Published: September 25th 2011September 25th 2011
Ok, so school is about to start and I figure I should write out a recap of my ridiculously long summer break here in Istanbul (about things other then the city and the creepy men.)
Now writing this has become a bit more complicated, because much of my stay has to do with who I've met, acquaintances and annoyances. What if I write something a bit rude and the person I write about sees it? Well, I guess I didn't like them anyways, but still. I'd feel like a jerk. Hopefully I just won't dislike anyone and that won't be a problem. ;)
A majority of the time I've spent here I've been hanging out on my balcony with my room mates. Like I said, doing all the touristy things will be much cheaper once I become a card carrying student, so until then I'm not really seeing much about Turkish Heritage. But we do go out a bit, Asia is a dollar and a 20 minute ferry away, so we go there a bit to relax and drink tea on shoreside teahuts. We've also gone to a GIGANTIC outdoor market somewhere in Asia (I'll ask someone later) where
One of the more famous Mosques!
buuut, I forgot which one. I'm a horrible tourist.
Wait, Yeni Camii!!!
you could get everything. $5 shoes, wall decals (which I got an obscene number of), handbags, rugs, every article of clothing, lamp shades, radishes, honey comb, and everything in between. We spent about 5 hours there and I'm not sure if we got halfway through it (and we skipped a bunch too.)
Taksim, Besiktas, Kadikoy are comprised of a maze of streets full of vendors of all sorts. One street full of tea shops. The next clothing stores and pharmacies. One area we stumbled upon was the “men's street,” full of tools, parts to all sorts of machines/apparatus, and wires and things. I call it the men's street because as my room mate and I wandered through it's streets (yes, multiple streets. How many stores do you need to sell the same 8 varieties of toilets..?) we saw we were the only female-kind to make our way to that part of Taksim. We quickly saw there were no stores there that would sell anything we were interested in and tried to leave ASAP.
Taksim is a bit different from Besiktas and the others. Taksim is known as the cultural hub of Istanbul, and Istanbul being the cultural hub of
Turkey in turn makes Taksim the most progressive place in all of Turkey (though I haven't asked anyone, it's just what I'm inferring.) There you find most of the night clubs of Istanbul, all packed onto one street, Istiklal. On Istiklal there is also Sephora, Gap, United Colors of Benniton, Colezione (which I never heard of but my Slovenian room mate says is famous,) Burger King, the only KFC I've seen here, and many other stores, Turkish or otherwise. Fancy restaurants full of fancy people. Hole in the wall kebab places. There's a couple of mosques and even a Catholic church there. Even the Turkish Communist Party has a bit of real estate on Istiklal. Off of this main road are dozens of these market streets, but they are all connected to the mega-street.
So, I've done a good amount of shopping. I would feel more guilty about it, but it's very easy to find a great bargain, so I've been justifying it to myself by saying that I'm saving money in the end. But, come on, $13 leather purse?! I have to, if I got it home I'd have to pay double!
I've also been to Prince's
that little bit of turrets, that's Hagia Sophia!
Island with some people from our Study Abroad Bogazici Student page on FB. Prince's Island are a couple of islands off the coast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara only accessible by ferry for the peons without yacts.
Just a side note, a distant island isn't the ideal place to go with people you aren't friends with yet.
Prince's Island is a great place. The whole island has something against cars, making biking and horse drawn carriages the only modes of transportation other then walking. The only cars you find are police and ambulances. The island is covered in a variety of magnificent summer homes, though living in them must get tiring; people gawk at their houses during all hours of the day. It's actually one of the selling points of the island, the houses. Tourists have a right to stare at your house and be jealous of you. I don't think I could handle the pressure.
But yeah, beautiful houses. And flowers everywhere. And beaches! Though I hear the public ones are full of those creepy men that I've mentioned before that just stare at foreigners, but the private ones are beautiful.
The beaches, horses, and
On the very end of Istiklal,
Next to Galata Tower sippin some beers
houses are how the island was sold to me.
I wound up being the only one with a bathing suit. And one of the girls we went with had a horse allergy.
Now, I'm not saying that they ruined my trip by any means, actually I really like most of the people I went with on this trip and plan on traveling again with them in the future, just saying it was strange circumstances to meet new classmates. On a tropical island, full of one girls allergens, being the only one with some beach time as a priority.
We showed up to the island with no real mishaps, well other then when I bought the wrong ferry ticket. 5TL down the drain. But other then me throwing away money, it was fine. The ferry trudged through the deep blue water for about an hour and a half, past a shore dotted with warehouses and restaurants. Past small sailboats. Even further, past the shore's horizon, we disappeared from the mainlands view.
We had some debate about which island to actually go to, Prince's Island is actually comprised of a chain of islands and we were unsure of
On the way to Prince's Island
which one had the most stuff on it. We talked in circles until we got off the boat on the biggest island, Büyükada. We were greeted onto the island by venders selling flower circlets of all varieties, this being the traditional welcome of the island I was told. After a couple moments of marveling at the crowns we carried on, deciding we were hungry. We wound up in the main square, surrounded by eating establishments each equipped with a man running around with a menu and some broken English, trying his hardest to lure you in. I was against the idea of eating at one of these places who hires a man to convince you to go, why not spend that money on good produce? Or maybe a good chef? Or, god forbid, they could not hire this man and have cheaper prices. But no, we were surrounded by men vying for our appetites. Sensory overload, and we decided to eat at one of the more persistent man's restaurants. Deciding to try something new, I pointed to something 14TL. We all got our food and it was alright. Not worth the amount that we were charged, but it's a tourist
I guess part of their horse drawn carriage charm?
place. What can you do.
I got a plate of assorted meats, which was a little confusing because I thought I pointed to an assorted veggie-something-rather, but who am I to complain about getting a meat platter?
Time for the check came. My meal turned out to be 25TL, which is around a third of my groceries budget. It really isn't that much money, maybe $15, but in the context of how cheap I could of gotten that food, it made me feel sick. Maybe if I threw up I could claim food poison and do my American-threaten-to-sue thing and leave it at that, but... That would be by far the WORST first impression I could give to my future classmates. Feigning apathy, I attempted to pay our check.
Now, this part got a little confusing.
So, adding together all of our food was, let's say, 130TL. Now, on the bill they messed up a number of ways. Firstly, they added an extra drink. We asked him about it and he crossed it out quickly and handed us back our check with a big grin. We saw an extra charge at the bottom of the check, for
Hey, fancy house
If I owned it I'd sit outside and pose for pictures all day. Or I'd get really good curtains.
14TL. The total with this mysterious 14TL charge should have been 144TL, but instead he wrote another, even higher, amount on the back. Pointing out his math error he added the totals again and with another overly friendly smile gave us the check, this time priced at the right-but-still-too-high amount.
Now, this amount we're arguing about is literally a couple of dollars. If we were in the states I would have probably just gotten tired of fighting for justice and let him pocket the extra cash. But... I already spent the most of all of us. Not only that, but I had managed to give EXTRA, there was no proper change in the pot so I wound up giving an extra 7TL. But, the man was asking for 7TL more than that. When asking him what that extra 14TL was for he bowed his head just right, eyes still glued to us, all his teeth gleaming in the sun, “Tax, my friends.” His voice was syrupy sweet.
Tax?!?? Well, we were a group of Americans. I understand how he thought he could pull this one over on us. But, I had NEVER encountered a food tax in Istanbul! How DARE
Pulling a carriage!
he think he could steal my money? Yes, STEAL. He was going to pocket the excess! My hours of toiling in respectable restaurants in America, all to help this man help pay for hair-gel.
I really wanted to smack him. Throw food in his face and blow out his ear drums by screaming. Hell, pants him, anything. But... The company I was with would probably not back me up. No doubt they'd tell the rest of our classmates I was a crazy chick and should be avoided. I'd become a pariah for the next half year, whispers about my temper would follow me down the hallways.
He then counted how much we had, 7TL short of the bill (though 7TL over the actual cost of food), and Smiley told us it was fine we were short, he'd cover for us. The people I was with hurried out. “Well, at least he was nice.”
I was in a daze. Him, nice?! He was the stuff of bad infomercials or used car dealer. He just took advantage of us and the majority of our group was actually grateful to have stumbled upon him.
Well, what should have been astronomically overpriced
now just cost me even MORE. Feeling bad for me, my counterparts gave me a couple TL. I took it as graciously as I could and, mind reeling, put on a nonchalant front. I'm the cool chick! A couple extra bucks? No sweat. Oh, yeah, that guy was really nice. Pah, enforcing stereotypes about Americans? Nice!
My eye twitched more every step we took further away from my money. I saw it, in his pocket, wanting to be rescued.
But no big, See, I'm relaxed!
We started to make our way towards (or at least what we thought was towards) the mountain on the island. Our guide books told us of a trail up the mountain which leads to a monastery and a restaurant with spectacular views. So we trekked past multitudes of fancy houses, horse drawn carriages whipping past us.
When I first read that the island only allowed horses and bikes for civilian transportation I thought it was some stupid tourist ploy. But really, having no cars on it gives the island a really relaxed atmosphere. You hear the horses clop past you, the sound lingers for a moment and then it's gone and the island is
Even the cats are more relaxed on the island
quiet. The delicate breeze makes the assorted flowers wave as you walk past. Honestly, it's a very nice walk.
Well, for us. Unfortunately a girl in our group was allergic to horses and flowers, instead of thinking about how scenic the horses were she cringed every time they whooshed past. The breeze stirring the flowers just brought allergens closer to her irritated nose. Halfway up the island we decided we needed to get away from the main road and give our counterparts nose a break.
Thankfully we decided on a beach a ways off the road. I had abandoned the idea of going to the beach the moment I found out I was the only one equipped with a suit but now we were going, and I didn't even have to look selfish to get there! 7TL entrance fee, which brought grumbles to our group. I didn't even think about it. Before I knew it I paid the man, threw down my stuff, and was engulfed by the Sea of Marmara.
After about 30 minutes of basking in the beauty of our surroundings and catching jellyfish (they were all over and harmless) we decided to carry on. I
realized at some point that none of us knew when the ferry was off the island. If we missed it we'd either sleep on the street, in a police station, or worst case scenario - a hotel. I have nothing against hotels. I like hotels. But I can only imagine this island full of fancy houses housing fancy hotels. And I had already broken my budget enough.
We asked the man at the entrance to the beach when the last ferry was. He said 9, though I wasn't too sure about how credible he was. He sat in a booth on a small beach with his friends. He was slow to answer me. Stared off a bit. No doubt, this guy smoked the reefer.
I wasn't about to take my chances and told the group of my intent to leave an hour earlier then he said, just in case.
Either way, we made our way to the mountain and with a good amount of huffing and puffing found ourselves on the top. No doubt, it was a beautiful view. Well worth the calf cramps. After a tea at the restaurant and a couple of snapshots it was time to
Top of the mountain!
Definitely questionable footwear for a trek up a mountain
make our way back again.
We caught a boat right as we got to the port. Got some seats and watched the as sun fell into the sea.
Prince's Island? A must-see. Incredibly beautiful and the views from the top of that mountain were amazing. Going with people you don't know to a place you can't leave is questionable. The second I realized that there was no leaving if it got a little weird was scary. But I was lucky enough that my group was full of fun, friendly people. I really like them and, like I said, I'll probably travel with some of them again. I guess it was a sink or swim type thing, putting ourselves in a very remote area is a great way to test friendship, even if there hasn't been a friendship established yet. But in the end I think I made some friends. I mean, I could have been with complete losers. Or, more likely, I could have made an absolute fool of myself and had no chance to run away in shame. But, it was good.
Oh, and we saw a dead horse on the the side of the
But I wonder if this was forever called the Obama or is it a special edition thing?
road. I forgot about that bit.