Travel Journal Overview: I should have guessed better. But my first impressions of Turkey were not old school. They were of Istanbul’s thriving tourist trade, then again, it was the middle of Ramadan.
After climbing up the hill to Old Sultanahmet we arrived at the hostel our French friend had recommended…well not exactly but it was in the same area, more importantly it was away from the majority of hostels. After checking in we left Itchy Beard to his grumblings about finding a little old lady with a room for 3Euro (dream on) and Allen, Reagan and myself headed out to explore the place I had heard so much about.
Now if I were not so tired maybe I would not have been so unimpressed, but even so I was disappointed at first. Blame it on my lack of research or new found hostility to tourists. The main square was surrounded by giant two tier mega buses, each emblazoned with giant company logos. And no matter where you looked, or for that matter walked, there was always one or two of the behemoths powering down a pedestrian filled street. The square surrounded with closed food stalls offering some hope of a nights feast, it was the end of Ramadan after all. Still I had expected less, a more Moroccan feel. Instead it felt more like a theme park.
We followed Allen’s American style “Let’s see everything, and then latter compare it to what’s better in the USA”, well at least for the former. We followed the old wall, with its new buildings, looked on at the giant Blue Mosque (it looks bluer at night), and then finally entered Sofia. Here I have to admit I was impressed. Having been built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixth century as a monument to Christianity, it was later turned into a mosque under Sultan Mehmet after taking control of Istanbul from the Byzantine. Mosaic’s of Christ emblazoned in Gold leaf are one of the most striking sights. As is the truly giant dome, archways and marble flooring. And for me I started to learn about the Islamic worlds recognition of Christ and Mary.
By now Reagan and myself had had enough of Allen’s whistle stop tour, and we part ways. Beer in the hostel over looking the Bhosphorus, it was obvious we would be heading somewhere else in Turkey together. It also became obvious that the nights were getting very chilly, winter was coming.
The next day Itchy Beard decided it was time for him to head off to find a little old lady by the bus station that would offer him a room for 3 Euro. Emm, I did for the record continuously remind him that this was not going to happen here and that he should be concentrating on visas instead. Suffice to say Itchy Beard was lost in his eco world so I headed off in search of Embassies galore. Of course following a LP map is never as straightforward as it seems, Reagan followed me along, and after many wrong turns I started to feel sorry for him.
Eventually embassy search day 1 was over and we headed out that night with Itchy and Allen to find some food and a little trek into Asia. Yes many will debate whether Turkey is Europe in whole, or in part, but when you are there its much better to think about crossing the bridge and setting foot in a new continent. And this is just what we did. Past multitudes of open market sellers and far too many small fish sellers for my liking we arrived in Asia.
Of course this was still turkey, but it was New Turkey. Marred only by Itchy running into various run down hotels looking for his 3 Euro room, apparently there were no old ladies by the bus station. I started to feel a little better about Istanbul now that we were out of that Tourist zone, never mind about the huge luxury cruise ship beside us. Instead I enjoyed the Mosques by night as the fishermen cast their lines in hope for more tiny fish for the kebab sellers to cook up.
We got as far as the main tower when both Itchy Beard’s complaints about no 1 dollar food stalls and Allen’s perpetual moaning forced us back a while to the bridge where countless restaurant touts hassled us. Reagan was harassed the most to both my and Allen’s amusement, but in fairness he did manage to score a free bottle of wine dinner for us. Bar the fact that both Allen and Itchy thought it was a scam. So yes we trudged back to Sultanamet and the chaos of a Ramadan feeding frenzy.
Anyone who knows me well can testify that keeping me away from food for an extended period results in a serious mood change, and so it seems the same happens to Reagan. This resulted in me getting very pissed off with a woman overcharging for a cheese pancake thingy, made worse by Itchy paying for it after she refused to give me all my change. For all their arguing Itchy and Allen finally settled on 3 Euro baked potatoes, while Reagan and myself ate large 2 Euro Doners.
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