Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Istanbul, Turkey

Yes, yes I know I'm rather slow at getting these posts out but things have been busy on the farm...and I also procrastinate
 My entry for Istanbul is rather extensive so I'll probably have multiple posts about it, plus I'm too lazy to write everything right now...and I should be outside removing beans from their pods.

note: I was in Istanbul from the 26th to the 30th of August. It was a very short stay, but it was jam packed with awesomeness. If you are able to, I HIGHLY recommend visiting Turkey. I have met many truly nice people everywhere I go, but seriously, the Turkish people take it to a new level. Screw southern hospitality, its all about Turkish hospitality.

Getting to Istanbul
Soooo, after the week in Bulgaria was over I took a bus from Burgas to Istanbul. My mom and I arrived in Burgas at 7:40am because her bus was at 10:15, mine wasn't until 12:30...well, it was suppose to be at 12:30. Welcome to Bulgaria! the bus didn't arrive until almost 4:00pm which meant that we got into the bus station in Istanbul around 11:30pm.
  When the bus got into the city well past dark I was shocked to see that everyone was still up and active. We crossed one of the bridges and it was filled with fishermen, the fish apparently sleep as much as the inhabitants do. The streets were filled and everyone seemed completely unaware that it was almost midnight. The bus terminal was the greatest shock. It was packed, like imagine India crowed, at midnight and people were clustering in groups shouting and chanting, one guy was holding a torch. All of this activity happening while 50+ charter buses tried to maneuver in the tiny terminal and us tourists were thoroughly confused. Once we got our bags they packed us into a shuttle which whisked us to Teksin (one of the city districts) and after two failed taxi attempts, the third taxi finally got me to my destination.

Ekin was my couchsurfing host, and I couldn't have asked for anyone better for my first couchsurfing experience. She is truly a fantastic and lovely person. She is turkish (of romanina and bulgarian decent) in her late 20's working as an engineer in the city where she has lived for the past 11 years. Her apartment was also beautifully decorated and I got a room to myself.
Though of course to any good city apartment there are oddities. The first, though not particularly odd but still notable, was the fact that her water heating got turned off a couple months before and she never bothered turning it back on. You never take a quicker shower in your life than in ice cold water.
A second oddity was that an apartment across the courtyard housed four cats...and only the cats, no one else lived there. It had apparently been like this for two years. Someone came and took care of the cats but the fur balls had the pad to themselves.
Overall Ekin was amazing. She had to work during the week so she handed me a pair of keys to her place and a metro pass and said to come and go as I pleased.

Istanbul, besides being in competition with New York as the city that never sleeps, is also the city of animals (which, I, of course, was quite happy about). They have packs of dogs chilling on the streets and a literal hoard of cats everywhere. I, during my four days in the city, came under the belief that Istanbul enacted a law that at least one cat must occupy every street at all times, and this decree is strictly enforced. If at any moment a street is lacking a feline presence a white government van with tinted windows will screech around the corner, come to a sudden halt, and a man in a black suit with shades will step out of the side of the van. Within his hands he will be holding a regal looking cat of which he will place delicately upon a window ledge or apartment stoop. The cat in position, the man in the black suit will, with haste, rush back into the van where a sticky-roller thing to remove animal hair will be waiting for him, and the van will quickly vanish with a loud screech around the corner. The cat, once placed, will serenely start cleaning its front paw as if nothing ever happened. Petting is then expected to occur shortly after. 
I never got to witness this event but I'm convinced of its validity

Day 1 (Sunday the 26th)
I had inquired to Ekin on what was appropriate to wear in Turkey. Due to the fact that it was stupidly hot and humid I was quite keen on wearing my shorts. I had been anticipating a country where all women had to cover up and dress modestly, but Ekin corrected me that Turkey is a very modern country where anyone can wear anything they want, plus, me being an evident tourist I also had a little more leeway.
It still being the weekend, Ekin had the day off and took me on a tour of the city. Her place is in Şişli (pronounced Shishli) on the north side of the city and we walked down through the Taksim square, down Istiklal Cd (a road filled with shops, restaurants, and life), past a huge old watch tower made of stone, and into the old city, Fatih. We wandered around as she told me the history of the city. We finally succumbed to fatigue and sat in a park, where a little tabby kitten decided that my tot bad was a wonderful place for a nap as the parrots screeched in the trees above.  
Istanbul is on a hill, a rather large hill where Şişli and Taksim are the upper side. Because of this hill, ın 1875, they created the beyoğlu tünel. It's the second oldest 'metro' in the world behind London (1863). I put metro in quotation marks because the tunnel could also be one of the shortest metro lines in the world as well. It has two stations (one at the bottom of the hill and one at the top), and it takes approximately 1 minute and 40 seconds to get from one end to the other. I walked the hill in about 5 minutes...
Anyways, that night Ekin took me to a traditional Turkish restaurant called Otantik, and seriously the food was orgasmic and the prices extremely reasonable. We had a mixed place of turkish specialties, manti (a traditional turkish ravioli), and lahana sarma (chopped meat and rice wrapped in cabbage leaves). Keşkek was by far my favorite. I think it was rice with chicken broth and other heavenly spices, but whatever was in it tasted like pure bliss.
Once we got back to her place we crashed. The next day I would be exploring the city alone and with no turkish translator.

I'll write about the other three days later.

I was also wondering if I could get some feedback from people, what you like, what you don't like, how i could improve my posts (I would love to add pictures but that would take up considerable time and I don't want to upload pictures onto Berin (the owner of Jade Farm, where I currently find myself)'s computer.)  Just shoot me an emaıl or fb me.

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