Istanbul - Breaking records!

Finally back in Istanbul! People call me crazy for coming here in these uncertain times but I can already tell that it's worth it like always.

Yes there are less tourists - but this has its advantages - 30 minutes after landing I was already through customs, had collected my half-empty suitcase and was sitting in the shuttle bus!

Even though it's March, flowers where already popping up - as usual every little space along the road was elaborately decorated with plants. Still I made a mental note to come in April next year - it's just nicer when the tulips are all over town.
Even traffic wasn't too bad - another half an hour later we arrived at Taksim Square. From touch down to Taksim in just one hour, that's a new record!

I walked to my apartment in Tarlabaşı, just a few minutes down the road. It's geographically convenient but probably not where I would send a first time visitor to. The neighborhood is rather run down but the streets are well lit at night, so I felt OK. I plan to explore this area in more detail in a few days.

When I mentioned my half empty suitcase, there was a reason for it. Shopping is big on my to do list this time! I haven't bought a single piece of clothing or shoes in half a year. I knew it would all be much cheaper here. So after settling into my room I went out to start my hunt on Istiklal Caddesi. 

I might even have found my new carneval mask!
But I soon noticed that I hadn't eaten in a while and needed some sugar to be able to concentrate on my shopping.
So I went into the Demirören mall and filled up on chocolate!
Looking down on Istiklal from the cafe's balcony. That's a rather small crowd for a Saturday afternoon...
I went through many shops, just bought a t-shirt to start but was pleasantly surprised that this season there are a lot of big flower prints around which is what I like.

A few years ago they left up the New Year's lights (they are NOT Christmas lights of course!) and now they have been replaced with colorful new all-year-round street lights.
I also felt a need for new tango shoes. So I visited my trusted shoe maker Necmi Usta. There were already half a dozen women in his shop, trying on various models and discussing colors and materials. 
You don't buy your shoes off the rack here, you order them just the way you want them.

Here's my order... Models and materials - expecting to get them in the mail in early April.
And this is the big book that takes all the orders. 
Then I entered the giant H&M nearby where I went into a total shopping frenzy, as one should.

It was after 9 PM by then and I returned to my apartment to change for the evening - after all I also had to do some tango dancing.

There is a shabby small restaurant up at the street, like you can find thousands all over the city. One doesn't go there for the armosphere but because the food is fast and cheap. Just what I wanted!
A small plate of rice with vegetables and an ayran later I was ready to attack the dance floor.
View on 1001 yellow taxis.
The milonga was held on the first floor of the Deniz Müzesi, the naval museum. It was organized by two tango schools together so there were a lot of people, even before 11 PM.
I met some old friends and got to dance often.
Inbetween dances there is time to study other women's shoes. Always looking for inspiration.
Showtime! I don't remember the guy's name but the lady is Vanessa Gauch, she's been living here for many years and is kind of tango famous. They did a great show of several dances. And I swear her shoes were made of the same material as her glittery dress. I like!
I made my way home at around 2 AM but not before taking an artsy picture of the stairs.
I acted all local and took a dolmus to Taksim. By then the weather had turned nasty and I hurried home through the cold rain and wind. Just stopping briefly in front of Starbucks for a WiFi break because the Internet had been down in my room in the evening. 
Well fortunately it was back on when I returned - priorities, people!