Turning Thirty in Turkey

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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What I did
Mosques, Palaces, Bosphorus

Flag of Turkey  ,
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Turkey has been my favourite meat for some time, so what better place to spend a significant birthday! And more than that, the lead up to this event started in Ghana with roast turkey on the menu for the marking of USA Independence Day at work. Probably the best meal I've eaten in Ghana actually. I had a deliberately sedate week leading into this break. I wanted to build up my sleep reserves so I could hit the ground running in Istanbul. When I got on that bus to Accra, the journey began and I was looking forward to the travels ahead. Mum had already departed Perth, landed in Singapore and taken off again for Istanbul – all before I had even left Accra! Turkish Airlines was fine, but I didn’t really experience much of it since I was attempting to doze when meals were handed out and didn’t 'wake’ until we were descending. Only a 6 hr flight and I really didn’t sleep thanks to the restless smelly person next to me. But hey, I was safely in Istanbul and paid the $60 visa fee to the unwelcoming people at immigration and then realised that my flight was an hr late and Mum would be arriving in less than an hr. My bag took ages to appear on the carousel and as soon as I got it, I bumped into Mum coming down the ramp from passport control. Glad that I didn’t have to wait around for 2 hrs as expected. Although there was an Iranian sports team in the terminal and I have never seen so many mono-brows!

Our hotel is great. Very nice staff, big room with 2 king size beds, and best hotel breakfast I’ve seen. No view, but I just wanted the space and a bit of luxury knowing that the remainder of our trip accommodation is more budget. Istanbul is a very historic city and one that I had little knowledge of. A city that started Greek (Byzantine), and then Roman (Constantinople), and then under the Ottomans from the 1400’s as a Muslim city where all bar 1 of the Christian churches were turned into elaborate mosques. Lots of history, lots of culture and a city that is split by the Bosphorus river/strait that divides Asia from Europe. There seems way too many people in this city and every street is bustling and a bit annoying with traffic, people and stray cats. Plus it is a struggle to find a place that serves alcohol in this Muslim city – especially when you’ve walked a mile in blazing sun and have no idea where you are!

We were fortunate to be able to check in our room despite arriving at the hotel around 830am. Time to unpack, shower and get ready for a full day. We managed to tick off 3 major tourist items on day 1 – the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome (Roman chariot race field), and Hagia Sophia (1400 yr old church/mosque). The Blue Mosque was crowded and sweaty, but definitely a must-see in Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia was impressive and to witness where Roman Emperors were coronated was incredible. The remainder of Day 1 was spent walking around, getting lost on the wrong-side of the city walls, a refreshing beer on the hotel roof-top terrace, an average meal and then sleeping like a log!

Day 2 started at the Basilica Cistern, which was the city’s main water supply in the Roman period and now a very impressive underground structure with many marble pillars all lit up reflecting over about a foot of water where many fish now swim about. Then to the Palace where we spent a good 5 hrs exploring the many rooms of the Sultan’s main residence and ceremonial chambers. No photos allowed in the Treasury, but impressive jewels, thrones and weapons. Including a massive diamond that was uncovered in a landfill! Even saw Moses’ cane and other relics from prophets. I then had the most bizarre haircut experience I’ve had. I’m used to the lack of English and random cut, but this barber was accompanied by an 8 yr old boy who made me an Apple tea, gave me a neck massage and then the barber put a wad of cotton wool between the scissor blades and the kid brought out the biggest cigarette lighter I’ve ever seen. At this point, I was a tad anxious about what would happen next. With the cotton wool now well alight, the barber flicked the flame into my ear canal! I never thought I had much ear hair, but anything I had is now well and truly incinerated. He then moved to my left ear while the kid cleaned out my ear with an alcohol dosed swab. All a bit odd, but I had to laugh and take in this moment, hoping my eyebrows would not go up in flames!

And then the day...the big 3-0! Age has never meant a great deal to me, and even as a teenager I wished I could just skip a decade to a period where I was financially secure, knowledgeable and able to do what I want to do. So, with dedication and determination I have got myself to that point and spending my birthday in a place such as Istanbul is something that I would never ever have thought of just a few years ago. And to be in a position to bring my Mother who never dreamed she would ever see these places in her lifetime is quite special. So, even tho age is just a number, it still warrants a splurge and a cracker of an experience to remember this milestone by. So, I didn’t want to hold back. Cruising up the Bosphorus in a private ’yacht’ (I still hesitate saying yacht cause it is not what I would call a yacht, but that is what their website says) all the way to the Black Sea was a great day out. Of course, having a few more friends and family on the boat would’ve been great...maybe for the 40th hahhha. We stopped at the Rumeli Fortress which is on the European side and amazing. A brief stop of only 40 or so minutes, but enough time to climb the jagged steps to the top, take in the view and carefully guide Al back down. Definitely worked up the thirst for a bottle of Moet back on the boat where we had a seafood lunch (not my ideal food, but ok) and took in the sights. Mum felt a bit sick on the way back, but she forgot to top up her travel-easy pills. Still didn’t stop her from taking photos tho!

We were shuttled back to the hotel about 4pm and skyped my sisters from the roof-top terrace. A great way to reflect on the cruise. Then off to a fancy roof-top restaurant on the other side of the city with an amazing view from the best table and delicious food, wine and a night-cap scotch. A great way to finish the day!
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MG on

Looks amazing, excellent pics. V jealous.

globalchild on

Clearly I need to go there. How is the language barrier thing?

travellingross on

For sure Leah, i think you would love Istanbul. I thought a couple of times "oh, Leah would love this". Language is fine. All tourist areas speak great English, but a struggle with taxi drivers and off the beaten track.

travellingross on

Thanks! So many pics to choose from.

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