Wednesday, Sept. 22
Today is our last day in Istanbul. We’ve decided to spend the entire afternoon uploading photos, updating the blog and sending emails. It’s nice to catch up and have some downtime after a busy few days. While sightseeing is exciting, it’s incredibly tiring.
Since our arrival in Istanbul, we’ve managed to cover a lot of ground. And we’ve picked up a few quirky points about the city – the men love to walk around and shout, “Chai, Chai, Chai.” (They’re trying to sell tea.) But they do it so quickly that it sounds like the seagulls from Finding Nemo that squawk, “Mine, mine, mine.” As well, the men and women hate the stray cats. If someone is not yelling about chai tea, they are hissing or shooing the cats, with a loud “Pshht.” It’s been entertaining.
Anyway, a quick break down of what we’ve done in Istanbul:
On Sunday, our first full day, we walked around town trying to get lost so we could experience some interesting areas. Of course, the one time we wanted to get lost, we kept finding our way. But it was still a beautiful afternoon of strolling the side streets and coasting the Bosphorus Sea.
For lunch, we had a beef and rice dish in front of the Blue Mosque – we did the same for dinner. (We basically did that for every meal.)
On Monday we made our way to the Grand Bazaar. It was nuts. There were thousands of people walking through the cramped market. The vendors sold everything you could imagine – leather, silver, gold, original paintings, scarves, shoes, glasses, clothes and numerous trinkets. Matt and I bought a couple little bits, but nothing too bulky.
After the Bazaar, we went to a Turkish bathhouse. It was really interesting. Cagaloglu Hamami (the bathhouse) is on the list of 1,000 things to do before you die. Florence Nightingale, Cameron Diaz and Kate Moss have all been there. It’s 300 years old. Matt and I just did the basic bath (wearing our swim suites). We each had to go into our own bathhouses, which were beautiful. The large marble room was lined with knee-high sinks, full of luke warm water. There, visitors can take a bowl and literally just bath themselves. There was one other woman getting a massage and a bath – it looked painful. Matt said the men getting massaged on his side also looked abused.
And yesterday Matt and I made the trek to the Prince’s Islands. I’m not sure if we hyped it up too much, if we chose the wrong island or if it was just the weather, but we didn’t enjoy it as much as we thought. The island itself was beautiful, but it was incredibly touristy. We had a nice walk down one of the quite roads, which was very relaxing, but the main area was very busy – packed with ice cream bars and cafes. The ferry ride back was a nightmare. It took two hours (the way there took one) and it was packed. When I say packed, I mean that there was barely any standing room. It was so nerve wracking that we made sure we were by an emergency exit.
Anyway, Matt and I have had an amazing time in Istanbul. The city is amazing, the buildings are beautiful and the streets are very clean. We’re planning to take the over-night bus to a place in central Turkey called Cappadocia where we will spend one night. A very broad description of Cappadocia: it’s basically a city made of cave houses. It contains a number of underground cities – they were used largely by early Christians as hiding places before Christianity became an accepted religion. (Thanks Wikipedia, for another fun fact.) Our hostel is actually in a cave, which should be neat.
Then we are taking another overnight bus to Pamukkale. It’s equally as beautiful. There are a number of hot water pools on terraces made from carbonate minerals. The minerals are all bright white, making it look like snow and ice.
After one night in Pamukkale, we are heading to Selcuk, where we will spend two nights. Selcuk is on the west coast and will be our last stop in Turkey. Selcuk and Ephesus (about five minutes down the road) have a lot of historical and biblical significance. One fact: it’s where the Virgin Mary spent her last five years. It should be an interesting experience.
Then, we are off to the Greek Island Samos. Matt and I are spending three nights there. It’s going to be the most expensive part of the trip so far ($32 a night, each!), but we think it will be worth it. The island looks beautiful, the water is clear and the beaches are bright white. We will relax there for three nights until we meet my sister in Athens on Oct. 2.
We are looking forward to experiencing different areas of Turkey and continuing on with our backpacking adventure.