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Published: January 18th 2007
Why yes, Turkish Airlines, I'd love a three day layover in Istanbul! I spent the next 10 minutes staring at a map trying to deduce whether I'd have enough time to sneak into Iran. Turkey's a pretty big country for European standards. Iran would have to wait. Luckily Istanbul was so much cooler than I was expecting, and I had high expectations for it.
Istanbul is massive, it's the only city that sprawls across two continents: Europe and Asia, it's the definition of East meets West, and there's a mind-boggling amount of history. This was my first time being in a Muslim country but definitely not the last (I'm looking at you, UAE folk!). The calls to prayer are really neat. Even the ones at 5 AM. Check out my vids! On being a SWF in Istanbul, or "I'm an idiot, part 4,381":
The flight from Belgrade couldn't land in Istanbul right away because it was so foggy and I guess I was kicking out the jams a little too hard on the old iPod so I didn't hear the overhead announcement that said our flight was being diverted to Ankara. So I was sitting in the Ankara
not too shabby
airport for a couple hours trying to figure out what the heck was going on and why the Istanbul airport was so crappy until I finally got the memo that we weren't in Istanbul we were in Ankara, which is a totally different city of course. It was the worst Turkish airport experience ever, I mean besides that one where that guy got caught with all that hashish duct-taped to his chest and drama ensued.
Anyways, so I got to Istanbul a lot later than expected but I'll be danged before I was going to let an Istanbul taxi driver rip me off. Two of the nicest girls ever helped me find the right metro line and I was feeling quite smug about spending $1.50 getting to my hotel rather than the $30 it might have cost me otherwise. And then the warnings came!
Not one but THREE different Turkish guys came up to me saying how dangerous it was for me to be out this late, by myself, with my 20 kilos of crap that screamed "tourist!" The first one I just laughed off, I mean come on this Istanbul, I have a better chance of getting
shot at home with that diverse (i.e. crazy) American gene pool and all those guns! Although it had been a good half hour since I'd seen another female out. The second guy told me to watch out because the people behind me were "very bad men" WHAT! WHO? Those old guys sleeping? And then by the third warning of impending doom I was pretty close to hyperventiliating. I was going to get gutted for $50 cash, a busted iPod and a broken camera, I just knew it. By then it was pretty late so the metro quit 2 stops before Sultanahmet so I could either walk about 2 km or give up and get into a taxi. So I still got ripped off by a taxi but I value my kidneys more than 10 lira.
But other than that I had a great time. This time of year is the nadir of the tourist season in Istanbul. I was in a shared bathroom style accomodation but I think there was maybe one other person in the hotel to share it with.
The shopkeepers have this compulsion to guess where you are from (my favorites: Italy and Japan). There
are a lot of touts for Oriental rugs, though. I am a twenty one year old student, not only do I have the funds to buy a Oriental rug, but I have the means to transport it home and the perfect place to put it in my abode! And there is this cult of apple tea, which is an instant granulated drink that tastes sort of like apple cider but without the spices so it's more like hot apple Kool-Aid. It's kind of addictive.
I stayed in the European side of Istanbul in the tourist neighborhood a mere 2 minutes walk from the Blue Mosque. Istanbul is a gorgeous city, it's got a totally different atmosphere from anywhere else I've been. I mostly just walked around sustaining myself on döner kebabs until I got lost and some incredibly gracious Turkish person would not just point the direction back but actually take the time to walk with me until I recognized my surroundings. Really nice people. I wish I could have seen more of Turkey.
P.S. Please appreciate that I did not title this blog entry Turkish Delight
or How Bazaar!
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