Istanbul

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So little brother Nate decided to book a trip to Europe, and we weren’t quite able to work Sarajevo into his itinerary this time.  Instead we looked at destinations where I could easily meet him for a few days, and we settled on Istanbul.  Such an enormous, ancient, historical place seemed like an excellent way to spend a few days, the shopping would just be the icing on the cake. I’d only been at post for about two months and felt a little funny trying to take off work already, but then sat down and thought about it…I haven’t taken any vacation days since December.  That is a long time.  So happily my boss agreed and I booked a short flight to see baby brudder!

We slowly started doing our respective research, and booked a room at the Cheers Hostel right in the heart of the Sultanahmet district.  I feel like I’m getting a little old/fussy for hostels, but this one had SUCH great reviews, had private rooms, and the location simply couldn’t be beat.  I was scheduled to arrive around noon on Sunday, Nate would arrive around 5 and we’d begin or exploration.

So the week before my trip hit, and I just started to feel like someone had let the air out of my tires.  I was exhausted, constantly bouncing between freezing cold and burning up, and no matter how much I slept I couldn’t seem to feel rested.  Unfortunately it was one of those weeks of work where calling in sick just wasn’t an option, so I quarantined myself into my office whenever possible, and looked a lot like this:

me at workThe weekend hit, and I was actually worse.  Had an official fever, nasty coughing, runny nose, the whole deal.  But DAMN IT this was my vacation!!  So I shut myself into the apartment all weekend (missing a trivia night and a good friend’s birthday party) and slept.  And kept sleeping.  And slept some more.  I woke up for the airport on Sunday morning and still had a nasty fever, but much like a frustrated parent might do to get their kid into daycare, I pumped my body full of Tylenol and decided yup, this was happening.  I hopped on a plane and promptly fell asleep, sleeping a solid two hours before touching down in Istanbul.  I grabbed the nearest cab, showed him my destination, and took in the lovely sights of the coast as we drove to the old part of the city towards my hostel.  We got a little lost along the way, and (despite what I’d heard about Turkish cab drivers) this guy was insanely kind and patient and called my hostel several times to get directions.  I could understand his confusion, the streets were bonkers.

I got to the hostel, checked in, walked up to my room on the 7th floor of a walkup (just shy of 100 curvy steps) and promptly slept for another 2 hours.  By this rate, this trip was going to prove pretty interesting.  I pulled myself together, showered, and dragged my poor pathetic self to the lobby to wait for Nate to arrive.  It was SO great to see him!!  We took his bag up to the room, and decided to wander around the city a bit before settling on dinner at Medusa, a lovely little outdoor patio with great Turkish food.  After a little more strolling around, I begged Nate to forgive me, and told him I needed to go to bed.  He was very kind, accompanied me back to the room, and I was asleep by around 8:00pm.  Quite the raging start to our vacation, to say the least.

***

I woke up Monday and felt like a new woman!  My energy was back, my fever had broken, and breathing was much easier.  Things were looking up, but just to be sure we made our way to the nearest Pharmacy and stocked up on the Turkish equivalent of Sudafed.  We ate our complimentary breakfast at the Hostel (typical fare: bread, jam, cheese, hard boiled eggs, fruits, veggies, tea and coffee.)  I ordered a coffee and promptly spilled about half of it making my way to the table…this is why I can’t have nice things.  (It embarrassed me so much I ordered tea the rest of the trip.)

Instead of listing all of the individual sights we saw, most of them with funny names and similar looking architecture, I’ll let you look at some gorgeous pictures of the things we saw!

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque - my favorite shot of the trip

Inside the Blue Mosque – my favorite shot of the trip

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View from the Galata Tower

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Standard pensive shot (sorry, no “My Domain” arms, we were in close quarters)

Süleymaniye Mosque (The Magnificent!)

Süleymaniye Mosque (The Magnificent!)

Foot-washing station outside of the Süleymaniye Mosque

Foot-washing station outside of the Süleymaniye Mosque

One of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar (bonkers!!)

One of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar (bonkers!!)

Gorgeous view of the Blue Mosque from a nearby rooftop bar

Gorgeous view of the Blue Mosque from a nearby rooftop bar

Whirling Dervishes - men that get into a deep state of prayer and twirl around.  Actually more impressive than it sounds.

Whirling Dervishes – men that get into a deep state of prayer and twirl around. Actually more impressive than it sounds.

Overheard in Hagia Sofia -  Nate: "Well look at that hairy angel"

Overheard in Hagia Sofia – Nate: “Well look at that hairy angel”

Nate's fancy dinner, cooked in a flaming clay pot.  Kind of awesome!

Nate’s fancy dinner, cooked in a flaming clay pot. Kind of awesome!

 

 

 

Sorry, lots of pictures, hard to pick just a couple!  As far as shopping goes, I got VERRRRRRY tired of the aggressive salesmen and haggling.  Despite these drawbacks I still managed to take home a small prayer-sized Turkish rug, a scarf, and “Evil Eye” that will serve as my Turkish Christmas ornament.  We sampled doner kebaps (beef, lamb, and chicken), mixed grills, amazing hummus and bread, calamari, pasta, and while we did enjoy the food, I did find myself wishing for some more variety after a few days.  So we sought out a Thai restaurant named CokCok (awesome) and got our fix, sort of.  We were both hoping for noodle dishes and they seemed to specialize in rice, oh well.

As far as the atmosphere itself was concerned, the city was gorgeous and full of life.  Tourist from all over the globe were there, the streets were lined with colorful lamps and lanterns, delicious smells came from bakeries (baklava!) and from restaurants with glorious displays of rotating roasted meat.  and everywhere you looked people were having a great time.  It was interesting seeing all of the different types of tourists there, from Americans in their tennis shoes to those that were on spiritual pilgrimages.  Women in tank tops and shorts, women completely covered from head to toe (in black no less, in the hot sun!).  English was plentiful, and we had no trouble communicating with anyone.

One thing that really got on my nerves – cameras.  Nobody could simply take a couple of shots and then put their cameras down and take in their surroundings.  I was CONSTANTLY fighting with tourist shoving their SLRs into my face, blocking my view, cutting off my path, and basically making the experience less enjoyable for everyone.  Don’t even get me started on the selfies.  I will admit Nate and I took a few, we wanted a couple of pics together and I don’t know about you, but handing my phone/camera off to strangers tends to be hit or miss when it comes to quality.  But man, we were at the top of the Galata Tower, overlooking incredible views of Istanbul on all sides, and this chick in front of us took (not kidding) about 100 selfies total.  It was incredible, she wasn’t even changing her pose from shot to shot.  And she was doing it from an IPAD!!  AAAAAH!

***

So anyway, after bashing selfies I’ll leave you with one of my favorites from the trip.  Had a wonderful time catching up with Nate and seeing a new city.  Until the next adventure!

istanbul selfie

 

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I used to live within a few hours of Indiana Beach…this is a little different

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So Bosnia has treated me very well, and I’m settling in here nicely, but I was ready for a change of scenery.  My car isn’t here yet, so I posted on a Facebook site for expats that I needed some suggestions, stating that I was looking for a few tours I could do over Labor Day weekend.  Wouldn’t you know it, one of my awesome coworkers (I will call her C, I had literally met her only one time in the cafeteria…we probably spoke for all of 45 seconds at this point) offered me an amazing opportunity.  She was headed to Trogir, Croatia, and did I want a ride?  And did I want to stay in an inexpensive apartment with a view of the water?  And did I want to hang out with someone who actually spoke the language?

Um…yes.  A quick Google search confirmed it: Trogir was going to be awesome.

So we left on Saturday morning and started the 5ish hour drive to the coast.  On the way down, C wanted to stop in Mostar and I was happy to oblige.  This?  This is Mostar.

Nope, I didn't take this pic

Nope, I didn’t take this pic

The stones on the bridge are worn smooth, very slippery and kind of perilous

The stones on the bridge are worn smooth, very slippery and kind of perilous

Mostar is an amazing old town with an iconic bridge crossing the gorgeous green water of the Neretva River.  We wandered around a bit, had a coffee, visited some shops, and then decided it was time to get on the road, and make our way to the beach.  (I have every intention of returning for a longer visit.)  After many hours, C’s expert driving landed us in Trogir, making our way through the tiiiiiiiiny roads that would lead us to our apartment for the weekend, who belonged to C’s friend’s mother.  We arrived, shared a beer with our landlord for the weekend, and headed upstairs to be greeted by this view:

trogir apt

We changed, had a snack, and then took the opportunity to stretch our legs and head out exploring.  We wandered around on the beach, enjoyed dinner and the sunset, stocked up on a few groceries, and headed back to the apartment.  After some ice cream and red wine, we were spent for the day and decided to turn in.

The next morning we were on a mission : time to find a beach.  The main beach along the boardwalk was fine, but C got some advice on finding some off the beaten path.  After driving a few minutes to another part of the island, we found it.

trogir beach

Woa

So gorgeous (not just the water, amiright?)

So gorgeous (not just the water, amiright?)

We laid in the sun, enjoyed swimming in the crystal clear waters, relaxed, and generally just enjoyed the day.  After about as much sun as this ginger could stand, we headed back to the apartment for a shower, (and in my case, a quick nap), then headed into the old part of the city, a Unesco World Heritage Site!

trogir balcony trogir church trogir unesco

We wandered around the city (amazing architecture, so much to see!), enjoyed a Radler (half lemonade, half beer) in the town square, did some shopping, and enjoyed a most excellent seafood dinner at Restaurant Kamerlengo. I ordered shrimp scampi, and to my surprise, these were presented to me:

Well, this is awkward

Well, this is awkward

I’m sure there are parts of the world where serving entire shrimp to a person is completely normal.  Let me tell you, my Midwest upbringing did not prepare me for this.  C gave me some pointers on how to eat them, and I think I did an ok job.  (Was unsure what to do with the heads, I got creeped out so I left them untouched.)  At any point, regardless of the creep factor and the extra effort, the shrimp were crazy delicious.  I loved getting to watch the “kitchen” at work, basically an old Croatian dude standing in front of a wood burning grill, throwing on fresh seafood and chatting with customers.

We spent some more time walking around and taking in the city, caught this gorgeous sunset as we made out way back to the water taxi towards the apartment.

Bliss

Bliss

That night as I slept, a CRAZY thunderstorm rolled in, woke everyone up and took out our electricity.  (Took out the fan in my room and the AC unit in C’s room!)  The next morning, discouraged by the rainy weather headed our way, we begrudgingly made our way back to Bosnia.  Unfortunately we were not the only ones doing so, we got caught for nearly an hour crossing the bridge out of Trogir, stopped at the border crossing back into Bosnia, and were heavily delayed by crazy rainstorms that threatened our journey.  The drive home took WAAAAAY longer than it was supposed to, but the trip was so worth it.

BIG thanks to C for letting me tag along on your trip, thanks for showing me the ropes and how to make the most out of my time here in Bosnia.  Looking forward to many more trips during my tour here.

trogir feet