  Our experience is just the tip of this iceberg.

But whatever the cultural differences and whatever the reason for why they exist, what I see are people.  Families, friends, children, shopkeepers.  We all like sweets, we all like music, we all love our children, and we all want to relax once in a while.  There are many different solutions to accomplishing these things.  I’m glad we had this chance to learn how they do it in this part of the world.

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