Published: March 17th 2012March 17th 2012
It was supposed to be a trip to an European country (at least it negotiates and is part of the European Economic Comunity) but I knew that it had it's asian part... Turkey is usually called as part of "Eurasia" (Far East Europe) - some people consider it part of both continents (Europe and Asia) and others even call it part of the Middle East (like myTB.org does, as you can see...)
It was by far the most potentially dangerous and unprepared journey I was about to take... I booked the flights and some hostels, set my backpack along with my girlfriend and with some help from a friend - that had already spend 20 days alone traveling through the Marmara Coast, Antalya and Central Anatolya - we were ready to go...
I must confess I was a little scared to travel to the Middle East (these days you never know...) and also because it was Ramazan season... I'm glad I found out how wrong I was...
Turkey is a lovely, sunny, Mediterranean-European-Asian-style, friendly and beautifull country and a lot more positive adjectives that I can't remember right now, but that defenitly changed my perspective... The
turkish people are very kind and helpfull (like the Greeks) - always ready to party with a smile on their face and even if you think there's a big problem, they solve it - they're always saying: "no problem, no problem".
Even during Ramazan time - when muslims are starving during the entire day - they serve you everywhere (even in restaurants) with a smile on their face.
Istanbul is a big - I mean...huge! - city and like most of the European capitals has it's historic centre, where you can visit some monuments like the ancient mosques - The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and many more spread all over town - I strongly recommend the Basilica Cistern, The Topkapi Palace - beautifull mid 15th century palace with lots of museum chambers with plenty of ottoman history - a cruise in the Bosphorus river would also be a pleasant and cheap experience (around 2 TL).
You must keep one thing in mind: everything in Turkey, specially in Istanbul, is paid! Museums, atractions, public transportation, some gardens, public toilet...everything...
You get the feeling that you're spending a lot, but 1 euro is worth 2.4
TL (Turkish Lyra) so, in the end, it will be worth have spent all those bills and "strange" coins.
Like most of the arabian natives and part of it's culture you have the chance (and I strongly recommend) to bargain almost everything - they will start asking you for half the amount in euros, wich is not the same since the Lyra is worth less than half.
Istanbul also have it's "not-so-safe" areas and some schemes to trick the tourists - I helped a shoe shinner that droped his shoe brush didn't realized. To thank me he offered himself to clean my shoes for free (wich I politely refused, but he kept insisting saying I saved his life) and in the end he ended up asking me for 8 Lyra and was also very upset. But, like any developed country capital it's a safe city.
You must try the turkish coffee - in Portugal we have one of the best expresso coffees in the world and I've tasted many countries flavours and believe me: turkish coffee is amazing! The tea is also good and cheap... Usually during the Ramazan there's a
traditional sort of carnival in the Hypodrome area (close to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia) where you can try and buy tradional Islamic and turkish products, like the Baclava - sweet kind of biscuit, crunchy with almonds and pistaccio - and Boza - It is a malt drink, made from maize and wheat, very thick and sweet, but very good. There is also a sort of liquid ricotta cheese - kind of salty liquid yoghurt - they call it Ayran - it's fresh and good for the heat hours, but very very salty!
In the last day in istanbul we visited the Egyptian Spice Market, where you can buy many turkish products beyond spices and food - strongly recommend this one too!
In the next blog I will write you about Goreme and Central Anatolya... See you there! ;)
There are more photos below