English is not as widely spoken as I expected. Most hotel staff does not speak English. I get by through writing down destinations and pointing to what I need. They are friendly though. Security everywhere is tight. To get into a supermarket, you will be checked through a metal or weapons detector.
This time of year, Istanbul is cold, dark and the atmosphere is foreboding. Summer time should be better I guess, as they do have a nice coastline with smatterings of old structures.
Police presence is very high. At least two policemen every hundred meters or so. Turns out the Pope is visiting this predominantly Muslim country and there are riots shown on TV though I have not seen any in the vicinity of Bakirkoy or Aksaray, the places where I am. Walking is not encouraged, I was asked by a policemen to take the bus or taxi instead when all I wanted to do was walk along the coast to take pictures of some ships.
Perhaps my view of this ancient city will change after the tour provided by our host over this weekend.