20.04.2014 - 23.04.2014 22 °C
Our adventure begins. Linds flew to France on the 20th of April to coincide with my last set of holidays of this school year, and for our planned trip to Turkey. (it'd been 8 years since we've travelled together in Asia) Istanbul was our point of entry. The size of the city is staggering, containing half the population of Canada, and the view from the Galata Tower gave us a sense of how far-reaching Istanbul was, dotted with minarets of the many mosques. Despite a very western feel, the calls to prayer from the mosques and the smells of fish and roasting chestnuts mixed with spiced meats and tea gave it an exotic spin.
We had a very successful first day. Dave and Tasha, having booked our hostel for us, found us sleeping in our room. After breakfast, we began wandering down toward the important sights. We explored the Grand Bazaar, finding large selections of scarves, carpets, pottery, jackets, jewellry, spices, Turkish delight - all for bargained prices. I had Linds do my negotiating for me because I'm terrible at it.
Fish sandwiches for lunch beside the boat where they were caught and grilled.
After, we visited the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern (a cavernous underground reservoir supported by columns, built in the 4th century) , both incredible sights not to be missed. The mosques were quite photogenic and and I realized going through the photos later that took way too many mosque pictures. Here are a few:
Lindsay tried (and failed to finish) the Turkish coffee. Very strong and sludgy. Interestingly, at every hostel and many cafes, they serve Nescafe instant coffee. Some "cappuccinos" will actually be Nescafe with frothy milk on top. Offensive, but it'll do.
Some points of comparision I noticed:
In France, old men sit in outdoor cafes with tiny coffees, and here in Istanbul they sit outside on low stools with tea in tulip glasses. Tea is the lifeblood here, delivered on trays to shop owners and workers throughout the day. So tea, not coffee.
Where NIce is very much a dog city (they even ride transit and sit with owners in restaurants), Istanbul is a cat city. Stray cats, almost entirely unseen in Nice, wander streets, alleys, rooftops, balconies and ruins. Another thing we noticed - Turkish people are very friendly
We visited the Ayasofia on the second day, and had an incredible Turkish lunch.
So far, I'd gravitated toward the eggplant and lamb specialties and was not disappointed. Prices were very reasonable, though our boat companion coming from SE Asia didn't have the same view. After lunch, Linds and I took the advice of fellow travellers in our hostel and made our adventerous way across the city to find Emirgen Park. The tulip festival is on in Istanbul right now, and so this park is particularly worth seeing. After an hour of walking around and asking people, we finally found ourselves on a bus going in the right direction. The park was worth seeing - a tranquil break from the bustle of the city, and when you step away from the streets into the green, you realized then how fast-paced the city is.
The following day, we flew to Cappadoccia in the interior of Turkey. Rest of the trip to follow