How would we react if inflation in our country were at 60% on an annual basis? How would we navigate our daily lives? What strategies would we employ to protect our families and savings?

This is currently the situation in Turkey, where we are located. Over the next few weeks, as we journey through the country, we will document the story of Bitcoin adoption in the Middle East, focusing on ordinary people who have witnessed the slow collapse of their economy for years.

Though Istanbul has not been the nation's capital since the 1920s—when democracy overthrew the last Sultan of the dwindling Ottoman Empire—it remains Turkey's pulsing heart. This metropolis, with over 20 million residents, has been a hub for trade and culture for millennia.

Upon first setting foot in the city, what strikes us is the evident normality. The streets are tidy, the bazaars brimming with products and bustling with cheerful people. It is not the catastrophic scene we anticipated. No beggars line the streets; there aren't droves of homeless or makeshift shanties. Life seems to go on as usual amidst the towering minarets and mosques of the city center. However, a deeper look reveals the subtle signs of hyperinflation.

Currency exchanges pepper every downtown street. These establishments, exchanging the local currency for dollars, euros, pounds, and many others, are omnipresent. While the old city thrives with tourists who utilize these services, observant visitors will notice that often it is the Turks queuing up.

The Turkish Lira is practically worthless, and people avoid holding onto it any longer than they must. The race to acquire safe-haven assets is constant. Affluent citizens turn to real estate or gold bullion. Cars, especially luxury ones from Germany and Italy, are seen as assets due to import restrictions. For the average person, gold coins and foreign currencies, particularly U.S. dollars, are tucked away safely at home. Even everyday items like detergent, which do not expire and are universally needed, are preferable to the Turkish lira. Once salaries are paid, households bulk buy these items to stockpile and potentially resell. This is hyperinflation in action.

As we wander the city center, the vivid orange lights of Bitcoin stores are inescapable. These establishments, illuminated by LED signs, have become a staple in the cityscape. Their radiant glow promises a brighter financial horizon.

Though Turkey's monetary laws impose certain limitations on using foreign currencies, Bitcoin occupies a unique position. An April 2021 decree, which many deem unconstitutional, categorized cryptocurrency as a financial asset. So, while you can buy, hold, and sell it, it cannot replace traditional money. But given Bitcoin's decentralized nature, just as unofficial dollar transactions are routine, with some effort, you can find merchants willing to accept satoshis. The black market always finds its path.

So, is Istanbul becoming the global hub for Bitcoin? Is this where Satoshi Nakamoto's invention truly shines? Not quite. Conversations with locals reveal a continued preference for gold and dollars. Due to their direct linkage with the dollar, stablecoins are becoming the favored digital currencies, with a slew of altcoins in the fray. The dire circumstances make Turkey ripe for trading—or gambling, if you will.

After just a short time in Istanbul, it is evident there is much work to be done, especially regarding education. However, the potential here is immense. With its technological prowess and sophisticated infrastructure, Turkey cannot find salvation in the current fiat standard. Bitcoin, though, could be a game-changer. Today, a budding community of Bitcoin aficionados, known as Yirmibir, is taking shape after joining the Twenty One project. Their initiatives are growing, manifesting in a series of increasingly attended meetups. Even in its early stages, this guerrilla group is pioneering a robust Turkish Bitcoin movement that, we believe, will be pivotal for the nation's future.

In a few hours, we will depart Istanbul and venture further into Turkey, moving south along the Mediterranean coast, exploring more pastoral regions. Our mission remains unchanged: to discover Bitcoin's applications, capture the tales of those it is transforming, and broadcast these narratives to the world via our storytelling and in the pages of BTC Times.

Laura and Rikki are Bitcoin Explorers: a pair of activists and storytellers journeying across the globe to chronicle Bitcoin adoption, particularly in burgeoning nations. Follow their escapades on X, InstagramTikTok, and their YouTube channel.

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