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.

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