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:
The 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!
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!