A Travellerspoint blog


Mummies, baklava and fish sandwich...last rites of Istanbul

sunny 27 °C

What does one do on their last day in Istanbul? When you know you fly out in the late afternoon it's kind of weird filling in your day. But I had two things left on my Istanbul to do list. One: the Archaeology Museum. Two: Baklava.

It is another sunny day in Istanbul and I know that it will be quite some time before I experience this kind of warmth again.

After a slow morning where I miraculously fit EVERYTHING in my pack, I treated myself to an espresso macchiato which was more like a very small cappuccino. Still, it was real coffee! I can already hear the sound of the espresso machine at home as I make my strong, skinny soy latte... And it won't cost me 5.50TYL! But then I did get to listen to some Ben Harper this morning whilst I was there and have the coffee guy keep asking me if I understood what he was saying, which was pretty much 'can you understand?' I certainly could understand that.

Off to the Archaeology Museum I go. Along with about seven classrooms of eight year olds. I am soooo glad I made it there. Only 10TYL and I loved it. I kept snapping and snapping away and I literally have 1 photo left on my camera. Just one. So I better not see anything else worth taking a photo of. Also scattered around the museum were art students which gave the place a 'living art' feel. I am again amazed at the museums in Turkey. You can touch nearly everything. Well you are allowed to but I just couldn't do it. In some parts you were not able to take photos with a flash or with a tripod. Which of course basically meant that if you don't have a steady hand...very blurry (or I like to call them artistic) shots is all you get.
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In the early afternoon I wandered across the Galata bridge with the anticipation of baklava spurring me on. And of course it was worth it!!! A box to take home and two to indulge on the spot. It is my last day after all. On the way back I grabbed a fish sandwich from the dramatically rocking fishing boat on the water. After eradicating the smell of fish from my hands I began to stroll through the masses of people. Where would I spend my last remaining hours in Istanbul?
Back to my favourite hiatus. Gulhane (Gool-hahn-e) Park. Again there were kids everywhere but they didn't hound me this time. Instead their laughter and squeals of delight added to the atmosphere. A few texts from home and I am ready to jump on that plane. Mum tells me there may be a delay at the end due to the swine flu panic. Lucky for me I'm as healthy as a horse...well, an Australian horse not one from the Princes' Islands.

Wandering through the market area I'm not hassled any more as they seem to know I'm not buying. I go to my local supermarket (really more like a milk bar) and he again gives me a free gift with such enthusiasm - more dental gum! Not sure if he is trying to tell me something.

Back to the hostel - my bags are still there in the cleaners room. And here I sit waiting for my shuttle bus to arrive. I can't believe it is almost over. This trip has exceeded my expectations - which were pretty high!

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 05:11 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Tram, palace, kebab and fistik magnum...just another day

sunny 27 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

I slept in this morning. Thanks to working out I could sleep more securely with a pillow wedged up on my left side where the bed slopes downwards. It is strange to think that my Turkish adventure is almost over. And there is still so much to see!

Today I decided to jump on a tram to the Dolmabahce Palace. What I didn't realise was that you HAVE to take a guided tour. And it being tourist season I had to wait in an impressively long line, in the sun, for about an hour. But it was worth is. Such a pity that you aren't allowed to take photos inside this extraordinary place 'cause I would easily have taken a couple of hundred. So incredibly opulent. It was like something out of a fairytale. Including a crystal staircase! Every surface was covered with something, be it a carpet, a chandelier, an ornate dinning setting, a painting, etc. etc. I was thoroughly enthralled by it all that my radar was malfunctioning and I somehow got myself caught up in a 'light' conversation with a man...a Turkish man. Ah yah! Leave me alone! I wanted to scream at him.

He wanted to take me to Taksim, 'it is my duty to take care of you - as you are alone.' It is amazing how someone can find any manner of way to touch you either on the shoulder, hand or arm. Ergh! I think he was an annoying Turkish man 'in training' as I heard him talking to another woman in the group and I figured out that he was assuring her that he had tried all the usual tricks of telling me that he could take me to the cheap places in Taksim.

My brush off was not heeded as he continued to talk to me and stand too close for comfort. In the end I forced my company on some other poor guy who was walking in our group. What luck he was an Aussie from Melbourne who used to be a Contiki guide! Thank you Mark!
The rest of the tour through the harem was even better now free of my leech. In addition to his saving me, over lunch I got all the insider goss from Mark about what it's like for a Contiki tour guide - what really goes on behind the scenes.

Back on the tram I went as Mark jumped back on his double-decker hop on hop off bus of Istanbul.

As I had stupidly told the leech that I was planning to go to the Archaeology Museum this afternoon I changed my plans. What is a girl going to do when she has time to kill in Istanbul? Hmm...might need a Magnum Fistik to think about that.

Shopping? Of course! Inspired idea. Now the trick is to go shopping to use up the remaining Turkish Lira without letting the shopping owners know you are just trying to spend your money. I had some great conversations actually. Gave me faith in the Turkish men again :) After a little retail therapy I headed back to the Blue Mosque. I sat in the park between the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya as the afternoon turned to evening.
It was getting pretty hot in the sun so I moved to a shady spot next to a man of about 50. What are the odds of sitting next to a German who plays the didgeridoo? He had never been to Australia but he was so excited to be sitting next to an Australian girl. So we spoke about circular breathing (like I know anything about it!) under the watchful eye of his wife.

Istanbul is really such a beautiful city. It has everything. I can even appreciate the call to prayer which is hauntingly drifting through the night as I sit typing away on the terrace looking over the city. That is until the resident DJ adds a little Shakira. Not quite the same feel but...well, Istanbul is a mixing of the old with the new so perhaps it is appropriate.

Tonight I had dinner at my favourite restaurant in Istanbul. Doy Doy. They looked after me as a single gal. They even knew to give me Turkish tea rather than apple tea. I find that if you try to speak Turkish (even if you are bad it) and do it with a genuine smile then you win them over pretty easily. Then they win me over. It's a win win situation.
Being a single traveller has its challenges but I've met some great people that I would not have met otherwise. Even at dinner tonight I chatted to two English women who are here for a week and then two Kiwi's joined me for dinner. The guys at my hostel have been great too. The beds may be levelly challenged and the breakfast a bit hit and miss and I may even be kept awake by the sounds of cat fights and the boys chatting out the front of the hostel. But it's been great. They have looked after me and made me feel at home which is really what it's all about.

Okay, now the music has moved onto some hard core rapping...what will come next DJ? Wait for it...I think this one is for me...a little Kylie! On a night like this...

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 11:48 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Recipe for adventure

sunny 30 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

Interesting start to the day. I woke up late which my body very much appreciated. What it didn't appreciate was me falling out of bed! Luckily my humour was in check. I had swapped beds thinking that perhaps Rachel's now vacated bed was more level. Perhaps it's just a sign that I'm almost ready to go home to my double bed.

After a stodgy breakfast I headed out into the sunny day feeling confident of where I was going - I'm practically a local after all...well maybe not.

I ended up on the opposite side of Sultanehmet. Well, I'm always up for a walk. I reached into my back for my map and crushed my stolen boiled egg from breakfast. Thank goodness for good humour! I enjoyed a brisk walk along the water in the direct sunlight. I then did a bit of a zig zag so I could walk through my favourite part of Istanbul. Gulhane Park. Pieta would so love it there. It's incredibly green - the type of green we just don't see in Melbourne anymore. My photos don't do it justice.

It's funny the things that will suddenly make you think of home. Walking through the park someone started up a lawn mower.

Travelling discovery: Getting lost when you are on your own is not nearly as funny as when you are with someone else.

Recipe for adventure: Take one single female traveller with very little Turkish, no sense of direction and a habit of going with the flow. Mix that with an out of the way tourist attraction, a local bus and a pathetic map.

I finally got on a bus which had a different number to what I was expecting but was assured it would get me to Kariye Museum. Being told when to get off is great...but with no signs it doesn't do much. Not being afraid of a bit of a walk I headed off and over shot the museum by about half a km. Finally I would stop every two streets asking 'Merhaba, Kariye Museum?' With this method I got to see a lot of back streets and then finally the museum. By this stage I was thinking this better be good!

It was. I could easily say it is my favourite museum in Istanbul. The frescoes are incredible and the stories they tell are so vivid. I put a serious dent in my remaining photos on my memory card. The detail and the stories told in these works of art are awe inspiring. I did however find my self wishing they had some sort of contraption that could wheel you around on your back. I walked through twice and was equally impressed the second time even thought my neck was aching by the time I walked out to enjoy a boring toasted cheese sandwich.
After lunch the fun began again. My lack of direction really came in to play this time. I did find my way back to the main street and even found the right bus with the right numbers. I relaxed on the bus and tuned out...until...I didn't recognise anything. I wandered up to the front of the bus through crowds of Turkish men to speak to the guy who sells the tickets. 'Eminonu?' I asked hopefully. His shocked expression confirmed my fears. He was concerned and pointed to the back of the bus. They stopped the bus for me and he gestured for me to catch a bus from the other side of the road. Problem was, I was in the burbs of Istanbul and had no idea what a bus stop looked like.

I walked in the direction he had pointed me and walked and walked. I began to wonder how long it would take me to get Sultanehmet on foot when a bus hovered near me in traffic. I figured it was at least going in the right direction and I was already out of my depth. As they had the door open on the overcrowded bus in order to get air into the bus I took a gamble and jumped onto the moving bus. I ignored the surprised looks of the others on the bus, paid my fair and hoped for the best.

We drove through what must be the wedding dress district. I'm talking about some pretty impressive dresses of all colours and styles, all manner of fluffy and explosive designs. All was going well until I realised that I could see the Blue Mosque in the distance but we were going the wrong direction! So in keeping with the theme of the day I jumped off a moving bus. With the general direction in mind I walked and walked. First through the hardware district where they were selling chainsaws on the side of the road. Then I moved into the boat tackle district until I finally found the water and then with a sigh of relief I saw tourists with cameras! I had finally found touristville again.
Surely that adventure deserves a Fistik Magnum! I had a lovely chat to an English woman who has been living in Istanbul for a year and knew even less Turkish than me then wandered back (ON FOOT) to Gulhane Park for a little R&R before heading back to the hostel via the cooking class I wanted to book into. All booked out :(

Back at the hostel - here I am. Sitting in the rooftop bar on the free internet listening to some pretty eclectic music, enjoying an Efes and the view of the Bospherous as the sun descends on another full day in Istanbul.

I've only got 1 1/2 days before I have to fly back home. Sigh...how can I go back to the daily grind again? I'm sure it will happen way to quickly. For now I'm enjoying the feeling of another adventure...

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 08:40 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Best baklava and another museum in Istanbul

sunny 32 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

For someone who isn't really into really sweet things I've really taken to the baklava here. That is, the baklava sold just over the Galata Bridge in a place called Karakoy Gulluglu. Rachel wanted to buy some to take back to London and I was more than happy to sample some more. The chocolate baklava was pretty spectacular. I'm now sold on the idea of buying some before I go and hoping that I can get it through Australian customs. I can just see myself sitting at customs eating the baklava rather than allowing them to throw it away. But they vacuum pack it an everything so they better let me through!

So there we were at 10am eating baklava - Alicia would be proud of me!
Today we headed to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. I think it is one of my favourite places in Istanbul. I know it was probably influenced by the fact that there were very few tourists in there but the exhibition was beautiful. Lots of carpets which I don't think I would have really appreciated if I hadn't gone to the talk in Cappadocia. There were also books which I always have a soft spot for.
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After such a cultural experience we decided it was appropriate to have a fistik Magnum. Why not? It was Rachel's last day. Back at the hotel Rachel managed to get everything in her bags and we said goodbye. So sad to say goodbye to my new friend but I'm sure we will meet again. I did manage to get a photo of her dropping her water bottle which was a daily occurance throughout our travel together.
An afternoon spent on the internet (first time since Konya) had me discovering that my obsession with Fistik Magnums has got me top listing in a google search!

Tonight I met up again with Pam and Harry from Melbourne for dinner. So amazing to come all the way to Turkey to meet two people who live only suburbs away from me and know so many people I know through St Aidans. We have decided to meet up in Sydney road for some Turkish coffee when we get back to Melbourne.

An early night for me...

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 08:26 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul shopping 'til you drop

sunny 32 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

Today was all about shopping. It was Rachel's last full day in Istanbul and she had a list of things to buy. Not relishing going to the bazaars by myself I decided to tag along.

I think the trick with shopping in Istanbul is to not try and get the best price because you honestly have no idea what that is. The idea is to just get YOUR best price. Whatever you are willing to spend. That way you don't get upset when you realise that you paid double what someone else was willing to give you.
I, for instance had no intention on buying ceramics...well I bought some. I had been interested in a lamp but never intended in buying one...I did. Oh and the guy who sold us the lamps, he asked if we were sisters (we look nothing alike). And he assured us that all Australian girls have blue eyes 'I've seen it on facebook'. The authority on what Australians look like obviously!

Rachel and I got thoroughly lost more than once and I managed to purchase more scarves - honestly, you can't have too many! I'm going back to an Aussie winter afterall. Hey, Rachel bought a hand sewing machine! Something I'm sure I've seen in the Innovations catalogue. They started at one for 25TYL and ended up offering 2 for 15TYL. She bought one for 10TYL.

We finally found the spice bazaar and bought some Turkish delight to take home. Vacuum packed an all!
Oh should I share some of the lines? Yes.

'Oh spice girls!'
'You dropped something. My heart'
'Hello my darling'
'Can I ask you something small?'
'Just one moment, your father must be a jeweller'
'This is a good place to spend you money'
'You from Japan?'
'I guess, Australian? Holland? American? etc.'
'You like Turkish boy?'

and so they go on.

Where was I? Oh, we were shopping and very very tired and hungry. We finally found our way back to somewhere we recognised and walked into one of the really touristy restaurants to have a gozleme. Yes we were tired but this restaurant was the worse yet.

Firstly, the prices were outrageous - but we expected that on the main strip. Then when the food arrived it was pretty pathetic. It wasn't spinach it was silverbeet. I don't like silverbeet. The cheese was pretty hard to find and poor Rachel ended up with literally just hot sausage. They hadn't cut it properly so Rachel asked for a knife. They refused to give it to her because 'you eat with your hands'. Then the music started. Oh, the music! Soooo loud! Four instruments and not what we wanted to listen to for our break from the crowds. But it gets worse! I asked for our bill just as the band stood up. They evaded us like they didn't understand what I had asked for. Then I realised what was happening and my patience disappeared. Especially when the band stood right in front of us playing a whole song and gesturing for us to give them 5TYL. I shook my head. Then they played another song!!!! The bill arrived and I saw they had already included a tip in the cost so I shook my head again to the tambourine man and happily received a dirty look before they moved onto the next poor table.

Back to our room for some quiet and for Rachel to try the impressive effort of fitting everything she bought into her small pack. Did I mention she bought a carpet in Cappadocia?

Out again for dinner we found a little place with a very very attentive waiter called Genge (however you spell it). Again for some reason the attention was on me. The young Genge kept telling us jokes but had to tell us he was being funny because we couldn't understand what he said. It was very amusing. But the best part...

...as seems to be tradition we were given complimentary tea at the end of the meal. And I mean apple tea (aka tourist tea). I really can't stomach it any more. It's just too sweet. So when it came out and it wasn't just a small glass but basically a mug of it I was distraught. I didn't think I could drink it and would it be rude not to drink it? Clearly my brain was in fine form as I had an inspired idea. When Genge wasn't looking I would just spoon it into the iced tea can I had had earlier. So little by little I spooned the very sweet drink into the can. That is until I realised that it was really heating up the can. Genge came back to the table flirting and talking (really it took no input from us to keep the conversation going) and then it happened. He reached across and cleared the table. When he picked up the can his face registered confusion but he kept talking. We pretended, with difficulty, that nothing was amiss but his confusion continued until finally he stopped his flow of words and exclaimed that the can was hot. How did it get hot. I admitted that it was me. Rachel pipped in to say that it was too hot and I was using the can to cool it down. How that would work I don't know but he seemed to accept it and even praised me for being a clever Australian.

Leaving the restaurant was hard work as he pretended not to understand what 'can I have the bill' meant but eventually he let us go with a hand shake and a kiss on both cheeks. Such a bold boy for 18 years of age! And the end of a day that was rich with laughter!

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 07:58 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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