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Day 5: It’s like Asia met Russia and had a Middle Eastern baby

Day 5: London to Istanbul, Turkey

Another beautiful morning in London and a big day for us. We woke up at 3AM to catch our plane to Turkey and attempted to utilize the Uber app which was easy to use but rather unsuccessful in that although it said that our driver was arriving, he never appeared outside Shamsa’s house and it kind of looked like he was just around the corner on the app…then it just told us our ride was cancelled! We tried again but the time of arrival kept jumping around from 11 mins to 9 mins and back to 11. So, we ended up waking up poor old Shamsa again and she called a reliable cab from the company she usually uses. Uber is a great idea and probably works for many people but middle of the night with a plane to catch is an anxious time to be using it!

We flew with British Air to get to Turkey and it was a terrific journey. Excellent service, great breakfast, and kind staff. The plane wasn’t full so we were able to both have 3 seats to ourself meaning nap time!!

We landed and had what had to have been one of the fastest arrivals I’ve ever had, breezing through customs with barely a glance at the visa we had gone to such great lengths to obtain online and then our bags were out super quickly. We had decided to take the subway to Zeytinburnu (sp?) and then tram in to the city as the trip seemed easy and cost effective, which is was, however, carrying massive bags on a crowded tram car does not make me popular, let me tell you! We struggled a bit at first but successfully figured out that the airport being the terminus, all trains would go to where we wanted to go. About 10 seconds after figuring this out, a kind local stopped to offer assistance – a good start indeed.

Alighting at Gulhane stop, in the heart of the old town area, we quickly found our hostel with the help of some other locals we recruited. Other locals attempted to sell us things as we walked along, prompting a discussion we would have again in the next few days, on the topic of “knowing your audience”. Yeah mister, I definitely want to stop and haggle with you over a keychain with 40lbs worth of stuff on my back…said no one ever.

We were greeted most graciously at our hostel, Second Home, by the awesome Mr. Moustache, Memo, and his partner in crime, Can. They welcomed us with apple tea (yum!) and gave some advice about what to see and do. There was also an adorable kitten called Mimi, who promptly curled up on my puffer coat and fell asleep….for the remainder of the afternoon! She was too cute to move, so I left my coat there for her to sleep on.

Our first stop one that afternoon’s explorations was food, of course. As per the recommendation of Memo and Can, we tried a fish sandwich down by the river for TL6. It seemed to be quite popular, as many locals were queuing for it, and it did hit the spot, but in all honesty, eating creatures which come from that grimy body of water is a little unnerving.

Carrying on with our sandwiches we headed up and over the Galata bridge towards Galata Tower. There were a wide array of fisher people packed along the railing of the bridge. I stopped to look in one of their buckets and asked if the fish they were catching was same same as the one in my sandwich to which I received: a laugh, a yes, and the name of the fish, which naturally, I cannot recall now. It was silver and not so big though, for all you taxonomists out there. 

While walking over the bridge, I made the observation to Leah that so far Turkey reminded me a lot of China but the elements of the architecture and peoples appearances made me think of Russia and the Middle East. Hence, the title of this post.

With full tummies we were prepared to put our glutes into gear to get up the hill to the tower. Steep cobble stone streets work up an appetite however, so we stopped part way up at a little coffee shop called Cherry Bean for a cappuccino and a square of delicious chocolate. This cafe was super cute, small, and had wonderful food. The two people working there were a little brusque, even more so after I knocked over a wooden display stand. Not my finest moment, and on that note we continued up the hill to the tower, where I continued my brightest moments hits tour by forgetting to take my 25TL change from the ticket guy. Especially enjoyed the snicker and the eye roll from the lady behind me in line after that one.

The view from the tower is pretty good, but the walkway is very very narrow, so I cannot imagine what it’s like when it’s actually busy there. Another kind of unpleasant thing is the fact that smoking is allowed basically everywhere, even at the top of a historical building, albeit a stone one, so can’t even enjoy the view without inhaling chemicals.

Once we climbed down from on high, we made our way back down to the bridge via a beautiful little jewelry shop called (I can’t find the name but I’ll put the link here layer!). We picked up some beautiful earrings handmade in Turkey and an evil eye necklace made of glass on a silver chain. The girl working at the shop was so kind, friendly, and helpful….thank you! 🙂

After that, you’d think we’d head back home, but lo and behold, we got distracted by bright lights and pretty things and headed through the market near the new mosque. We sampled baklava and Turkish delights and ended up getting some baklava for dessert. That done, we finally headed back for a well deserved rest!

Sidenote: Sorry for sucking about lack of timeliness and lack of photos. I’m having issues with the method I thought would work for uploading photos and because I forgot the charger cable to my iPads Bluetooth keyboard, my typing on the iPad screen is a bit slow. 😦

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