Thursday, November 1, 2012

Istanbul!

From Tuesday until Friday night/Saturday morning I made a lovely adventure to Istanbul, Turkey! It was our fall break from classes and Pegasus Airlines sells cheap(if not slightly strangely timed) direct flights from Kharkov to Istanbul, so I was off for a few days of fun.  Arriving in Istanbul at 5 AM I went to my hostel and slept for a few hours before day one in the city.  Not long after setting out on my walk a young guy stopped me and asked if I would take a photo for him.  At first I thought he was an American, but later found out that he is an Egyptian who was educated in American and British schools.  Anyhow, both being solo travelers we decided to walk around the city together a bit, taking photos for each other and generally just enjoying having some company.  We hit all of the major sites in Sultanahmet (the most central/touristy region of the city) and headed to Taksim in the new part of the city in the evening.  It was a long day of lots of walking on little sleep, but I was happy to see so much in the first day.
Wednesday I met up with Sherouk.  Sherouk also goes to Indiana University, but is studying abroad in Istanbul this semester.  We had a class together freshman year and Turkish class together last year and she ended up being the RA on my floor for the last part of sophomore year.  When I was planning my trip to Istanbul I sent her a message and we made plans to hang out.  Sherouk and I had never really spent a lot of time just the two of us hanging out at IU, but I had a lot of fun hanging out with her in Istanbul and we both had a lot of interesting stories to tell each other from our time abroad so far.  I was so happy that she showed me parts of the city that a tourist normally wouldn't get to see and left me with a nice list of all the food I should try to eat before leaving Turkey.
Thursday I took a long walk in the morning and then visited a palace complex in the afternoon.  The evening found me taking a ferry over to the neighborhood Harem on the Asian side of the city and then back in the center on the Asian side for an evening walk and a little bit of souvenir shopping.
Friday morning I was up fairly early and took a long walk along the Sea of Marmara. I was walking for over two hours and it was so incredibly peaceful.  Alone with my thoughts, sun shining on my face and the wind off the sea blowing my hair.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect morning! I got back to my hostel just as the guy from the tour company was arriving to collect me for the Old City and Bosporus tour I had booked for Friday afternoon. I was glad that I hadn't decided to take any more detours on my walk and that I was back just in time. The tour and cruise were a lot of fun and I spent the last half of the cruise out on the deck.  I met some American women who teach at a school in Abu Dhabi and stuck with them during the tour.  They were really fun and it was nice to make some new friends.  Back at the hostel I had just a little bit before my shuttle to the airport, so Mario and I talked on skype :) On the way to the airport we had awful traffic, but I was still at the airport in plenty of time for my fight.
My flight took off at midnight and I was asleep soon after.  I had quite the startling wake up when we were landing.  I expected that the stewardess would have woken me up and made me put my seat in the upright position, but I guess she didn't notice.  You can only imagine my panic when I was awoken by the rumbling of the plane touching down, terrified for an instant that we were crashing.  Stepping off the plane in Kharkov I immediately started shivering and missing the 70s weather in Istanbul. Going through passport control the boarder officer got a nice chuckle out of the Russian-speaking girl with the United States passport.   I forgot to charge my phone in Istanbul, so I couldn't call a taxi.  I already knew that the taxi drivers waiting at the airport were going to charge an unfair price.  It was almost three in the morning though and I really just wanted to get home and curl up in my bed.  So, I paid a higher price than usual, but because I knew I was getting ripped off I told the driver he wasn't allowed to smoke in the car, made sure he carried my suitcase to the taxi and to my door, and didn't give him a tip on top of his overpriced taxi fair.  Most importantly I made it home safely, with the happiest of hearts and that wonderfully satisfying exhaustion of an adventurer returning from a well-spent journey.

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