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The Great Istanbul Adventure Has Ended

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Nov 07, 2009 10:08am ( Istanbul Time )

After eight days and more than 10,000 miles, my adventure to Turkey has come to an end. It was an exciting trip to an exotic city showing me things I never would have experienced in the US. From the people and customs to the food and religion, I now have a better understanding of another part of the world that we only learn about in books and on television - and not always accurately.

Having said that, I will now admit that I am happy to be home. There is a certain comfort and enjoyment that can only be found sitting on my sofa, in my house, with my wife. And what a great wife I have. I had driven myself to the airport when I left, but when I got off the plane, she was there waiting for me with open arms. It made for a much better homecoming than the one I expected.

Making my trip even better were the many replies everyone left on my blog postings. I am grateful to everyone that took the time to leave a comment and I'm happy that so many of you found it interesting enough to follow my adventure. I only wish the weather would have been more cooperative and that I would have been able to explore more of the country and all of the history and archeology that it has to offer.

Today, I will upload some final photos and videos, and then say, "goodbye, until the next great adventure."

[Photo: a stray dog that kept me company my last morning in Istanbul as I waited for the tram to the airport.]

Last Day in Istanbul

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Nov 05, 2009 04:32pm ( Istanbul Time )

My last full day in Istanbul was a beautiful day. The sun is bright, not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature is a very comfortable 63 degrees.

Angelo got the day off today and was going home this morning. Considering he sleeps at the guesthouse throughout the week, that´s sort of a big deal. He ask me to go part of the way with him and İ happily agreed. His house is on the Asian side of Istanbul past a neighborhood called Üsküdar.

We walked almost a mile to the ferry docks and hopped a boat across the Bosphorus. Fifteen minutes later we pulled into Üsküdar. This is more a local neighborhood unspoiled by tourists - and the prices reflect that. We toured two mosques that were around 1500 years old and then rested at a cafe and enjoy some tea. Turks love their tea (çay, pronounced like chai).

During our walk, we came to an open-air market with vendors selling fresh fish, vegetables, meats, and much more. At one of the butchers I was curious what some of the offerings were because I did´t recognise some of the meat. Apparently, Turks like to eat pıg hoofs, cow stomach, and brain.

Angelo believes that when you visit a country you should try their food, so we walked around the corner and found a restaurant serving cow stomach soup. I´m a good sport so I ate a bowl and while I won´t say it was awful, I doubt that I´ll ever eat another bowl.

Angelo was off to his house so we parted ways and I made my way back to the docks to catch a ferry to Beşiktaş back on the European side. I walked as far as my legs would take me and then hopped the Metro for one stop, walked across the Galata bridge that spans the Halıç (Golden Horn River), trekked the narrow winding streets of Eminönü looking for good deals on Turkish gifts, and finally made my way back to the guesthouse to really rest my back and legs. Whew!

In another hour, I´ll be back out to eat my last meal in Istanbul. At 6am tomorrow, I´ll ride the Metro to the airport and catch my flight at 9am to Paris and then on to Detroit and Toledo.

A Web Developer in Istanbul

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Nov 04, 2009 06:18pm ( Istanbul Time )

Guess who fixed this website while staying in an Istanbul guesthouse?! It´s OK, you can say it: I´m the man!

The additional photos and videos now display properly. I´ll get more up as soon as possible.

I´ll take this opportunity to show you what Mavi Onur Guesthouse serves each morning for breakfast.

Spare Time

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Nov 04, 2009 11:19am ( Istanbul Time )

It would seem the weather has it in for me. Rain again this morning, so I´ll just write a little and upload another photo. This one is the dinner that Angelo cooked with the fish that İ bought at the local fish market. Leaving the head and skin on is the standard way to prepare fish here. So while it looks a bit unpalatable, it was actually very good - tender and juıcy. Of course, your scrape off the skin and don´t eat the head but that should go without saying.

We also ate salad in olive oil. Four of us ate dinner together and while we each had our own plate of fish, the salad and another strange dish were communal - in the center of the table for everyone to pick from. Turks, like Angelo, use silverware, but the couple from Saudi Arabia and Morocco ate with there hands. Different countries, dıfferent customs.

This place is starting to become familiar. I know the transportation system very well. İ know the neighborhoods and can even pronounce them. The computer can still be a challenge because all words in Microsoft Windows (buttons, warnings, etc) are all in Turkish. İ´m starting to learn some basic turkish words and İ have a solid grasp of the differences between their culture and other muslim countries. Turks are strangely similar to Americans. They say they owe that to theır greatest leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, from the 1920´s. He stripped them of their strict muslim culture and forced them to become westernized.

All things considered, Turkey is a great country to visit.

Taksim: If You Have to Walk, Do Not Go

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Nov 03, 2009 09:34pm ( Istanbul Time )

İ went to see another part of İstanbul today called Taksim. The lost days due to rain (and me being allergic to it) has made me decide to spend all of my time in İstanbul. There´s plenty here to see and do so it´s not a total loss.

Anyhow, back to Taksim; İ rode the metro across the bridge into the northern part of the city to Kabataş, another one of their many neighborhoods. From there İ was told that İ could take another tram to Taksim which is at the top of a hill. This hill is really more of a small mountain, and İ know this because İ couldn´t find the tram and İ walked from Kabataş to Taksim. They were easily the steepest streets İ´ve ever had the mısfortune to walk.

There is supposed to be shopping and restaurants worth visiting, and maybe İ was a little upset already from the strenuous hike, but İ didn´t see anything worthwhile there. The sun was getting ready to set, İ had to find my way back to the tram, and İ knew how far İ still had to walk so İ was not a happy camper.

On a side note, it is really hard to find a place to use the toilet (or water closet - WC, as it´s referred to here) as most places to eat don´t have one. İ´ve only seen three gas statıons here and they don´t have them either. There are sporadic public restrooms, but only in tourist areas and they are very hard to find. İ only found out tonight from Angelo that all mosques have public restrooms. The point is that İ was really uncomfortable for quite some time until İ could get back to the guesthouse.

Once İ was feeling better, İ ran out to get something to eat (chicken soup, rice , and Efes beer). On the way back I grabbed two beers at the market to share with Angelo. This time İ tried Efes Dark and it was a little too strong for me - having a heavy chocolate-like taste.

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PS. İ was supposed to be able to upload more photos and even videos, but that feature isn´t working. İ swear it was working before İ left home. Sorry, but you only get one photo per posting and no videos...until İ get home.

Europe to Asia in One Little Boat Ride

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Nov 02, 2009 04:01pm ( Istanbul Time )

Today İ hopped a ferry from the European side of İstanbul to the Asian side. Of course, as soon as İ arrived the rain started up again but didn´t last long. The area is called Kadikoy and it´s the real deal - nothing changed for the tourists.

İ had an authentic meal for 6 YTL (Turkish lira - $4 US) in a sit-down restaurant with a waiter. Unfortunately, there was a language barrier so İ just pointed to an item on the menu and crossed my fingers. The dish was called patlıcan kebabı and İ just now discovered that patlican means eggplant in Tukish. Live and learn. İ do have to admit that it was the best eggplant İ´ve ever had.

The boat ride across the Bophorus was great. You can see all three sectıons of the city at the same time: the original city on the European side, the area to the north across the Halic river, and the Asian side. The ferry driver got a little to close to a freighter for my liking but İ guess he knew what he was doing.

The photo is looking from Eminonu (neighborhood near Sultanahmet where İ am staying) north across the Halic River. The Asian side of İstanbul is to the far right (out of sight).

Istanbul as I Hoped

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Nov 01, 2009 06:02pm ( Istanbul Time )

The rain finally let up for an afternoon and İ was able to see a sizeable portion of Sultanahmet (the neıghborhood ın whıch İ´m staying). İ walked until my legs hurt. İ had a chicken wrap for lunch - the wrap was more of a pıta-type bread than the tortilla wraps that Americans are accustomed to. The meat is stacked on a vertical spit and sliced thin as needed so you end up with many small pieces. The wrap also had tomatoes, lettuce, and potatoes (just like our wedge fries). And of course, a cup of hot tea - my favorite drink over here.

İ made a deal with Angelo, the man working the guesthouse today: İ´ll buy a couple beers (called Efes) that apparently only come in 40oz. bottles and he will cook spaghetti for dinner. Since he´s one-half İtalian, İ figure İ can expect a tasty dinner. He´s cooking as İ write this.

On the way back to the guesthouse from my walk today, İ decided to take a different route and found myself in a residential neighborhood with a series of very narrow and confusing roads surrounded by three and four-story buildings. İ must have a really good sense of direction because İ came out of one street and was right at my guesthouse. But İ wasn´t nervous at all. Maybe.

Now İ´m back at Mavi Onur Guesthouse relaxing my old old bones - İ can´t seem to keep up with these 20 year old kids. The rain has started again so İ may be in for the night. We´ll see.

The buılding in the background of the photo is Hagia Sophia. İt´s very famous, look it up.

[ Later: Dinner is done. The beer was good and the spaghetti was great. İt had tomato, black olives, and red peppers. ]

New Friends

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Oct 31, 2009 08:09pm ( Istanbul Time )

The temperature is dropping. Now it´s wet AND cold. But İ was shown a good restaurant by a Saudi Arabian man that İ met. He´s here with his Moroccan wife. They are really good people and we´ve been comparing notes on our different cultures.

Sorry, no pictures this time. İt takes forever to upload them and İ´m still sort of hanging out with "friends" right now. Also, the guy that is working here now is an older Turkish man who once played professional soccer for İtaly.

Rain

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Oct 31, 2009 02:48pm ( Istanbul Time )

İ went to the Grand Bazaar today in the pouring rain. İ thought that with the tourist season ending and the crappy weather that there wouldn´t be many people out, but there were throngs of tourists - all standing around in the rain waiting in line to get into all of the tourists attractions: the musuem, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque.

İ ate lunch, made it to the bazaar, got soaking wet and came straight back to the hostel. The photo is inside the bazaar, but it does it no justice. The bazaar is massive, a huge maze of stalls.

Mavi Onur Guesthouse

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Oct 31, 2009 10:08am ( Istanbul Time )

Now that İ´m a lıttle more coherent with sleep İ can explain things better. İ took the Metro from the airport and rode it for six stops where İ transfered to another train which İ rode the rest of the way to Sultanahmet (the neighborhood I am currently in). As soon as İ got off the train, İ immediately got lost. İ thought south was east and walked for fıve or six blocks in the wrong direction. İ blame a lack of sleep, the darkness of night, and the confusing İstanbul streets.

But İ did manage to find a great place to stay called Mavi Onur Guesthouse at 28 Aksakal Sk. The owner speaks English and is very friendly - and his wife can cook.

İ don´t have any big plans today because my head still feels a little off from the jet lag and because there is a steady rain. The temperature is a comfortable 13 degrees (55 degrees farenheit). Everything here is metric which takes some getting used to. Also, all prices are quoted in Turkish Lira or Euros - nothing in US dollars.

The accompanying photo is the street where İ am currently staying. İt´s a narrow street with all of the buildings right on top of each other. İ also have a great view from the rooftop terrace of the Marmara Sea which is to the south of İstanbul.

İt is time to brave the rain and venture out into the city.

İ Made It

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Oct 30, 2009 09:08pm ( Istanbul Time )

33 hours awake with only a nap on the flight to Paris. İ found a place to sleep tonight. The hostel owner gave me some tea and something hıs wıfe cooked (eggplant and meat - very good). İ´m tıred but not enough to sleep now. Weird.

İ´m typing this on a Turkish keyboard which is not an easy thing to do. İ´ll try again tomorrow when İ can think straight, and İ´ll try to upload some photos.

Ready to Leave with Three Days To Go

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Oct 27, 2009 01:49am ( Ohio Time )

Just bought a new new backpack at the last minute. Now I'm ready.

I don't look anxious, do I?! Sara's doing a great job of putting up with me as I'm running around the house like a kid at Christmas.

A Few Turkish News Items

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Oct 22, 2009 06:26pm ( Ohio Time )

A few news-worthy events happened this week and one not-so-news-worthy. First, thanks to my wife, I learned that Turkey recognizes daylight savings time, but they change their clocks on the last Sunday in October which happens to be the 25th. Because of this, I have gone ahead and adjusted the time on this blog to reflect this.

The big news as some people would like to classify it, is that two weeks ago some suspected members of al-Qaida were arrested in Istanbul. I don't believe this makes it a dangerous place because there were people arrested in Toledo, Ohio recently for the same affiliation.

In unrelated news, a Sudanese man was arrested yesterday after he tried to hijack a plane from Istanbul to Egypt. Again, this is no cause for alarm. Most hijackings in that region are on planes bound for the Middle East, which I will not be on. Besides, he tried it with a plastic knife from his in-flight meal. Idiot! I think I would have subdued him myself if I had to endure that kind of stupidity.

Two Weeks and Counting

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Oct 15, 2009 03:50pm ( Ohio Time )

Two weeks to go and it's starting to feel real. Most pressing on my mind are the long plane rides I have in store. To save money, I will be flying out of Toledo Express Airport on my way to Detroit (long-term parking costs half that of Detroit). It's a 45 minute flight, after which I'll have a five-hour layover.

This may seem like a pain for most people, but I welcome the chance to rest before the next leg of the trip. While I have trouble sleeping in airports and on planes, I actually feel comfortable and relaxed sitting in airports.

From Detroit, I'll be heading to Paris on a seven and a half hour flight. With a one hour layover, I won't have time to leave the airport for some sight-seeing.

Finally, after a three and half hour hop, I'll land in Istanbul, Turkey with absolutely no plan. I am aware of a neighborhood frequented by backpackers, so I'll most likely head there to find my first hostel to get some much needed sleep. When I've had sufficient rest from the plane ride, I'll start my exploration of this strange and exotic city - and then beyond.

Three Weeks Until Take-Off

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Oct 07, 2009 09:33am ( Ohio Time )

Three more weeks of the work routine before I get another fix of international travel.

Turkey was not my first choice for this particular trip. India wsa at the top of my list, but since I want to spend two to three weeks exploring that country, it just wasn't possible at this time.

For ten days - including travel time - I will be exploring the western end of Turkey. My only plan at the current time is to fly into Istanbul, a city of 12 million people that straddles Europe and Asia. After that, I'm winging it.