Istanbul #1

Istanbul Travel Blog

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I arrived in Singapore fairly exhausted, and with a 7 hour wait due to flight changes. And - although this may shock some of you - I can only walk around shops for so long before I get bored. So after trying 4 different shops/lounges in an attempt to find a comfy seat, I eventually decided drinking a vodka on a bar stool would be much better…and found great company in doing so! The first guy I met was a very funny Irishman who was shortly heading over to Sydney to work, and the second was a middle aged Liverpool native who for the past 3 years has been living in Adelaide!!! What are the odds? We both had very late flights so spent the rest of our time consuming too much alcohol (and even better, he shouted me them all!) and switching between laughing at stupid things and being deeply profound. I was so glad to have met him, and a hysterically dry woman from Manchester who joined us toward the end. So I boarded the flight to Istanbul slightly tipsy, but thankfully much more collected than when I left Adelaide.

I arrived in Istanbul surprisingly awake, and, contrary to what I’d learnt at the travel agent, after lining up for half an hour I discovered at the customs desk that I did actually need a Visa to get in. It might have had something to do with me having to use my Australian passport instead of my EU passport... Anyway, I exited the queue to purchase the Visa and rejoined it only to discover it had doubled in size! Luckily I was recognised by the security guard and got pushed to the front after about 10 minutes. I then had to hilariously negotiate with non-English or very-little-English speaking security guards directions to the metro train, and after some very funny attempts at communication ended up with an escort for the entire train journey til the tram stop! I was so grateful.

After finding the hostel with minimal difficulty, I decided to walk myself around Istanbul. I hate touristy stuff and went looking for the ‘other’ Istanbul, the one you won’t find in guidebooks. Unfortunately, my hostel is right in the middle of the tourist district, and I really had little choice but to see touristy stuff. I managed to find some quieter streets where I could find houses, children playing in the streets etc...eventually though I needed to eat and had to venture back to tourism central in the Cemberlitas/Sultanahmet district.

Turns out the Turkish love women: within 2 hours I’d been given 4 complimentary teas (1 apple tea, 3 Turkish teas), 1 complimentary coffee, had two dinner offers, one breakfast offer for the next day, 3 free massage offers and one offer of a place to stay, should I ever return to Istanbul for a longer period of time, from various shop keepers! Most of these propositions weren’t even met with an answer, just a hysterical laugh from me. Their perseverance was a little disturbing and uncomfortable at times, but mostly good-natured. The shop keepers have great fun in guessing where I’m from and I have great fun watching their reactions when I say Australia! Turns out I look very Turkish, but they could tell I don’t live here…anyway, they also all seem to think I’m loaded and want me to buy stacks of Oriental carpets. Very persistent. If I wasn’t on the budget from hell and had more room in my suitcase I might have given in to one of them…but I didn’t, and their very beautiful carpets will just have to stay in Turkey.

The propositions continued the next day, right up until I was leaving the Starbucks in the Ataturk airport to board my plane and one guy wanted my email address because ‘you’re eyes are so beautiful’. I wonder if he only knows those two sentences in English: “Can I have email address? Your eyes are so beautiful.” ☺ One guy, who also proposed (what the?!), was so adamant that I shouldn’t pay the hostel fee, rather stay at his house. I eventually tried to make my point asking if there were any other women staying at his house. He replied, “No, just me and my brother.” Honestly! Surely he didn’t think I would…? He made up for this annoyance by asking me if I wanted sugar in my tea, and adding when I declined that I didn’t need it because I am so ‘sugar’! How cute is that? I briefly looked at the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, and I think I’ll go back next week with my camera, because the reports of their beauty do them no justice. They’re incredible.

I left Istanbul that day with the resolution that sometime, hopefully soon, I will come back to Turkey for 2 months and really explore it. It's incredible!

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Istanbul Hostels review
Really cheap prices, private room (two beds) USD20 per person per night, down to shared rooms for USD8 per person per night. Friendly service, breakfa… read entire review
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photo by: Memo