One year later and I am back in Istanbul. As I try and write this - nearly three weeks late, it reinforces why I write my blog. So much happens in a day, in a week when I travel that, if I don't try and record some of it, it is gone...until I look at some pictures. Even then, many funny things I want to remember often are lost until I see something or smell something and it comes back. So, as memory serves me....I got here by flying Turkish Airlines (wow - what amazing big airplane seats, great service and superb meals!!) from Madrid to Istanbul where Janice was waiting at the airport. Jan and I used to work together at the police service a few years ago: she eventually moved to Thailand to teach English and then came back to Canada and returned to her job as a counselor for a school division. During my first year of travels in Asia, after getting homesick for Asia while reading my blogs, she decided to meet me in Thailand and we traveled Thailand and Malaysia together. The last couple of years she has been living and working in Africa - specifically Mozambique and Tanzania. So it had been a long time since we were on the same continent. Lucky for me I received an email from her when I returned back to Madrid after my two day Camino and we decided to meet each other in Istanbul. She was backpacking thru Egypt, Jordon and Israel and was headed for Iraq. I was headed for no particular place so it worked out perfectly....except I have no desire to visit Iraq at this time. So - Turkey it is.
I was here in Istanbul nearly a year ago on a cheap week long getaway with my friend Andrea. We only saw Istanbul so I knew there was a lot more to see. And there has been. Jan and I travel the same way - no plans, just see where the day takes us and that has really been the case in this country.
Because she had been in Istanbul for a few days before I arrived, she was caught up with all of the magnificent tourist highlights - and they really are amazing - for pics, look back to last years blogs and pictures. After being kicked out of our first hostel......the police came in in the morning and shut the place down - the lock went on the door as we hurried out into the street.......long story.....turned out fine as our next place was nice too.
When we tried to figure out where to go after Istanbul, we just chose the capital city as a starting point. On our way to the train station to buy a ticket, we stopped for a cold drink at a kebab restaurant. Istanbul, well all of Turkey, is smoking hot in June....like in the high 30's, low 40's hot.......lots of drinks needed.
Long story (as always), we sit, the old man running the place keeps trying to speak to us - something about Michigan -he is really frustrated that he can't tell us his story - no English, we have no Turkish....standoff. so he goes and phones his nephew to come to the restaurant. His nephew arrives and tells us their story. It involves a son in Sarnia Ontario (near Michigan), a farm of Water Buffaloes in the middle of downtown Istanbul they milk for Yogurt and a bunch of other really fascinating and random tidbits. Most of all he asked us why on earth we were headed to the capital city Ankara - it was dullsville. when we told him we knew nothing about Turkey, he got us a map and planned our entire trip. He circled the 'must sees' and we have pretty much followed his routing. The guy at our second guesthouse tweaked the map a bit, added his two cents and his favorites and off we were. First to a high speed ferry to take us a few hours to a place to catch a bus for our first stop.
There is very little English in Turkey and even less off the tourist path so it has been challenging at times, frustrating some of the times and funny all of the time. Turkey is a Muslim country - the call for prayer is the only constant - 5 times a day from every turret and minuet on what seems every corner. Jan and I wish we were more used to it so that it might become background noise but.......even with her recent days in Egypt and Jordon, it has not softened the harshness we hear when the speakers start to crackle. We have even become fairly opinionated on voice quality and other elements of the chanting. Respectfully opinionated of course.
And baklava...Jan can discern between 'perfectly runny' baklava from 'not runny enough' baklava.....hence the excessive number of pictures of street food from Istanbul. And don't even get us started on 'Turkish Delight' or the current men's hairstyles in this country......