Sep 03, 2011
The bus ride from Sofia, Bulgaria to Istanbul, Turkey was by far the nicest transportation I have had on this tour around the world so far. They served me Turkish tea and snacks the whole way. There was digital television mounted in the head rest of every passengers seat but of course I couldn't understand any of the stations so I took the time to write my last blog entry. I boarded the bus at 3pm and arrived in Istanbul at 2am it was a long eleven hours but plenty comfortable. When I got off the bus at the station in Istanbul I obviously had no idea where I was going to stay or how to even find and get to the center so I could look for a place. I began asking people if they spoke English and found out real quick it was going to be difficult to get directions to the center. I finally found one guy that told me it was impossible to walk to the center and the taxi would be very expensive. I was thinking to myself nothing is impossible and if I could just get some direction I would be there before the sun came up. Someone finally told me to get on the courtesy shuttle bus and it would take me closer to the center and drop me off at a subway station. Ok great but how do I know when to get off the shuttle bus and how in the heck am I going to converse with the bus driver, knowing for sure he didn't speak English. I got on the shuttle knowing it would at least get me closer to the center one way or another. I was just about to ask the guy sitting next to me if he spoke English when he asked me in French if I spoke French. I said "English" and he then began to rattle off more French and Turkish as if I would eventually understand him. I understood a few words but not near enough. While we were trying to talk to each other a guy named Ali overheard us and spoke out in very understandable English "do you need help?" he said. I told him my situation and he explained what I needed to do and we continued to talk about random things during the ride. He and his wife were just about to get off the bus when he told me I should just come with them and stay at their house until morning. I jumped at the invitation without thinking twice! They let me sleep on the couch in their very nice town house. Ali played his Greek guitar for me at about 3:30 in the morning and then we decided it was time for bed. Tuba which is Ali's wife and her friend Sarmin cooked a wonderful Turkish breakfast for us the next morning then Ali took me to his friends hostel. After checking into the hostel he took me around the center and showed me some things, introduced me to some people, and took me to a nice place to eat. I bought our dinner to show my gratitude to my Turkish friend. The food is wonderful in Turkey, I had Iskender which is a very thin sliced beef spread over the top of pita bread with hot butter poured all over it. Very delicious and you have to try it while in Turkey. I spent the rest of my time in Istanbul walking around and taking pictures. The tourist areas are really nice but for me the real experience is wondering off to the backstreets where the tourist don't go. I was able to get a great meal for $2.50 and the same meal would have cost me $15 in the tourist area. One of the places I stopped to eat had a bar-b-que grill in the dining area with a beautiful copper vent hood over it. The guys were very nice...I could tell by all the smiles and sign language while trying to converse. They thought I was Turkish when I first walked in because of the beard which came in very handy while walking around for those of you that think I need to shave it. I met 3 blonde hair German guys and decided to walk around with them for a little bit. And after about 30 minutes they told me how jealous they were of my beard and how they had not been bothered as being tourist the whole time I had been with them. I didn't even realize the local merchants were pushy until they told me how they were getting asked to buy something every time they turned around. They thanked me for being their "Turkish guide" through the city. On my last day in Istanbul Ali and I planned to meet up again so he could show me some other parts of Istanbul and he wanted to buy me dinner at probably one of the nicest shopping malls I have ever been to. After dinner Ali helped me arrange my bus to head south and we said our goodbyes. Once again I had a great experience and met some new life long friends.