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January 31, 2012 - Istanbul, Turkey

Written by GingerBlossom Published in

I saw Aykut's nephew today, after not seeing him for seven years. He reminded me that the last time we met, I was sick, and he had walked me back to the Hotel Padova at Aykut's insistance, as he said that Istanbul was dangerous at that time.  I sort of remember him, but that's it.  I don't know about dangerous, but when the Soviet Union broke apart, Istanbul became The Wild, Wild West for many years afterwards.  Latvians, Uzbekis, Turkmenis, Georgians, they could now travel freely, so jam-packed Tatas would come roaring down from The Steppes for a 50 hour bus trip that ended in Istanbul.  No formal commerce had been set up yet, and the ex-Soviets would come in with whatever they had to sell- carpets, soviet army stuff, textiles - and take back western goods such as fake designer jeans and small electrical appliances.  Laleli neighborhood became the de-facto soviet-turkish hub of trade and the sidewalks were filled with people just buying and selling.  And selling EVERTHING - I remember seeing a tall blond russian woman table dancing in what during normal times was a sedate family restaurant.  My Turkish friends were scandilized that I was staying in Laleli, and that's when they moved me to the Padova, where I am now.  Those times finished, and the next invasion was a wave of Spanish tourists, the new invaders are goods manufactured in China and India.