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Published: December 16th 2014
As you all know, last week I went to visit Onur in Istanbul, the furthest place away from home I have been (although Athens was further south, and Kyiv further east). Although a short trip of just 3½ days, it was jam packed with things to do and see. After visiting Athens in March and from what I had seen and heard before, I was expecting Istanbul to be full of old buildings, but also rather dirty and feel very foreign...but actually I was completely wrong, the city was very clean and welcoming and felt very European (bar the Mosques scattered everywhere). It was rather shocking to find that in a Muslim country, there were much less people in Burkas than can be found in Bury Park in Luton.
On the first day, I got up at 3:45am to get to the airport for my 6:30am flight - unfortunately making me very tired all day, but on the good side, it did mean I had the whole afternoon and evening to see Istanbul, after arriving in the city centre at 2:30pm. The first place we visited was Taksim square, the centre of Istanbul, where they have a monument
to Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, and the biggest flag I have ever seen. After that we walked down the main shopping street to Galata tower, where views of the whole city can be seen. After this we went down to the Bosphorus and boarded a boat that travels up and down both sides of the strait for an hour.
On the second day, we went to Dolmabahçe Palace, the newer Sultan's palace in the city, wherein the deathbed of Atatürk and the biggest chandelier in Turkey are located. Later on we went to the oldest part of the city of Istanbul, and visted the Blue Mosque followed by the Spice Bazaar, a real touch of the east. In the evening I tried a Döner, and then at home we called Camilla on Skype and spent more than an hour catching up.
On my final full day, we went to visit Topkapı Palace - the old home of the Sultans, where hair and teeth of the Prophet Mohammed are stored (if you ask me, that was quite stalkerish) followed by a visit to the most famous sight of the city, the Hagia Sofia,
formally a church and then mosque, and now a museum. In the evening we went to watch the football game of Galatasaray and Manchester United - although not being much of a football fan, it was hard to support a Turkish team against an winning English one, even when surrounded by Turks and wearing a football scarf. Meeting one of Onur's friends at the match we went back to Onur's flat, where I met his other housemate - all of whom were very welcoming and friendly, and even the mosquitos wanted to say hello!
The next morning I took the coach at 9:00am to take me to the Asian side's airport, which would take me back home after flying over Eastern Europe. All in all I can say that Istanbul is a very exciting city, with a lot to see. The fact that it has so much eastern culture whilst being a very modern city makes it ideal for those who don't wish to be without too many home comforts - even when the electricity dies every night.
That is now my final real holiday of the year (in think!) but I still have
a university trip to Espain in November, where I will hopefully get to meet up with some of my Espanish friends from Erasmus!
This marks the end of my year abroad, which started almost exactly a year ago now, with University starting again tomorrow!
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