Travelling is one of life’s greatest gifts: seeing new places, trying different foods, experiencing new cultures, and maybe – just maybe – learning more about yourself along the way.
Now, I’m not an overly well-travelled person. I’ve been to Lithuania (which is kind of a given since I was born there), some parts of the UK (which is also a given since I currently live here), I’ve spent a year living in Spain, visited Paris, Tunisia and now Istanbul. That’s 6 countries. And regardless of how much I might like a holiday destination, I’m pretty unlikely to return to it for as long as there are unseen places on my wish list. Unlikely, not sworn to never return – so don’t hold me to it.
So the chance to travel to a new and exciting place thrills me to the bone – and Istanbul did just that. But as most of the people I saw in the run-up to the holiday, you’re probably thinking:
“You actually went with everything going on?”
And yes – yes, I did. I followed the news almost daily and was as terrified as anyone in my situation would have been. But unlike many, my decision to go ahead and travel to Istanbul wasn’t based on the fact that the holiday was already paid for. I’ve always thought that my life was worth a fair bit more than a holiday I paid for with one month’s wages, so really, this wasn’t a big factor in my decision making process.
I went because the terrorist attacks were like a drop of water in an ocean; sure I would have certainly been safer staying in my quiet little town in Scotland, but life demands to be lived. And the threat really wasn’t all that great.
So off I went, with my boyfriend by my side. And we had a grand time.
Istanbul proved to be a rather impressive corner of the world. The weather, the landscape, the architecture – it was all there and it was all perfect. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a place that mixes modern and historical architecture with natural landscapes so well. It’s truly something for the rest of the world to aspire to.
But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the truly important things; the pinnacle reason behind the Internet’s existence: cats.
Istanbul is the city of cats. And while it may absolutely suck if you’re unfortunate enough to be allergic to them, this is exactly my kind of heaven. Meet Grace: the most adorable and friendly kitten you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. She is the sole reason why 3 of my 8 days in Istanbul were at least partially spent next to the Grand Bazaar. (I said I wouldn’t return to the same holiday destination again, not a certain spot within that destination!)
442 cat sightings later, I am still very much on the fence as to how I feel about this cat situation. The cats are looked after by the locals, providing them with ample supplies of food and water; they get to live in peace only disturbed by demonic children screaming in their faces or chasing them across the square; the kittens don’t get separated from their siblings or mother unless they choose to leave them of their own accord. It’s the perfect life of napping, chasing insects, and being admired by the thousands of tourists. And yet, I can’t help but feel sad.
The vast majority of the cats I encountered were sporting some serious disorders or battle scars: some suffered from malnutrition despite an abundance of food, while others limped and hopped along the pavements, while yet others had a clearly impaired vision. And then there was Grace. This small, defenceless kitten no older than 4 months, with all her whiskers broken or cut off. It took all the strength I had to not try to smuggle her out of the country.
(Just in case you’re concerned, I didn’t smuggle her out of the country. She had a family. Let’s pretend that’s the reason why.)
But somehow, this one little kitten managed to touch my heart and make a holiday that may have been a 7.5 into a solid 9 out of 10.
In all seriousness though, if you’re on a lookout for a city break holiday destination, I would wholeheartedly recommend Istanbul. Just bring sunscreen. And maybe a spare cat carrier.