Wednesday, 3 August 2011

ISTANBUL


I arrived at the main bus station at 5,30 am on Wednesday, July 20th. It was a long night, with plenty of “gets off & on” at the borders and duty free zone for the regular checks. Once arrived, I had to run and catch my host Hun before he goes to work. I made it on time following his instructions, dropped my backpack and went straight to the Uzbek consulate. It wasn’t easy to find it but as I was the only passenger left in the shuttle bus (Dolmus) the driver decided to take me there. When I told him I was Bulgarian we started discussing the relationship between our two countries, me, using all the Bulgarian words I thought could have had Turkish origin...and him...mmm, just speaking Turkish. It was something like this: The driver “Galata Saray”...Me “Barca” sharing our football team preferences.. Well, after quite a lot of asking and going up and down the hills, we found it and of course he gave me his phone number in case I wanna meet him again and go on with our deep conversation. It took less than 2 hours to get my visa, including the 20 min journey to the bank to pay the visa fee (80$) and the same time to get back. Usually it takes up to a week to get the visa but if you have a LOI (letter of invitation) which I got from Stantours in advance (30 €). In the whole area where the consulate was, nobody spoke English, but surprisingly they spoke Russian. Even the guy in the consulate spoke Russian to me.





Couldnt resist:)

Having "Tantuni" and airan in a very local place just off of Taksim square
So the next 3 days I was running around consulates in the morning and sightseeing in the afternoon, eating and going out with Hun in the evening. 
I applied for the Turkmen visa but I still don’t know if I´ll get it. I have to call in 2 weeks. Couldnt get the Kyrgyz one because they were out of visa stickers!!!! But they were waiting for them, in 20 days!!! Well, hopefully I´ll get it in Ankara.
There were lots of bars and restaurants in Taksim area, similar to those in Barcelona, but all open till very late, including the outside area...I guess there was no problem with the neighbours. It was full of people everywhere, even at 4, 5 am..and then everyone was getting hungry and it was "kebap"time :)





The Bulgarian Iron Church
On Friday I met up with Egemen, a guy from CS, who took me to the Bulgarian church “Sveti Stefan” and we spent the afternoon roaming the beautiful narrowed streets of Besiktas (reminded me a bit of San Francisco).

Besiktas

Besiktas
























Egemen, myself and a Swedish/Polish guy we randomly met
We even played table tennis as he had a table in his back yard...of course I destroyed him, even though the table was in a deplorable state J
All bumpy and jagged because of the rain and wind i guess
The amount of messages I got from Turkish guys in Istanbul on CS, was impressive. In 5 days I probably got more than 40 messages from guys welcoming me and offering their “services”. Hun told me that that was normal, other girls got even more…But it was still shocking, never happened to me before in other countries.
The city itself was so vivid – a big mix of cultures, chaos, lots of traffic (it seems nobody keep the traffic regulation…but if you plan to break them, just beep twice and then its all good J). People were very friendly and helpful. They would even pay for your bus ticket and wouldn’t accept the cash for that (happened to me 3 times – 3 different girls did it!!) as in most of the buses in Istanbul you cannot buy the ticket from the bus driver, it works only with a card which I obviously didn’t have. Just some of the guys were a bit too “direct” but I guess I will have to get used to that as I will be travelling in Muslim countries for a while.
One of my biggest entertainments while in Istanbul was finding words in Turkish that are the same in Bulgarian. There are so many of them but we (Bulgarians) are not aware of that or at least I have never thought about it. So I spent hours and hours asking how things around me are called in Turkish and celebrating it when the word was the same or almost the same. I think we use at least 300-400 Turkish words in our daily routine but the funny thing is that I couldn’t make even one sentence out of them cos they are all things and not a single verb. And of course I needed these verbs later on, when I found myself stuck in a little village with people who didn’t know what Yes and No in English mean.

Me&Vitali
Randomly a friend of mine from Barcelona (Vitali, a Finish guy) had a one night stopover in Istanbul on his way to Tanzania. So we met at this CS party near Taxim square and then we went to another bar with a roof top terrace so he can tell me about his new life in Tanzania.









 Next day we all went on a ferry trip on Bosphorus
From the ferry




It took 2 hours and not 45 minutes as we thought so Vitali missed his flight…That night he also slept on the couch in Hun’s house. Poor Vitali, got into so much trouble missing that flight but im sure he made it home safe and sound, having to catch a flight to Ethiopia and God knows what kind of transport through Kenya in order to get to Mwanza

My last day in Istanbul was actually the most entertaining and relaxing one. My initial intention was to go directly to the bus station and catch my bus to the eco farm. So I packed my things, said goodbye to Hun and Vitali and left. But then I changed my mind and decided to stay one more day. So I headed to Egemen’s house in Besiktas. He was there with two friends of his – an American/Israeli living in Shanghai and a Turkish/American guy. A bit late,  his beautiful sister came and brought us Börec for breakfast. Then after lots of pottering about, we finally left the house and went to this “Sky Free Urban festival” that was happening in Bilgi University area. It was a beautiful day, nice music, full of people, juggling, playing Frisbee, Jenga (Giant wood block tower game) or any other games you can possibly play on the grass. Of course there was a concert too and lots of beers involved. Egemen and his friends were fun and their idiotic jokes and moves just made my day perfect. We stayed until the last concert finished and then went for the regular “tantuni” (from Adana -somehow I only hung out with people from Adana in Istanbul).

Jenga



With Nigal in their pastry shop


 On the way to Babakale where the eco farm is, I was supposed to get a minibus from Ayvacik but surprise, surprise...by the time I got there, all the buses were gone. The only hotel in the village was full, no people on CS and I had no place to sleep. As I was the attraction at that small bus station, I started to get different proposals from the guys working or hanging out there...They were all unclear and suspicious like “I´ll give you my house key and you can sleep there, don’t worry I have only one key” and blab la bla..It was all annoying and disturbing so I went to the “nicest” looking cafe at the bus station (there
Although their house was nice, they still had this Turkish style toilet
were only 3 of them) to get some food and to escape from all  that. I guess I looked a bit upset and miserable there cos the owner of the cafe and his wife were really concerned about me and were trying to help me. The communication was difficult cos my Turkish with no verbs, and their English with no words didn’t help much...But they were so nice that I ended up spending the night at their place. Back in the house, Nigal (the wife) showed me photos of their wedding, their kids as babies and grownups, etc. I showed her photos of my niece and somehow we managed to communicate. I slept in her daughter´s room. Next morning we went to a pastry shop they own as well, i got on internet and finally thanks to Google translator we had a “normal” conversation and were able to say all the things we couldn’t say or ask the night before. Back at the bus station Nigal and Omar made me breakfast, gave me a bag full of pastries for the journey and treated me as I was their own child. Turkish hospitality i would say, such nice people! I gave them my email address and they gave me their address, phone numbers, the email and tel number of their daughter who doesn’t speak English either...I hope I see them again on the way to Cappadocia...

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