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August 3rd 2015
Published: August 12th 2015
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One big city. Some say 17 million -Some say 22 million people depends where you draw line and whether you count everyone or just your friends. Its something like the population of Australia in one city.

No it’s not like that at all. One big difference beside the density ( in every sense of the word) of the population is that they are Turks.

Now Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey. Ankara is.





On the surface Turkie looks close to European living standards. People we spoke with who had visited several decades back told us that here has been a vast improvement in the last generation. Everywhere we saw modern apartment blocks and modern cars. Their modern apartment blocks generally have a fairly decorative finish in line with Islamic architectural methods. Masonry and tiling look to be of a quite high standard. Plumbing and electrical work let the side down. Older buildings look rather lacking in electrical and plumbing work.

Turkie has long enjoyed a sort of sweet deal with Germany. Turks have worked in German factories for generations. Now there are Turkish looking people living in Germany many of whom maintain connections with Turkie.

Also in many parts of Turkie we saw manufacturing plant – branches of German companies like Mercedes Benz – where German companied now have subsidiaries.

Turks are quick to point out that cheap labour is not the only part of the economic success story.

Another reason for the sweet deal is he relationship and geographical proximity Turkie holds with middle East and Asian states. Where German manufacturers may have difficulty doing commerce with some Mid Eastern countries, they can channel exports through Turkey.


Driving habits are noticeably reckless and display vast quantities of impatience. Their authorities seem to have given up on bothering with line marking- after all those white lines are just something for foreigners to drive between. Turks know that the way to deal with white lines is to straddle them. That includes solid white lines marking the different directions of traffic. Taxis in Istanbul are now fitted with a new gadget called the “ indicator”. Apparently you flick it one way or the other to indicate a sideways manoeuvre. It’s not really a lane change as Turks do not know about lanes. Fortunately for normal citizens who do not drive taxis, the “indicator” is not part of automotive equipment. However starting a car up in Istanbul is a little different to elsewhere. Instead of an ignition switch, there is a sensor which picks up a signal from the driver’s mobile phone. Once the driver is in the seat and on a call, the engine will start. Should the driver terminate the phone call, then the engine automatically stops. Now you would not want the engine to cut out in a busy intersection with traffic cops ( who are also on the phone) in attendance. When a Turk gets up in the morning, he or she makes a promise to concentrate on cutting in front as close as possible of any vehicle that he/ she overtakes. Extra brownie points can be earned by getting the vehicle being overtaken to brake unexpectedly so as to avoid collision.

Buses all over Turkey are a hazard. Turkish traffic systems still us an amber light between red and green. Many Turkish drivers and bus drivers in particular invariably toot their horn ( at the cars in front of them) just before the red light turns amber to give the car in front the hurry up. This horn blowing takes place before the lights change. I assume those drivers have a means of counting down the time. We saw many tour buses driving dangerously - apart from speeding, there were instances of overtaking on dangerous bends, cutting off and failing to give way.

But these roads wind all over the vast city and convey people and goods more or less satisfactorily, despite the risks..

Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits on two continents- In fact Istanbul is regarded as the crossroad of Asia and Europe.

So when we crossed from the Asian side to Europe, we drove over the Bosporus Bridge. The bridge itself is as spectacular as any big bridge. But the line up to get onto it took about an hour. Traffic banks back all day and night – both ways – to get onto the 6 lane Bosporus. Many different roads and highways converge to deliver never ending lines of cars and trucks to the bottleneck that drains vehicles from one continent to the other. And just like sand grains in an hour glass, some vehicles push in front of others and in doing so slow the general movement. If sand were more orderly it would flow through an hour glass much faster. If Turkish drivers were more considerate and more patient, then traffic would not be constantly stopping for half a minute or longer after half a car length, to let the impatient guy(s) in front and then the traffic might flow at a steady crawl. But I never saw too many examples of teamwork or thoughtful approaches to a task in the time I was there.


We were fortunate in finding a parking lot at Fishermans Wharf right at the old city of Istanbul. A city of 22 million people had many CBD zones and there are shopping precincts dotted all over the vast city. But the Old City area has a concentration of historic and religious attractions. Istanbul seems to have collected big old mosques in the same way someone might collect vintage cars or antique cooking pots. The mosque nearest where we camped is called the Blue Mosque.

Near the Blue mosque is the Haig Sophia ( now museum). But it was a Catholic Cathedral which got burned down and rebuilt a few times. Then the Muslims pinched it and turned it into a mosque.

Also in the OLD City are the Zeyrek mosque, Kucuk Aysofya mosque, Murad Papa mosque, Pertevinyal Valide Sultan mosque, Faith mosque, Laieli mosque, Beyazit mosque, Atil Al Papa mosque, Nuru Osmaniye mosque as well as the NEW mosque ( built 1663 ) . Then looking at a map I have counted a further 53 smaller mosques - not for all of Istanbul – but for the small OLD City Area. The old city is bounded by the sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn and a wall. These three boundaries form a roughly equilateral triangle with each side about 3 klms long. Each of these mosques belt out a call to prayer 5 times a day starting at just before 5 am and finishing around 10pm. No one seems to stop to pray when the loud speakers start blaring. They all go about their daily business.

So many mosques for such a small area.

It appears that many Muslims look to a visit to old Istanbul as a bit of a religious crusade. Women are more likely to put on the burqua. Looks bloody stupid in 40 degree steamy heat. But to them the display of purity and obedience that the garment implies seems more important than virtue itself.

We went to see the Blue mosque. Its big. And that’s its main feature. Nothing much artistic or worthy of admiring. St Peter’s Basicilica has an artistic character about it. You could walk around St Peter’s for many hours studying the architectural features and artistic adornments. The Blue mosque has blue mosaic tiles. And because of its size and height has great big dangling wires supporting a platform of suspended lights that look kind of Dickensian utilitarian. Suspended above head height and fed with electric current along sloppily laid wires knotted and joined in standard Eastern European slovenliness these dusty light fittings give the whole show that distinctly Turkish imprimatur. You would not want anything tidy, cared for or symmetrical upsetting the general vista.

There is an undercover Bazaar called the GRAND BAZAAR. Huge collection of stalls all under a decorative arched ceilings over 30,000 M2. Reportedly there are 60 streets in the bazaar housing about 6400 stalls and craft shops.

All Turks like to engage in commerce. Its good. But so many people selling carpet its claustrophobic with flying carpet salesmen. They try to get your attention and then ask “ Where are you from” etc. They all have a friend or relative in Melbourne. One bloke – so many carpet salesmen friends. I wish the government would deport him. I got so tired of the question about where am from, I started replying that I am from Tel Aviv. That seemed to close their interest.


Life in Turkey looks somewhat controlled. Not too many non conforming looking people about. But we saw a protest rally at the Beyazit Istanbul University. There were about 30 protesters holding tidily printed placards and one had a megaphone. As the message of protest was being shouted out, with rehearsed chants from the supporters punctuating the speech, a small group looked on. The lookers on consisted of about 10 or 12 people – half of whom looked like press photographers and similar. But standing about 50 meters away was a platoon of about 30 plain clothed police. They stood in three rows more or less in formation. They might have marched there and maybe were ordered to “stand easy” - which means stand in platoon marching position and relax but don’t move from your spot.

Then in case the plain clothed coppers could not control the situation - which was dead tame and never looked more than some gabfest- there was an outfit of maybe 100+ riot police. They were positioned maybe 150 meters away from the protest group. The riot police were supported by one of those black armour plated anti protest vehicles. You know the ones that look like converted tanks with anti protest and riot confronting gear like water canon etc.

It all looked pretty tame. No one was going to get excited. Nothing was about tho change in Istanbul.


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