Turkey Tales: Oh Istanbul!

Knowing that my time in the city is limited to 3 days, I only took 2 hours after my 10 hours sleepless bus ride to sleep in the room of a Turkish girl whose name I don’t remember (sorry! In my defense; I was so sleepy and it was the only interaction we had), and to whom I’m very thankful!

I woke up, got settled fast in my room (aka put my bags on the floor), met the IFMSA incomings that were staying in the same hostel (clin d’oeil à Lina) then went straight out! It was the first time of many to come that I take the ferry to travel between the two sides of Istanbul; the Asian and the European, and frankly I think that all the ferry transportation that got initiated in Izmir and magnified in Istanbul brought my seasickness to a minimum.

We visited the Spice Bazaar then the Grand one, and in that part of Istanbul you can literally walk around shopping and bargaining in Arabic. The Turkish vendors have adapted to the immense Arab tourists presence in Istanbul and learned the language in addition to hiring workers from Arab countries (bought Turkish Delight from a Moroccan guy). Walking the streets in that district, you hear more Arabic (and other languages) than Turkish.

The funny confusing thing about the day was that I spent it hanging out with more people whose names are similar to mine than I ever got to. Majid, Muzhda, Majd, it’s been a pleasure!

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We visited the Blue Mosque, and the gardens around it, hanged around in the Sarayi gardens before ending the day in Ortokoy, eating Kompir and over calorised waffles, sitting on the shore of what seemed to be the closest spot to the Bosphorus bridge. We weren’t very pleased with our feet getting unexpectedly wet when the water started flailing, but we stayed for the company, the music, and the soothing feeling of watching lanterns fly over the water, so high away that they later end up looking like stars.

Sunday was for Topkapi! I woke up and took the ferry to the Europian side, but from there, instead of following the tram rails as a girl -who lived long enough in Istanbul to know that- told me to, I decided I’m getting to Topkapi from the other side. And walked, walked, walked, getting myself lost in the city’s uphills. And eventually I just got myself tired and ended up napping in a mosque (no shame) before settling and taking back the rail I was told to take. Also, no regrets ’cause yes I took longer time to get there, but it also meant I saw more wandering down unfamous city streets that no one had recommended.

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Topkapi Sarayi is so splendid. The palace is so big and everything in there looks like art. I felt a little envy towards the thousands of people that had once lived there. It must have been amazing to experience the Sarayi life; living in a city within the city!

My tour ended on a beautiful view overlooking the Bosphorus (the place where I took most pictures, I even left to explore more, then came back to take more pictures) and a date invitation from a stranger to spend the night out at Taksim that I easily/gladly declined.

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That night, I went back to the hostel SOOO hungry. Having been out all day, and my only meal had been a BK in the morning (very healthy, I konw!! I don’t even like BK!). And when I went down to the kitchen for water, I found a large group of incomings gathered, having just finished preparing dinner and getting ready to sit together and eat so imagine my happiness 😀 It was also great getting to meet medical students from all over the world, who had just finished their internships in other Turkish cities, and were like me, in Istanbul for a final stop before heading back home.

The next day I decided that instead of going to the other side where basically all the touristic attractions are, I’d stay on the Asian side of the city. I first wandered around in Kadikoy, found some amazing street art murals and kept walking until I met the sea from the other corner of the city. It was incredible! One of my favorite things in the world is wandering around and walking just for the sake of it and the opportunity it offers to great findings along the way.

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Kadikoy is way better than it’s reputed for, and I’m glad I decided to spend the day exploring it. In addition, the district has so many bars and cafés and they’re all so different and unique. Like they were on a competition to see which one stands out the most and they all nailed it by bringing out the best edgy unprecedented ambiance they can lay out!

My wandering also took me down Moda Avenue, a venue famous for Chocolate, and well, we know what happens when I meet with that, let alone that it was THE place for it.. so I’m gonna skip the torturing chocolaty details (text me if you want a picture ;))

I ended my day by taking a long walk from Kadikoy to Uskudar (because taking the bus is too mainstream). It was tiring. I walked about 17Kms on a way I didn’t know. All I knew was that both were sea-sided, so as long as I could see the shore, I’m on the right way! And that wasn’t always the case. Sometimes I had to lose it because the road was going up in the opposite direction, until I’d find it again. But it was fun.

Once in Uskudar I rested while drinking coffee in a small café facing The Maiden Tower. The café is nothing but large long stairs covered by rugged carpets and parasols to protects customers from the sun, and what more could we need, right?

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I prayed and took the bus back to Kadikoy. I exchanged my £50 emergency money, to do some final shopping and pay my two night stays in the hostel. The good surprise was that when I called the owner to pay, she wouldn’t take it. She wished me a safe flight home and said it was a pleasure to have me, and that was it! I call that good Karma, because the only reason that got me to stay there was that someone went back on their invitation to host me in Istanbul, the very day  I was heading there..

I got ready and left for the airport, only to find out that my flight was cancelled.. but that’s another long story I don’t want to re-tell. I was back home the same day I was supposed to, so what is there to complain about?! 🙂 It’s just a small inconvenience of traveling, and all inconveniences aside, I am looking forward to the next adventure 😉

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