When we arrived in Istanbul, Nat, Laurano, Sarah and I went to visit the famous the Blue Mosque. Inside, the carpet felt very soft on our bare feet and people were still praying so I felt disrespectful taking photos.
Next we went to the Grand Bazaar with its constant spruiking. We got lost easily, walked in circles and couldn’t find Laurano. So the rest of us went to Sulemanyie Mosque which had many mosaics with Sanskrit writing.
Then we crossed the Ataturk Bridge over the Golden Horn to the Galata Tower in modern Istanbul and climbed it for a view of the Bosporus Strait. I counted 13 mosques that I could see over the water in Istanbul old city.
After dinner, we went to the nearby Orient hostel to watch a belly dancing show- very entertaining in a bizarre sort of setting. After the show we all went to went to a Turkish bar which had males doing a traditional line dance and drinking circle. I thought it was a gay bar for a moment as Sarah and I were the only girls there.
The next day, Sarah, Nat and I went to Topkapi Sarayi. The arched Gates of Felicity at the entrance looked just like a western castle, except for the Turkish flag flying on top. There were some weird looking towers, which turned out to be part of the palace kitchens and the Golden Sultans look out terrace had a circumcision room. Scary stuff! We were shuffled like cattle through the 400 room harem on tour group.
Sarah and I went to Dolmabahce Sarayi the following day. This palace, surrounded by water, is the most recent palace of the sultans and was the most beautiful to me. I liked the presents from kings around the world- bear rugs from Russia and elephant tusk tables from India. I noticed that the birthing room in harem area was tiny, but the bathing houses were numerous and had glass peep holes in the rooves. Priorities I guess!
We got on the wrong ferry back from the palace and ended up in Asian Turkey. There were more street stalls and beggars instead of hustlers on this side and it felt a little scarier. It was dark by the time we found the ferry back.
That night, Sarah and I went out to Taksim- the main nightclub area- which was filled with university students. We were accompanied by Nat, Dan from Ohio and three more male American “body guards.”
We were lured into a bar with the promise of two free beers with entry, but every drink after that was charged at London prices. We went to Discotheque 1001, which turned out to be a prostitute bar and then caught a cab home a little disappointed with the whole exercise.
The next day, Sarah and I went to Yerebatan Sarayi- the underground water storage cistern. It was very humid down there with lots of fish swimming about around the boat.
When we got back to the hostel, we said our goodbyes to Dan who was leaving for Bulgaria that day and arranged to meet him in Sophia in a couple of days.
The following day was census day in Istanbul, so everyone had to stay at home and lots of shops were closed. Sarah and I made the mistake of venturing outside without our “body guards” to spend the last of our Lira on Turkish delight and we got about ten times more hassle than usual.
We’d had the best time in Istanbul and agreed it was our favourite place so far mostly due to the people we had met. After a few last drinks at the hostel, Sarah and I said our farewell’s and got on the night train to Sophia.
Related posts: Grece, 1997, Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella Italia, Italy, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to Florence, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona, Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona, France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, Belgium, 1997, Holland, 1997, England, 1997, I first started travelling, By special request, Home is where you make it, I first started writing