Istanbul, The Concrete Jungle
Istanbul is one crazy place. It’s on the european continent (unlike the majority of the country) but it is crazy like most big Asian cities. From our first experience to our last it was hilarious!
Our first, a simple bus ride from the airport into the city. Only problem, they over filled the bus so when we got on there were no seats left. No worries we can just stand in the isle yeah? Apparently not. We were ordered off. Only concern was that the luggage doors were closed. I told them we weren’t getting off until they got our bags out. Probably because they did not want to think about going back in there considering how ‘well’ they packed everything, they weren’t sure what to do. Eventually after hoping on and off 3 separate times, we were allowed to stand haha. We stayed in an airbnb place near Taksim Square with a quiet little local named Ozan. Pretty simple place in a very basic street with enough cats to swing a room. They were all pretty feral too. I accidentally patted one and contemplated amputation once I realised what I’d done. There was a cool little cafe up the street that did great coffee and even had Wi-Fi.
Our first day we went and checked out the Mosques. Pretty amazing buildings. It’s funny that they are similar in function to the cathedrals of Europe; one small section for people who are actually praying, one large section for the tourists. From here we grabbed a bite of lunch (kebab, what else) with another 50 or so cats while listening to the call to prayer being belted out from the minarets a few hundred meters away.
A walk through the bazaar was a great laugh. The dudes standing out front of their stands come out with some crackers: “hello sir, you can make a choice”, “hello, thank you, it is better than you think”, or the simple but effective “I am here”.
We kept wandering until we found ourselves in our favourite place of any city. A spot with no other tourists. So we ducked into a nice little cafe for a Turkish tea to sit back and soak it up. As is fitting for the concrete jungle it had a train line running overhead and a busy main road running past it. Cost us nearly 50c each. As we started walking the 5km home we needed a sugar hit. Thank you baklava. So many amazing varieties.
Our meander home was a great way to see the place. We even stumbled into a crazy spice market filled with locals and tourists lapping up the atmosphere. Video of the spice market here… http://youtu.be/pU1vaIG2pc0
We decided to eat out somewhere a bit Turkish for dinner, but our neighbourhood turned out to be pretty touristy. We bought a local paper, in English, and stopped at a corner kebab saloon for some Kofta beef balls, chicken dishes and flat bread. Plenty in the news about the Syrian conflict. Amazing though that this place has been so unaffected by its neighbour’s in the past like Iran and Iraq.
Our second day was great too. Walking to the huge 1600 year old cistern we stopped to book our bus tickets and then again for a quick bite of bbq corn on the cob from a roadside cart. Fairly sure I still have some stuck in my teeth 24hrs later though.
We intended on going up Galata Tower, but while we were on the boat we spotted a roof top terrace bar that looked perfect. So off we went to find it. It was worthy of the uphill mission. The views were almost as good as the drink prices. $3 for a soft drink $6 for an iced coffee. Sadly no beer available. To overcome my genuine sadness I thought I would give the “yoghurt drink” a go then. Fail. Tasted like milk that had sat in the sun for a week then had half a cup of salt poured in. Still I’d drink it any day to enjoy that view again.
On our way home along Yüksek Kaldırım Cd we found some really nice shops on a cool little strip of the street. Finally somewhere selling something other than Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren rip-offs. Clare got some mad cotton gear and I got a fun shirt. A couple more kebabs for dinner and it was only 930 but we were done. Time to head home and pack already.
The 8am shuttle bus was a fitting end to our visit. It was 15minutes late (which absolutely no one else appeared concerned about) and was full of people and belongings when it arrived. We squeezed on. The bloke next to me had a ceramic sink that would fall on me when we turned right and my bag on one of the seats at the front would fall over when we turned left. The main bus station was crazy too. Literally thousands of busses, pretty damn lucky we got a shuttle bus there or we never would have found our bus! On the bus now, headed for Eceabat, hopefully (pronounced ‘Ed-jab-bet, if you are ever looking for a bus that’s headed there because they won’t understand if you get it even slightly wrong).