Day 254 - 258 : Taming the 'Bul

Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
Trip End Mar 23, 2011

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Flag of Turkey  , Istanbul,
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

High on the original travel list, which has gone through far more chops and changes than Kev's facial hair, Istanbul was unfortunately scratched very early on in the trip. The emergence of cheap airlines in the EU has however, like many fellow broke-ass travellers, made the impossible a reality for us – and with the chance to ditch our all too comfortable western travels which we were becoming accustomed to – we headed far east (technically onto another continent for a day!).

Our next phase of travel wasn’t going to be overly straight-forward, and after having spent many weeks stationary, we were relishing the chance to go on another bold adventure. We set off from Amsterdam for an early morning flight (6am) after seeing a late-night gig (2am). Sleep was decidedly for the weak, so we pushed on – grabbing our bag (singular; really getting the hang of this light travel mumbo-jumbo) and getting over to Schiphol just in time with the last bus for the night. 5 days would be spent in Istanbul, a flight to Riga where we would spend the night and then to back to the Big B for another short stint. Then, onwards to Amsterdam to grab Fiddy all in time for KG’s Birthday and prepare ourselves for +1,000km’s of driving.

But, to get back on track, Istanbul was simply amazing. We arrived and were immediately basking in 25 degrees of warmth, a sudden and glad change from the -3 degree snow and arctic winds the Dam nailed us with. Second, we encountered the street merchants – juice, fruits, nuts, breads, yoghurts, cigarettes, phone cards and any other moderately useful tool or tasty snack you could want; all for under a euro. We were quickly taking a shine to this place.

We spent the day roaming around the bazaars, haggling for all sorts of trinkets; drinking endless amounts of šay as well as consuming all manner of freshly made sweets, Baklava & Lokum high on the list. We saw some amazing sights; the Blue Mosque being awe-inspiring, and very recommended; as well as having really great conversations with expats and locals, all of whom were extremely open and friendly. At night (after drinks in some very cool meyhanes), we got to bed down in another CS (thanks Yucel!), this time in a small neighbourhood outside the city totally devoid of any tourists – the look on the locals faces when me and Ann strolled through, picking up groceries, exploring and speaking our best Turkish was hilarious.

Our trip here was rejuvenating, the change in culture, language and setting being very welcome. To complete the cleansing, prior to our departure, we headed to a Hamam. Always trying to make things more difficult for ourselves, and save a coin or two in the process, we headed to a bath house only frequented by locals. Half the price, and twice the authenticity than those you’ll see in the tourist square - it did take a bit of effort to find, and no English was spoken -but it turned out to be a highly memorable experience. Ann loved her massage, was offered free shampoo and came out positively glowing. Kevin also came out much cleaner than he had been in several months (probably years), and whilst very thorough, likened some aspects to a small insight into the world of water-boarding. Having a 40 year old Turk, clearly possessing more than twice my strength, grip my head with one hand and nail it to the wall whilst violently splashing alternating cold and hot water on my face was certainly going to clear a few cobwebs and get the dust out of my pores. It was somewhat homo-erotic.
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