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August 14th 2008
Published: August 20th 2008
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sunrise at bakırkoy pier sunrise at bakırkoy pier sunrise at bakırkoy pier

my arrival into istanbul!
Wow, what an arrival into Istanbul! After the lengths I went to in order to obtain a visa for Uzbekistan it was a nice change to be able to arrive at the airport, hand over €15 (and not €100) and get a stamp in my passport allowing me to stay for 3 months. Such value for money after Central Asia!

As I walked out of the airport the sun was just coming up and glowing a beautiful pinkish colour. It was a strange feeling to arrive knowing I was going to meet up with a local who I had just had a few brief conversations with, but Cumhur my host who I met through Couchsurfing put me at ease and provided me with a fantastic way of getting into the city and to his neighbourhood so it was all very exciting.

After the plane ride, I jumped on a bus to the sea pier and onto the first ferry of the day to cross the Bosphorus Strait, which is the sea that divides the Asian side to the European side of the city. So in the matter of an hour, I had crossed from Asia into Europe and back
a conversation about life...a conversation about life...a conversation about life...

overlooking the Bosphorus strait on the European side
into Asia again!

I have instantly fallen in love with Istanbul. Crossing the strait, I could see the silhouettes of the Grand Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque, the two most famous sights here. Cumhur was there to meet me on the other side at Kadıkoy. I was so relaxed about my whole introduction to Turkey that when I bought a sim card at the airport, I forgot to get my passport back!!!

After retrieving my passport the rest of the day was spent relaxing and soaking up the views of this stunning city, drinking çay as everyone else here does, and watching the sunset from the point where I had seen the sunrise earlier. I was spoilt rotten by Cumhur as he made me feel at home and not allowing me to worry about a thing. I am saving the sights for when Pippa arrives in Istanbul in September so I have spent most of my time immersing myself into the culture and local life.

Cumhur lives in a middle class suburb on the Asian side of Istanbul and I can understand why he chooses not to live on the European side! The quality of life is seemingly better, there are nice leafy streets, less people, clusters of cute bars and restaurants and you don't feel like you're living in a city with 15 million other people! I'm not sure that Istanbul is coping with the sprawling population as a result of a huge influx of immigrants as well as people from other parts of Turkey in search of better jobs and money...

I thought other Islamic countries had a lot of mosques but I think there are over 200 in Istanbul alone so there is definitely not a shortage of places to pray for the devout muslims. At the same time, with Istanbul being such a modern and worldy city you walk down the street and see the vast mix of old vs new and walking through some of the local neighbourhoods made me feel like I was in a western European city.

Knowing what the Turkish cuisine has to offer I was eager to try my first baklava before the end of the day and it definitely did not disappoint! I couldn't say the same about the first kebab I tried though. I think there are too many choices here - you barely walk 50m and there is a kebab stand! So no doubt I will be gaining some extra kilos over the next 6 weeks!


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