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Hey human person, you complicated living thing, yes you!  Did you know that us dogs get a totally sweet deal in Istanbul?  It seems Turks like having free-roaming dogs around and pamper us because we are valuable members of the community.  Heck, it’s been that way for centuries, so hopefully they won’t adopt any silly Western ideas and change it.  No ownership involved. Our Turk friends are our caretakers who simply feed, love and care for us without asking anything in return.

It gets better. The cool Turks are totally against euthanasia so they humanely trap my brothers and sisters, then spay, neuter, vaccinate, treat, and release ‘em back into the community.  Every Turk pooch even gets a cool identification earing (Hey, I need to ask my parents for a Mr. Clean earing!) and off they go to roam the streets. Truly amazing and inspiring! You “all knowing” Westerners think you could learn something here?

Taxi anyone?

Maybe that’s why my parents went to Istanbul to hang with the free spirits and learn something new about their human race. I always tell them that keys to a happy life are flexibility and adaptability. It’s a good thing they listen to me. So they tell me their flight pulled into Istanbul after midnight. They grabbed a cab to their hotel, Sumahan on the Water, on the Asian side of town.  It was raining cats and dogs and the cabbie didn’t seem to have a clue on where the hotel was located. No problem, just go with the flow.

Then while crossing the crazy busy bumper to bumper at midnight Bosphorus Bridge the cab got a flat tire. With only two lanes and no shoulder, the cabbie blocked one lane by placing a small gas can behind the cab. No problem, just go with the flow. The amazing thing is that everyone understood, no horns, no yelling, no middle fingers. A semi-truck even stopped behind the taxi and the driver got out to direct traffic. My parents were like, who are these wonderful people?

Istanbul – Strange and Wonderful.

Istanbul is a strange and wonderful place. It all started around 660 BCE (what’s BCE anyway, Before Catahoulas Emerged?) and has become one of the most significant cities in history. There are nearly 15 million people there, so it must be pretty special, in addition to how they treat animals and foreigners.

One of the coolest things is that people howl (dog speak for sing) 5 times a day. That’s right, it’s the call to prayer. It is soulful chanting and beautiful sound, especially at sunrise and during the day touring the city.

It seems just about everyone shops at night – for fish, veggies, flowers – you name it. The farmers’ markets are incredible with so many things to choose from, and since they love dogs, lots of tidbits for furry friends. Common to each neighborhood, the markets are a social experience where friends and family meet to share their day, a strong coffee and a nosh.

When it rains, shopkeepers don’t bring in their street displays, they simply wrap them in clear plastic to keep the advertising and sales going strong. What a great, if not a little bizarre looking, idea.

Rug Vendors and Shoeshine Boys.

Well, I thought my parents were pretty savvy travelers, but they got duped in Istanbul a couple of times. Mom just wants to help people. So when the shoeshine boy purposefully drops his brush while scurrying past you, do not, I repeat, do not pick it up and try to return it to him. Once you do, you have entered into a contractual agreement to get your shoes shined, even if they are canvas. The shoeshine boy won’t take his brush back until you agree to a shine. (Or slip him a 5 Lira note.) Otherwise, he’ll be like gum on the bottom of your shoe!  Once you are savvy, grab a park bench in an area where the shiners are plying their trade and watch the scam in action. When the shiners catch-on that you are being entertained by their antics they laugh with you.

You can run but you can’t hide because rug merchants will find you in Istanbul. Actually the “fetchers” will find you like a fish looking for a shiny lure and reel you in before you know what’s happening. All it takes is eye contact and before you know you’re sitting in a very nice rug shop at the mercy of some very nice and persistent rug salesman unrolling dozens of rugs at your feet. To digress, “Fetchers” are freelancers who get a very small commission for bringing a tourist into a rug shop, regardless of outcome. They come off as friendly, helpful, knowledgeable about the city, they want nothing in return for leading you through the city, right down their yellow brick road, straight to a rug store. No harm, no obligation, and actually you learn a lot about rugs.

Homeward Bound.

Heading to the airport Mama and Papa get a great view of the Bosporus Bridge, no flat tire this time.

Well it’s time for me to take a nap and dream about my lucky street brothers and sisters in Istanbul. My servants will be coming home in 20 hours.  Is that like tomorrow?


The Sumahan on the Water

Istanbul Farmer’s Markets

Istanbul Carpet Shops

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