Turkey

It’s Wednesday night in Istanbul. We’ve only been here a little over a day, but I thought I’d share a few observations before we fly to Kayseri tomorrow morning.
Although we flew into the larger Istanbul airport on the European side of the city, we’re flying out of the smaller Istanbul airport on the Asian side of the city tomorrow. So we took a 2-hour taxi ride (The traffic is unbelievable!) from one airport to the other (actually the hotel by the airport) yesterday. We slept well last night after all that flying, driving, and time change!
We ate dinner last night at our hotel’s buffet which, while tasty, was outrageously expensive. Today we realized there are loads of restaurants and shops behind the hotel, so we ate equally delicious food that cost about 70% less tonight. We sat on a patio next to a little man-made lake and an amusement park where Laurel had taken Charlie earlier in the day. Everything was perfect except that I was probably the only adult on the patio who wasn’t smoking. When I tried to find statistics about the smoking rate in Istanbul, I got very different percentages from two different articles. What everyone agreed on though, is that Turkey had one of the highest smoking rates in the world until a nationwide ban on smoking in enclosed public places was implemented in 2009. Since then, the number of smokers has dropped by more than a million. Eighty percent of the cost of a pack of cigarettes here is tax! As we walked around the open-air mall and then sat on a bench so I could look up smoking statistics, people on benches all around us were smoking, so we had to keep moving.
When we walked around this morning, I was one of the few women not wearing long pants. (I’m wearing a knee-length dress.) Between Laurel’s vivid, red hair and my showing my lower legs, we got some stares. Although Turkey is a secular country where the hijab is banned in government offices, nearly all Turks are Muslim and dress more modestly than Americans. I assume most of the hotel visitors are not Turks, and many women we saw walking around the shops were covered head-to-toe but with their faces showing. It was quite a contrast between the people we were seeing and the people on the advertisements in the stores. The stores are the same as or similar to ones you’d see at American malls, so there were lingerie and swimsuit and short-dress stores. This evening the short-dress people came out to eat (and smoke), and I got a better understanding of who might be buying from these stores.

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