Istanbul is such a diverse city filled with so many different colours, smells, and different experiences. It’s our 7th day here, and we’ve barely scraped the surface of what Istanbul has to offer.
Yesterday we moved from our accommodation in Besiktas, outside of the city centre, to accommodation 150m away from the Blue Mosque (which is pretty much as central as you can get). We arrived in Istanbul absolutely exhausted from a month of travelling and working. Being continuously on the go, whilst maintaining an internship and client projects is hard work. Like, exhausting. It’s great, and we wouldn’t change a thing, but it’s definitely not a weeks trip to Fiji, lazing on the beach, reading books and sipping piña coladas sort of a holiday. In Italy we met up with Dan, Dave’s brother, and spent two weeks with him seeing the southern part of Italy, which was so much fun, but it was lovely to get to Istanbul and just be us two once again.
We arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday evening, and had a relatively brainless and easy trip to our airbnb, thanks to our host, Basak, giving us great directions. She was going to meet us at the ferry station, and needed to know when our ferry was going to come in so we’d organised for her to call us when we arrived. When we got on the bus my phone started ringing, but when I picked up my credit ran out, and the call dropped. I have an auto-renewing account, meaning that when credit gets below 2€ it automatically tops up another 10€, however I’m guessing because we were outside of the EU it didn’t top up, so she kept calling and I couldn’t answer. We decided to try and see if anyone would let us send a text off their phone to our host, and the first person we asked not only offered their phone, but let us call, and spoke to Basak for us letting her know the traffic conditions and that we’d get there ok. It was our first experience with the Turkish people, and the rest of the trip has been very similar; they are such wonderful people.
While we were staying with Dan, we spent our time in some really nice, and some not so nice hostels, and Dave and I couldn’t wait to finally have a double bed (even in the hotels we’d been in, they seemed to always be singles put together) and a space to call home for a while. We’d decided to be in a neighbourhood about 2km away from Taksim Square, and about half an hour travelling distance from the historical part of Istanbul, and we couldn’t have asked for a better place.
Basak picked us up from the ferry and we walked to her apartment, and I was so surprised to see so many beautiful and cool looking cafés alone the way. The level of English was very low from what we’d become accustomed to, so it made us feel like we were escaping from everything for a little while, getting to know a different and somewhat ‘less discovered’ place, which is what we love about travelling. It has also meant practicing our Turkish, which is definitely not easy! We so far can say hello, goodbye, thank you, thank you very much, yes and no. The concierge at the hotel we are currently staying at was so surprised at our (Dave’s) Turkish, saying, “How did you learn Turkish?” And when we laughed it off, he asked again. Taking the time to learn even the smallest bit of the language of the place you’re in is such a valuable thing, and we feel much more respected by the people we talk to. We saw a lot of Italians that seemed so jaded by the tourism industry and the amount of people that refuse to even learn a simple ‘grazie’; lots of people seemed so grateful and happy to not only hear us try and say thanks in their language, but also that we learnt ‘two’, and ‘I want’ etc…
The past 6 days have been so relaxing; we’ve barely done anything, and we’ve loved it. It has only been yesterday that we have really seen the sights people see when they come to Istanbul. Two days ago we spent 90% of our day inside while it rained, lying on the couch together watching TV shows planning for getting back to Australia and the rest of our time in Turkey. We’ve spent our time in Istanbul so far exploring the neighbourhood of Besiktas, going to its cafés, walking down the back streets, figuring out what Turkish food we like, eating in for a change, cooking, relaxing, catching up on work, going to the movies…
Part of the reason we’ve loved this has been because we haven’t planned our trip in advance. We knew that we had 5 nights in Besiktas, and after that, the world was our oyster, which meant we had the freedom to rest knowing that if we wanted to spend more time here, we could. While that can be stressful, it’s also extremely freeing as it gives us the opportunity to decide to stay in Istanbul longer and explore the different areas and relax. In Italy we travelled in the same way with Dan, however instead of doing nothing, we tried to fit everything into our small time there, spending no more than 2 nights in every place, seeing everything we could in our short time frame.
We’ve booked two nights at the place we are at currently (one night down, one to go), and then we have planned to head to Çanakkale, which is right near Gallipoli, Troy, and some other apparently stunning places. We’ll probably stay there for 3 or 4 nights before heading back to Istanbul to fly out to Dubai. I’ve always gone, as soon as we leave for Thailand, which is essentially heading to Dubai, our trip is officially basically over. Can’t believe that in three weeks we’ll be in Australia. We can’t wait.