Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey - Istanbul

The surreal and the crescent

After a while in Industrieland Germany we finally arrived in Istanbul on October 9th, our first stop in Turkey. First impressions were the weird characters on signs and the traffic that was able to surprise a couple from São Paulo.

The former Constantinople is a beautiful city encrusted with mosques and full of people of all (actually most) kinds, a picturesque meeting point between West and East. Uncountable handleless cups of tea rush among people, calls to prayer give the city a ubiquitous musicality (and prevent you from hearing any other sound while they last), cars stop at crossroads, cats secretly have absolute majority in  Parliament, leeches are cheap, alcohol is not and kebabs/falafels/Turkish delights (all hail) keep people alive.

Sun eclipsed by mosques (Istanbul).

This was our first time in a place where most people are Muslims. That really made an impression, though many Turks consider Istanbul the most western Muslim city.

Terrace at Harmony Hostel, definitely recommended (Istanbul).

In Istanbul we did couchsurfing on the first couple of nights and stayed at a hostel after that (Harmony Hostel), both experiences were great. Of the sites visited, the expensive Topkapi palace and the famous Blue Mosque were highlights. Street markets were also quite interesting (and packed with cats).

Mutant pomegranates and regular oranges (Istanbul).

Fatih mosque (Istanbul).

After 4 days of mosques, cisterns, islands and the Frankenstein Hagia Sophia, Livia learned how to say thank you in Turkish and we moved on to Ephesus with an overnight bus.

------------------------------------- Oh, the overnight buses in Turkey -----------------------------------

Overnight buses in Turkey are peculiar. Most have Wi-Fi, 3 employees inside (driver included), entertainment systems (in Turkish), cake and tea, but no toilets. Though they are overnight, they are not meant for sleeping. Lights go on a lot and stopping in frequent, both in gas stations/stores and in middles-of-nowhere where people just hop on/off.

We were served tea at 3 AM....

... and the tea was good.

Awake like walking deads, we even thought about the economics of not having a toilet (and thus adding 4 seats), but having 3 people working per vehicle - it seems to make sense operating like that as occupation rates seem pretty high.

Anyway, as Voltaire used to say:
Take the night bus from Istanbul to the Blue Coast or Cappadocia and thou shalt feel like shit on the day after.


Later we will post about the Blue Coast and Cappadoccia, probably the highlights of Turkey.

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