Monday, January 12, 2015

Turkey - Istanbul

We were having very mixed feelings and expectations as we flew to Istanbul, Turkey from Santorini, Greece - but mostly excitement I would say. As the weather in Santorini has not been ideal during our stay there - it was mostly windy and rainy on the last few days and we were not really doing much, we were quite excited for some exotic hustle and bustle in the Turkish Bazaars (yes that's the image of Istanbul I had in my head). However, I said mixed feelings and expectations because our driver from the hotel to the airport in Santorini was telling us he did not understand why anyone would want to go to a place like Turkey after beautiful Greece. I guess it was also due to the complicated political and cultural conflicts between Greece and Turkey throughout history that as a Greek, our driver is not really a fan of the neighboring country. Honestly, we did not know too much about the background about the two countries and hence did not want to expect too much.

Touching down at the Istanbul airport, the first problem we had was that for some reasons we could not take out any money with both of our ATM cards - even though we were able to find the ATM machines of our banks. As we were already running out of money and we really wanted to shop at the bazaars ASAP (LOL), we were freaking out a bit. The second problem was that even though we had a car booked in advance, it took us quite some time to be able to find our driver. Finally, we were sitting happily in the car with our luggage, bombarding the driver with as many questions as we could think of about the city i.e. what to do, what to eat, where to eat and etc. The car was soon turning into some narrow streets that led to the apartment that we would be staying at for the next couple of days. 
We were greeted by our Airbnb host, Marco, who has been extremely friendly and helpful since we booked the accommodation a few months back. His apartment was absolutely beautiful. We loved the style and the decor of the place - every single little detail was well taken care of. And the best thing about it? Reasonable price! So glad we chose this over a hotel.
After unpacking and freshening up, we spent the night walking around Taksim Square (a busy cosmopolitan centre with shopping malls, restaurants, stores, street stalls, markets and etc) which is only around 10 minutes walk from the flat. We had dinner at a local turkish restaurant and it was YUMMY - espeically the grilled lamb chops - oh emm geee. After dinner, we went to a local bar for some shisha and tea (no alcohol for me) - doesn't this place look magical?
We bought some fruits on our way back home (fresh fruits are so cheap here in Istanbul!) as "after-dinner dessert", and we went to bed feeling healthy :D

We spent the next few days just exploring the city, visiting historical sites such as the Basilica Cistern, Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and etc Below are some of the photos at these beautiful places:

All these places were extremely fascinating but one of my personal favorites would be the grand bazaar - it has so much to see and buy, and so as a girl who loves shopping it is just perfect for me haha. So much fun to do all the bargaining with the stores owners!

Another one of my favorite would be the Bosphorus river tour - the views were breath-taking and it was extremely cheap as well! Perfect way to know the city.
The food in Istanbul was very interesting and it was a lot of fun to try different kind of foods such as kebab/ mussels stuffed with rice - but one of the craziest food that we tried would be this fried lamb brain. My boyfriend LOVED it, but for me, let's just say I would never take another bite of this again.

After three days with my boyfriend, he flew back to Hong Kong because he had to get back to work, and I stayed at Istanbul for 5 more days before I continued my Europe trip to Germany. I stayed with a couple of Turkish girls who were friends of a Spanish friend of mine that I met in Spain before Turkey. Even though it was my first time meeting these girls, they were extremely friendly and I was so grateful for their hospitality. I had my own room and also everything that I needed. They welcomed me with a homemade Turkish Breakfast on the first day I arrived to their place.
They also brought me around the city - even though I had already went to some of the places with my boyfriend before, it was a totally different experience to re-visit them with locals - I got to experience Istanbul from an entirely different perspective with a much deeper knowledge on their politics, history and culture.

On one of the last days, as the girls were all busy, I travelled by myself to Prince Island which is a few hours of boat ride away from Istanbul - and it was absolutely beautiful. I met a girl on the boat who was from Kuwait and it was a lot of fun just listening (singing) to songs on our iphones, sharing our travel stories and etc. It was one of my favorite things about travelling alone - to meet with interesting people from all around the world and to share stories with each other. For me this is how you experience the world.
Hope you enjoyed reading my travelling story in Istanbul! Subscribe to my blog and stay tuned for more travelling posts x

Emi xx


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