It was a long 12 hour bus ride from Thessaloniki to Istanbul. The bus was decently comfortable and pretty empty so I had the row to myself. We all got woken up to go through customs at 3 am and then again at 4 am to go through customs in Turkey. We were out in the freezing cold for half an hour and I was drugged up on Nyquil so I was exceptionally unhappy to be awake and out in the Arctic Tundra of Turkey. When we arrived in Istanbul at 8 am none of us had any Turkish currency (Lira) and we couldn't find anyone who spoke English. We had no ida how to get to our hostel. After half an hour of struggling to find directions, we finally got on a "free" bus shuttle and then another shuttle we then hailed a cab to take us to our hostel's address but the cab dropped us off far from our hostel claiming it was "just around the corner." He didn't speak much English either. We hiked around town with our bags for half an hour before finding haven in a starbucks. We all felt much more at home and safe in a Starbucks, a little piece of America in Istanbul. I asked a random man in starbucks if he he would let us borrow his cellphone to call our hostel, he agreed and called the hostel for us. The hostel said they would send a worker to meet us at the Starbucks and to escort us to the hostel. We waited 45 minutes and no one came so one group of 4 people left to try to find it themselves, then 15 minutes later another group of 3 left to go search out the hostel themselves. Finally, 15 more mintues later, the last 4 of us decided it was our turn to find it. Lesley had a map pulled up on her iPhone and I stopped and asked 3 different people where to go. Finally, we found it. It was off a main road but down a sketch little alley then to a small dead-end road off the alley. The hostel was actually super nice, much nicer than I thought it would be for 8 euros a night for an 11 person room. Luckily we had all 11 people so we didn't have any randoms. There was free coffee and tea provided all day long and the beds and bathrooms were all fairly clean! I was pleasantly surprised. And the owner and guy at the front desk, Vulcan, was incredibly helpful and kind. He gave us detailed directions to everywhere and anywhere we wanted to go. There were a few handfuls of other young adults staying in the hostel but I didn't socialize with them much.
After settling down in our hostel, we left and explored Istanbul. We headed off to the Grand Bazaar.
|Stephanie, Kelsey, and me outside the Grand Bazaar|
|all the gold!|
|silly turkish hats at the Bazaar|
|all the beautiful turkish lights|
The Grand Bazaar was amazing! It was filled with so many wondrous things! The place was a bit like a labyrinth but every corner and aisle was filled with gorgeous scarves, twinkiling lights, funny clothing, and piles upon piles of jewelry! I bought two scarves, tigers eye earrings, a ring, a small bowl, a few coasters, and some coin purses. I felt so rich too because the conversion rate is amazing! I pulled out 250 Lira which is only 120 American dollars or so. I also did a lot of bargaining. One vendor was asking 40 Lira for a scarf and Kelsey, Stephanie, and I talked him down to 11 Lira each. Some vendors were stubborn with the prices but some were willing to move their prices with some prodding. One thing that absolutely all of the vendors had in common was that they were all overly flirtatious and semi-sleazy. Every vendor either called me a spice-girl, a charlie's angel, or simply showered me with compliments.
The most memorable moment was when one vendor took a ring and proposed to me and said that he would fight off all other suitors in a duel with knives. That was epic.
After the Grand Bazaar we headed off to the blue mosque. The blue mosque was beautiful but we arrived too late and were not admitted inside. We still got some good photos outside though!
|the blue mosque from afar|
|the blue mosque at dark|
Turkey Part 2 coming soon.....