i'm stealing the old slogan for winnipeg and applying it to istanbul. now that winnipeg is 'the heart of the continent'...i'm sure they won't mind. we really liked istanbul...it was definitely one great city. and i say that even though we missed a bunch of stuff. you know how it goes...travel planning, getting acquainted with the area you are staying in and then resting from exhausting travel days all gets in the way of actually seeing the sights. that said we were able to stay in all sides of istanbul by the end of our trip to turkey. there are two european sides, the first is the area between the sea of marmara and the golden horn and the second is between the golden horn and the bosphorus strait. the third side is on the asian continent.
most of the touristy bits are in an area called sultanahmet which is where we stayed our first night. we arrived after our night train from greece without planned accommodation which i supposed i'm getting used to. other than the smelly bathroom, which we would soon learn is a common problem in turkey, our hostel was adequate for the one night we stayed there. we were once again fortunate to find a couchsurfing host...mehmet. we met him our second night at the kadikoy ferry terminal with a handmade sign held in front of us like we were limo drivers waiting for our passenger. we drove for a long time to reach his apartment but were treated to endless amounts of tea upon our arrival...at midnight...before bed. apparently, in turkey, you can't ever have too much tea, no matter what time of day.
breakfast at mehmet's was a turkish feast set out on a low slung table in traditional kurdish fashion...mom-made cheese, omelete, olives, bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, honey with the comb still in it and rich creamy spread which reminded us of clotted cream...oh yah, and tea. so delish. so not vegan. luckily he had some time off that day and he was able to show us around after breakfast. we spent the day wandering through sultanahmet visiting the spice bazaar, the blue mosque, hagia sofia museum and the grand bazaar.
blue mosque on a hazy day
one of the side entries to the blue mosque courtyard
column in the hagia sofia
beam detail in the hagia sophia
the grand bazaar - this was a calm area
i really wanted these...all of them...so beautiful
turkey, of all the countries, has been the place that we have couchsurfed the most. before we left winnipeg we attended a couchsurfing karaoke night where we met a turkish fellow named tacettin. we met up with him and his wife marija for dinner during our first stay in istanbul. they extended the invitation to surf on our return to the city which we gratefully accepted. our last host in turkey was avsar, a young designer type living in a young designer type neighbourhood called besiktas. this was our favourite area of istanbul. crowded, lively and hip. lots to do and near to everything. we had a night out with avsar and some american student friends of his at a local pub with a live traditional turkish band. good times.
unfortunately our very last experience in turkey was not a good one. we were warned about scammers and taxi drivers in particular by others that had been to istanbul before us. we experienced nothing but friendly people and good service our whole time in turkey. until we had to resort to a taxi to the airport. when we called to confirm our flight the ticket agent warned us that there may be a transportation strike the next day. avsar called the morning of our flight to make sure the trams were still in service. and although there was indeed a strike, the trams were running as scheduled. well, we did catch a tram but it only took us up to sultanahmet which is quite far from the airport. we had no idea if what bus we could catch or what was actually still in service so we opted to spend a bit of cash and catch a taxi to the airport. the strike had already caused a delay and we were running about 1/2 hour behind.
we ran up to the first cab we saw and asked what the fare was to the airport. the driver assured us that he had a meter and took our bags. neither jason or i saw a meter but neither of us questioned him about it. we were in a rush. we were stupid and naive canadians. the driver engaged us in some small talk as we made our way to the airport. on arrival he turned around and said '38 lira' in his thick turkish accent. jason handed him 40. a second later the driver turned around with 25 lira in his hand and said '38 lira' again. jason looked bewildered and told him that he just gave him 40. i thought perhaps the driver had said 48 lira and was now asking jason for the rest of the money. i said to jason 'maybe he is saying 48'. then the driver said '48 lira'. we didn't have anymore lira as we hadn't planned on taking a cab so jason pulled out his hidden travel wallet where we kept the rest of our cash. he tried to discreetly look through the wallet for an equivalent amount in euros but the driver brazenly started grabbing for the money. somehow he managed to get all of our cash out of the wallet and into the front seat. he was fanning out the money showing us all the euros and american money we had. we were stunned. this was all happening way too fast. i grabbed the money out of his hands and gave 30 euros back to jay. once again the driver took the money out of our hands so that now he had 30 euros and 40 lira fanned out in his hand. both jay and i were shouting that 30 euros was more than enough...worth at least 60 lira. finally after much protesting he threw the 40 lira back at jay, grumbled about how we were cheating him and told us to 'get out, get out'. we were already late to check in for our flight so we just took our bags out of the trunk and left.
i was flustered and upset that this was our last impression of turkey after such a great 3 weeks. once we were settled at the gate and waiting to board our flight jay decided to count the cash we were able to pull away from the cabbie's grubby hands. we were short $40 american. so a cab ride that was supposed to cost 38 lira (approx. $27 cdn) ended up costing us over $90 cdn. i was so angry...at the cab driver...at jason...at myself...at our stupidity and naivety and our canadian-ness. stupid. naive. canadian. just what the scammers live for.
i have to remind myself that it could be worse. jason could have been beaten and taken for alot more money. we are safe. we are healthy. and we still have very fond memories of turkey.