Istanbul: City of Cats

Gallata Tower right down the street from the hotel
Gallata Tower right down the street from the hotel

Gregg St.Onge, my friend and the author of our personal travelogue, suggested a few hotels in the new and old parts of the city and we chose the Georges Hotel, a chic boutique hotel near the Galata Tower in the heart of Coolsvile.

The Georges Hotel Istanbul
The Georges Hotel Istanbul

The fact that the streets were only wide enough for one car at a time and at angles up and down best suited for a sure footed cat, of which the city is teeming; feral cats that are like domesticated ones only they live everywhere in the city except inside people’s homes.

Napping Kitty on a motorbike
Napping Kitty on a motorbike

Incredibly, there are dishes of milk, food and water in most doorways, in half boarded up windows and on stoops of dilapidated houses and buildings that look at least 100-200 years old. In a city so much in flux with sketchy sanitation services from a Westerner’s point of view, I never saw rodents of any sort or bugs like we see in NYC, no droppings from the cats and their brothers, feral dogs that roam and lounge wherever they please, menacing no one and wandering the streets just like the population and tourists (at least 50-60% less now because the Coup and recent bombing at the Airport earlier this past sping/summer). These feral cats have the run of the city and with the blessing and generosity of the city’s population.

Feral cats rule the city but in harmony with the population. Food is left on most doorsteps throughout the city
Feral cats rule the city but in harmony with the population. Food is left on most doorsteps throughout the city

Back to the steep angles. Istanbul is a city of hills. Think San Francisco but many more and coming at you every few hundred yards. You need to know that this city is the equivalent of a Stairmaster with extreme mood swings. The gym only half prepared me for the walking workout I got, a blessing in disguise as the food is so fantastic you can eat like King Constantine and burn it off just walking back to the hotel. All of these little (essential) details escaped me until I was smack in the middle of the city.

It's hills in Istanbul. All Hills
It’s hills in Istanbul. All Hills

With beautiful old mosques (100’s), the sound of the Muezzin blaring over loudspeakers, calling the faithful to prayer throughout the city and it’s sister on the other side of the Bosporous, old, elegant inhabited, uninhabited and many in the process of renovation, Turkish men, women and children move easily without (panting) effort everywhere.

The Gallata neighborhood by night
The Gallata neighborhood by night

As strenuous as it is, Istanbul is a walking city and the best way to experience it as every 10 feet you have to stop to behold wonders of architecture, beautiful, eccentric shops selling the most beautiful antiques from long ago and the golden age of mid-century modernist art, objects and furnishings, clothing, gadgets and things for the Hammam the traditional bathouse that has been around this doorway to Asia for hundred and hundreds of years; but that’s a story that must be told on it’s own. Thinks robes, Turkish towels, the best in the world and soaps that make you never want to finish your morning, noon and night toilette.

to be continued…

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