Turkey: insane Istanbul, relaxing Olympos, Scott

Trip Start Mar 05, 2002
Trip End Jan 2003

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

We did end up getting some sunny weather in Montenegro, and enjoyed our time there. We didn't want to leave. When we did, we went back through Dubrovnik, then flew back to Zagreb, then to Istanbul the following day.
Istanbul. How to begin to describe it? It is beautiful, crazy, and cheap. The city is a real mix of old and new cultures. Two enormous mosques dominate the city, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. You hear the call to prayer several times a day and many of the women wear head scarves and a few don't show their faces. But there are also tons of tourists in tank tops and shorts, modern skyscrapers, and crazed taxi drivers. Istanbul is a city of seven million people, but the majority of attractions are in a central area.
We are reminded of Morocco in some ways, as it is a Muslim country, but it doesn't seem to be quite as devoutly Muslim. Nobody seems to pay any attention to the call to prayer, and alcohol is easy to find.
Turkey is also a bit like Morocco in the way everybody wants to talk to you (aka sell you a carpet.) They all want to know where you are from, how long you are here, and tell you about their brother/friend/uncle who lives in Ohio/Seattle/Miami. My favorite things are when we are walking down the street and the guys outside their shops say "yes please" to try to get you to go in their shop. Another guy who works at a kebab stand says "yummy yummy, good for tummy" every time we walk by.
Scott arrived a little less than two weeks ago, and we spent about five days here in Istanbul, visiting the mosques, the Basilica Cistern, taking a cruise on the Bosphorus (the stretch of water that seperates Europe from Asia) and enjoying the good food. We also visited the grand bazaar, which is a collection of thousands of tiny shops selling jewelry, leather, silk, hookah water pipes, plates, incense, and everything else you could think of, from antique record players to bananas to wedding dresses.
When we'd had enough of Istanbul, we took an overnight bus to a place called Olympos. There is nothing in Olympos except some ancient ruins and a single dirt road with about 20 tree-house hostels. Not a single carpet shop, post office, gas station, or convenience store. We stayed in a bungalow, for about ten dollars a night, and that included breakfast and dinner every day.
Olympos is beautiful. The beach (on the Mediterannean) is beautiful, and the hostels are in a nearby valley. When you are done with the beach or ruins, there is nothing to do but lounge in the hammocks or on the comfy cushions surrounding the tables. The ultimate place for rustic relaxation. It felt like camping, but you didn't have to light a fire or do the cooking. Just show up every night for a delicious meal.
Scott and I returned to Istanbul two days ago, and after I recovered from a bout of food poisoning, we spent yesterday at Topkapi palace, checking out the old sultan's harem and the amazing collection of enormous emeralds and bejeweled daggers and so forth.
Scott left ths morning (boo!) and I am taking a night bus to a town called Pamukaale, where I will meet up with Lisay, who stayed in Olympos.

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