A couple of weeks ago I was in Turkey to conclude a house clearance in Istanbul for an American magazine bureau chief. The first thing that struck me was how efficient, clean, frequent and fast the train and tram system from the airport is – and how cheap! It cost me two fares of three euros each, just six euros for the two different trains! That’s a bit cheaper than the £20 it costs to get from Heathrow to Paddington – before you even get on the tube!
Once in the city I was dazzled by the amount of activity going on. Everywhere there are people working hard; enthusiastically selling and making a living. On every street there are men and women from all over the world going about their business; industrious people with a purpose. Istanbul feels – and is – a very global and exciting international city.
The sheer amount of beautiful buildings and wonderful scenes in Istanbul is breathtaking. As a lover of art, I found the palaces, museums, galleries and historical centre magical. But the Grand Bazaar is a feast for the senses – packed out with trinkets, glittering with gold, jewellery and full to the ornate ceiling with gorgeous carpets, wonderful materials, beautifully made leather goods and ceramics. It was packed with locals and tourists alike amongst the hundreds of stall holders. I was not surprised to learn that 26,000 people work at the Grand Bazaar and around 400,000 can visit it every day. I’m sure every single one of them was inside when I was there!
I was also struck by the difference in feel to another great city, Athens. I was in Athens a couple of years ago and the atmosphere was gloomy, the people disappointed and unwelcoming with a general lack of ambition. In Istanbul everyone I met was upbeat, positive and polite. I was inspired by their optimistic, go-getting attitude and outlook. Istanbul is a vibrant, international city that’s going places – it’s on the up and I found that incredibly invigorating.