The day before I arrived back in Istanbul there had been another explosion. Somebody on a motorcycle detonated a bomb near a police station in an Istanbul suburb (or as Fox News called it, ‘near to the airport’). It wasn’t largely reported, because it wasn’t a tourist area and ten injured Turks aren’t too newsworthy.
However the media perception of Istanbul (and by extension Turkey more generally) is of somewhere dangerous. Certainly the country is a little unstable, as are many places (Jakarta and Bangkok spring to mind here; I have lived as an ex-pat in both of those). Demonstrations can turn to riots at a moment’s notice and the police can be very heavy handed when dealing with any sign of trouble.
This perception of danger has had a devastating effect on tourism in Turkey, particularly on the coast where they rely on Western tourists; visitor numbers are around sixty percent down on last year.
Anyway, I rented a flat for a month via Airbnb, in the hope that I can get some work done as well as enjoy the goodies that Istanbul has to offer. This is the first time I have fully unpacked my bag since last May. Living the dream, eh?
Once again I have ended up on the top floor, the struggling writer starving (well, hardly) in her garret (or the mad woman in her attic).
The neighbourhood is ok; it’s touristy but it’s very convenient for transport and everything. Every evening coming back it is like a minefield, dodging the various restauranteurs who stand outside extolling the virtues of their particular restaurant. They stop just short of bodily pulling me in. I have promised them all that I will eat in their restaurant ‘soon’; it’s getting awkward. But I am trying to save some money, and not eating out so much is one way of doing that. Usually I just buy bread, cheese and olives from the deli and take it back to Chintzy Chambre to eat.
Istanbul is not the bargain destination it once was, although the recent troubles have driven the prices down a little. Cost of living wise, it now stands on a par with Malaga, Prague and Cape Town (this according to numbeo.com).
I have spent most of this week on the Asian side of Istanbul (more of that in next post). I love the Kadıköy neighbourhood and have already picked that as where I would want to live if I stay in Istanbul.
But it is looking less and less likely that I will stay. The weather will soon be turning decidedly Autumnal, and Istanbul experiences a lot of rain. I don’t like rain. Cold I can tolerate but rain: never.
Also the days of leaving the country every three months to keep your visa alive are long since over and I would need a resident permit to stay longer. This is not an insurmountable problem, but it would require a lot of work and a fair bit of expense to get together the long list of supporting documentation that I would need (plus, as I understand it, patience and persistence on my part to deal with the bureaucracy).
I’m not sure the pull of Turkey is sufficient to justify it.