Thursday 11 February 2016

Istanbul.... At last!

Just before Christmas, my mum and I set off on a weekend journey to Istanbul. Since it's a 4 hour flight and a 2 hour time difference we only ended up with 1 full day in the city. But we made the most of our time there and managed to see quite a bit. One of the things I like to do in a city where I don't have a lot of time, is one of those hop on/off bus tours. Although they may get on my nerves in London, I can see how useful they are for helping you get a taste of all the main sights and travelling around a city that you probably couldn't do is you were just on foot.

Since we were visiting in low season, the buses weren't too regular, and we only ended up getting off once - since we had to wait a really long time to board the second bus! It worked out in the end though, as we were on the bus for a lovely sunset.

This trip has been 6 years in the making. I was supposed to visit Istanbul on my trip to Eastern Europe before heading to Korea, but I had to cut that short in order for my passport to be in the Korean embassy for a week getting my work permit. Who knows why it takes the Koreans so long to process that visa but despite me contacting the Korean embassy in Istanbul to see if I could get it done there, I was forced to fly back from Split in Croatia over a week before I had planned to. This also meant that I didn't make it to Sarajevo or Belgrade. Those places are also still on my list! I had also talked to Chelsea about heading Turkey with her, but our dates never worked out in the end.

So, finally December 2015, I made it! The weather was lovely, freezing cold but super sunny! I sampled the delights of apple tea, street pretzels, Turkish delight and a huge Turkish bread (kinda like a pitta). 

The city was full of stray cats - I love cats so that was nice. There was only one incident with a stray dog, where I was worried it might follow us. It didn't seem to, but I was cautious none the less! In the city centre, we took a little trip on the traditional tram, which only travels up and down one street but was cool anyway. I bought a flower headband, on a whim and took far too many boxes of Turkish delight back in my suitcase!

I can't believe that in January some crazy person detonated a bomb where I'd been standing a few weeks before. It's really sad, and I was quite surprised that there wasn't nearly as much coverage as there had been during the Paris attacks. The body count might have been lower, and the victims all foreigners but I'm not sure I want to be categorising acts of terror by their body counts alone. Let;'s just all agree we should #prayforpeace 

It was very cold on the top deck of the bus!

One observation from me was how different your experience can be as a woman with or without a head scarf. We visited a market near our hotel whilst we were in Istanbul, where I experienced two different interactions. During most of the trip I wore my scarf over my hair. This was because it was so cold and this was the best way I had of keeping warm with the clothes I had brought with me. I'm no scarf tying expert and quite often it would slide off. So during our trip to the market, on the first walk up the street I had the scarf over my hair, and on the way back it had slipped off. Both times men came up to try and sell me knock-off perfume. I wasn't interested and just ignored them until they left me alone. Whilst wearing the scarf their sales patter was all about how great the perfume was, a good deal, cheap blah blah. Without the head scarf, as I walked away they shouted 'You want this perfume, you look like Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Britney (other American singers)' at me. It was strange, that once I had my hair showing, it was ok for them to talk about my appearance, but with the headscarf, although they could see I was foreign; they spoke to me in English both times, they were less interested in commenting on my appearance and more about how good their products were. I'm not wholly surprised about this, but it was interesting to me actually experiencing the difference.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Wanderings Lately :: January 2015

It's nice to get January out of the way, it's a bit of a nothing month where you're just missing Christmas and hoping the weather is going to improve. Which it isn't for another few months! At least in England anyway.

For me, this month was fairly uneventful. I was fully back in work mode, getting more familiar with my new job whilst continuing on my learning curve.

I had a couple of outings this month, and ended it with a trip to Berlin for my friend Jasmin's 30th. February has begun with a trip to Oxford for work. I'm a little annoyed that I forgot my camera, so any photos I take are with my phone. But it's nice to be back here (I visited for a day trip a few years ago) and I'm staying in a lovely flat walking distance to the city centre. Added bonus is that I'm travelling back to London on my birthday and I've got a sneaky half day off as I'm free once I've dropped the students off on their walking tour! Woo!

Here's my last month in photos.


I went to a late opening at the Royal Academy this month. They had a masquerade ball, which was a lot of fun. Although I didn't get particularly dressed up, it was still great to wander around the place in the evening. My friend and I saw the Jean-Etienne Liotard exhibition, some lovely street food and enjoyed a little bit of music by the band Don Kipper.

I also joined snapchat at the end of last year, and although I haven't quite got the hang of it just yet, I'm having fun messing around with it! (That's where this photo is from!) I really like the geotags (the one above is from my house in Southwark).


As I mentioned on my last wanderings post, I gave myself a present this year of a 3 month book subscription and the first one arrived at the beginning of January. I got through it pretty quickly, and it was just the sort of book I enjoyed (they chose this from my preferences). I finished the story on the plane to Berlin, and so I left it (as I didn't want to carry it home) in the hostel there. Although I like to keep books, I know that it's generally a bit wasteful as I don't tend to re-read any of them - the only exception for me so far is Memoirs of a Geisha. So I left it in the Generator Berlin for someone else to discover.

My latest book just arrived, and although I'm currently reading something else, I'm excited to start this one too. Obviously based on my enjoyment of Agatha Christie (again preferences) it's a mystery story by Dorothy L Sayers. Hopefully I'll finish this before the final book is delivered at the beginning of March!


As I said in the intro, I went to Berlin at the end of January. I've visited once before, when I was interrailing after university and I loved the city. Although it rained whilst we were there, I can say that it's still on my list of top places I've been. I also got a photo whilst there posing by the big lego giraffe outside legoland. It's clearly been rebuilt since 2007 though, because there was a lot less room between the front legs this time!

I enjoy going back to places I've been before, especially since I've now got quite a lot of travel experience. On that first trip, way back when, we rocked up in new cities without a guide book, no map or hostel reservation. All we had was an address of a hostel we'd noted down in the city before using an hour's internet at an internet cafe. We picked up maps (and advice) at the train station and winged it. I don't really travel like this anymore, and realise that's not the best way to maximise your time in any place, especially if time is limited to a couple of days. 

It's also interesting to me how different my experiences of places are. Second time around in Berlin, we bought fruit beers at a little shop on a tube station and ended up drinking them in our hostel room and never making it out to any clubs. We ate in a lovely (but not cheap) restaurant which we discovered online and was a short walk from our hostel and explored areas of town where my friend had lived for a few months previously. On my first trip, we went on the organised pub crawl, took a cycling tour (the following day; hungover) and ate on the cheap. I don't really think either way is better than the other necessarily (except for the hangover part) but just different and so much to do with how I live my life at this age. I don't go to clubs at home, so why would I suddenly be compelled to go to one in Berlin? 

Places that I visit now, for the first time, will definitely leave a different impression on my than they would have, had I gone when I was 22 and on my first independent trip. I suppose the important thing I want to remember is that, that is ok. I don't need to drag my tired bum to an underground techno club that I'm not going to enjoy, or have my dinner in a cheapo fast food place, because I want to have a good time in the place I'm visiting. Of course, if that's your thing then that's fine too!


and now... I'm in Oxford! I've been here 3 days, and mostly been working as I'm overseeing the arrival of one of our Spring semester groups. It's been fun though, and I've so far visited the Eagle and Child pub (where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to hang out), New College, wandered around the most famous sights (Bridge of Sighs, Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library) and also took a quick trip to Narnia (obvs). I'm going to try and check out a few other places in the next week, whilst also working (!) and writing as much as I can of my dissertation! Thankfully I have a work laptop for the week, as my Macbook has died and needs to go into Apple hospital when I get back to London! :-(

::Up next for February, I'm turning 31 (eek), starting lent (giving up meat again?) and studying, studying, studying! What does your February look like? ::