Here are some random thoughts on Istanbul if you are interested.
The area I stayed in, Beyoglu, felt like a European city. Like Lisbon specifically.
Informality still reigns in Istanbul: there are people everywhere selling things, offering services, outside of normal businesses
Pedestrians most certainly do not have the right of way
The area just west of Ayasofya (Grand Bazaar, and Spice Market) feels like the Middle East
You really feel like you’re in an exotic place when you use a squat toilet. Bring your own tissue. You've been warned.
The call to prayer is beautiful. You first hear it far away, then closer, then it’s coming from the minaret on the street you’re on
People of Istanbul are the friendliest of any big city I’ve been to. Not just the people trying to sell you rugs either
On that note, learn to say no. Those guys are very good salesmen.
Food is good and cheap. Better than Rome and Paris and cheaper
Turkish delight (lokum) is worth betraying your family to a witch for
There’s an obscene amount of construction going on out side the city center: huge shopping malls, condos, office towers, etc.
The main historical buildings (Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Ayasofya, etc.) are not worth going to Istanbul for if that’s all someone is interested in. European palaces and museums are much more impressive. I recommend going, but I wouldn’t go all the way to Istanbul for them
The Basilica Cistern was very impressive
Drinking tea on the ferry across the Bosphorus is a great experience
Drink tea every chance you get
The Asia side feels more like Europe than the Europe side
It’s safe. I never felt unsafe and I was alone the whole time
There are a lot of feral cats and dogs
The Metro is cheap and easy to use
I’ll probably go back again some day
The biggest take away: no matter how much you know the news media are liars, nothing drives it home more than going to a place I'm supposed to be afraid of and realizing everything they tell me is completely opposite.
I should have included my YouTube videos of the trip when I first posted. Here they are if you are interested. Sorry about the length of the first one (almost 16 min), I was just on a roll and didn't want to cut anything later.