I just visited Istanbul in Turkey for the first time. Right when the local elections were taking place. Flags, banners and billboards were everywhere promoting the various political parties. It was a raucous celebration of democracy at the local level. It made me think that in the US we can still learn about what makes democracy work. Not as the case may be with the Republicans in North Carolina bent on disenfranchising voters of all stripes. But I digress.
What I wanted to do was say a great loud hello to the people of Istanbul. As I said, this was my first visit, and I have to say my preconceptions were way off base. What a fantastic city! I learned about the European Side and the Asian Side. I ate and drank local food and spent time meeting great people. But the part that I was ill prepared for was how clean the city was and how well maintained it seemed to be. I don’t want to give the impression that Istanbul is beautiful in the realm of Paris, or as clean as Tokyo. Or as exciting as New York or London. But, it was certainly a step up in what I expected and seemed to be better run than Rome.
The locals are divided on the election which is OK. But the country also seems to be more polarized than I would think is healthy. Ruling by division is not a sensible policy. However, so long as Istanbul remains the vibrant place I just visited, I will be going back no matter who is in charge