People often assume that just because you work in the travel business, you must have been everywhere. I wish! Don’t get me wrong. I have travelled extensively for sure over the course of my 40 years in the industry but what tends to happen is that you end up visiting the same destinations quite a lot — particularly if they feature heavily in the markets that you trade in — and much less so for places that you don’t. So, for example, I have probably visited the States on at least 40 separate over the years; with Spain, it’s probably closer to 100 and yet I still haven’t explored either of them enough. By contrast, there are loads of places that I have yet to experience and which are definitely on my ‘To Do’ list. Places like Brazil, Japan, Madagascar, Antarctica to name but a few. However, I digress. Despite my 40 some years in travel, up to 30 months ago, I had never been to Istanbul. Not even Turkey itself. So close and yet so far. I am, however, making up for lost time and have visited the country five times in the space of these last 30 months and I have to say that the country (and Istanbul in particular) continue to grow in my affections. Quite simply, Istanbul is an amazing city. It is full of contrasts — especially the contrasts between the new and the old as exemplified by the differences one finds in the areas close to the Hagia Sofia or Topkapi Palace (old) and Taksim Square (new).
Istanbul is not for the faint hearted but if you give it — or more specifically, its inhabitants — a chance, you’ll be paid back in spades! Estimates of the cities’ population vary widely but you can confidently assume that it’s in excess of 15 million! That’s a lot of people and Istanbul spreads out in all directions as far as the eye can see across mountains, rivers, headlands, inlets and ultimately continents! If you’re into your history then you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven as the city is like Rome on steroids and encompasses rich remnants of not one but multiple civilisations that have called the area home since before recorded history began.
And the best news? It’s cheap to get to with the national carrier Turkish Airlines (a great carrier!) often offering roundtrip airfares for less than €200 return per person. It’s also a shoppers paradise and a world-renowned centre for leather goods, ceramics and high quality textiles and rugs/kilims. Do yourself a favour and get yourself out to Istanbul before the population of the city increases and you have to haggle with another million or two of their countrymen!