Istanbul, Turkey

An eight hour bus from Izmir and all we wanted was to check in, have a shower and grab a bite to eat. Well that would have been way too easy, as our accomodation for that night completely let us down (to say the least). They had absolutely no excuse besides the fact that someone else arrived that day and was happy to pay more than what we had secured it for online. The silver lining was that we were meeting up with Dan’s cousin Megan and luckily there was a spare room at her hostel so we could all stay together. Thus began our stay in the fascinating city that is Istanbul. Full of spices, magic carpets, markets, mosques and daily prayers over loudspeakers accross the city.

This was our first real taste of religion in Istanbul, as our previous destinations had been quite touristy. I was often reminded about how lucky i was to be travelling with my scantily clad posse including Dan, Megan and Rikki-Lee!

“Ohhhh… you lucky man!!!!”

Our first stop was the Grand Bazaar, a massive covered market in the area of Fatih. This was definitely one of the most interesting markets i have been to, where the quality of goods was quite impressive. As we walked through, we sampled every flavour of turkish delight there was, plenty of spices, and tea as well.

Dan was on the baclava like a bee to honey, and Rikki-Lee aka ‘pink sugar’ (she was wearing pink shorts) was just moments away from buying a sultan’s hat!

I love this photo of a local shopkeeper reading the daily news, with Dan in the background!

Turkish delight in a roll. Soooo tasty, but the shopkeepers missed a trick by giving us too many samples! By the time I had tried all the flavours I was more than content, and didn’t end up buying any..

I also really loved some of the lights.. my camera doesn’t do them any justice as it is over exposed, but they would make an awesome feature.

Here’s a cool photo of us trying on some hats, even though the sign said “NO PHOTO”. I think the guy might have fancied himself a little bit of pink sugar!

A quick stroll through the Egyptian spice market, and we eventually wound up at the bridge for lunch.

This bridge was particularly interesting, as it differentiated the European side of Turkey from the Asian. Megan mentioned that having a fish roll under the bridge was a must, which turned out to be a good tip – cheap as well at only 8 Lira!

That afternoon we were picking up our laundry from a cute old lady around the corner from the hostel. Dan saw a tip jar “for the cat” and dropped some coins inside. Bursting with excitement, the lady ushered us over to a broken dryer with a cloth over the top and pointed inside. There were 16 baby kitty’s within, only about 4 weeks old! The girls played with them and gave them a cuddle – -here are some pics 🙂

Throughout Turkey we have seen dozens of stray cats and dogs just roaming the streets. Interestingly it is the businesses and residents that look after them, and always put out food and water for them. It costs the equivalent of about $150 AUD to desex a stray, which is why it is such an issue!

Tired of just eating convenient food, we jumped on tripadviser to find an awesome turkish meal that evening. It turned out to be an absolute hit, and we stayed until the very last customer had left – just chatting to the owner of the restaurant. He gave us free tea and dessert, as we spoke about his life in Istanbul – fascinating!

Our next adventure was to Prince’s island – about an hour away by ferry from where we were staying. Given there was a nearby river flowing into the sea, the waters weren’t as clear as Bodrum or Kos, but it was still a really enjoyable day! We were accompanied by a girl from our hostel called Kelly. Yes, I was getting luckier by the day!

We walked around the island stopping at various beaches for a swim. I wasn’t aware that someone can actually own a beach, as we spent most of the day dodging beach fees (for using umbrellas).

Here we are, basking in our defiance as we sit on the ground – avoiding the chair fee!

I’ll also just mention that we stopped at a fruit vendor where I had probably the best nectarine I have ever eaten. Sooooo good 🙂

After a bit of a mix up with our ferry trip home that afternoon we eventually arrived on the Asian side of the bridge (our hostel was the European). This allowed us to explore Taksim square which was absolutely humming with activity.

I soon learned that on average 3 million people walk down this street every day! It was here, to my absolute delight, I watched a Turkish woman’s plight as she tried to buy an ice cream. Here’s a video i took – i dare you not to laugh!

I didn’t get it on video, but the first time we saw this was at the expense of Rikki in Antalya. Her experience had me in stitches, as anyone who knows Rikki would never get in the way of her and a tasty treat!

Our last day was spent checking out a few iconic sites. The Basilica Cistern, featured in one of Dan Brown’s books, was really fascinating. Built during the reign of the Ottoman empire it is an underground fresh water system, where its source is transported over 19km from some nearby mountains via aquaducts. 

We also made our way to the Blue Mosque which was a very unique experience. The girls were forced to wear burka’s and even i had to wear a cloth around my waist as i was wearing shorts. A guy can have sexy legs too you know 😉

The mosaics were very impressive and there was a definite sense of religion as we quietly walked through. Although I have a very general knowledge of Islam, I would have been interested in spending some time learning more about it at a place like this.

That was the end of our stay in Istanbul. Dan and I had a flight to catch to Zagreb, Croatia! A few sad goodbyes to our travel buddies Rikki and Megzy and we were on our way… 🙂

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