Trip Start Apr 09, 2006
148Trip End Jun 09, 2007
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I arrived in Istanbul this afternoon after an uneventful connection through Frankfurt. Something about me with short hair makes everyone think I'm German. The German flight attendants, Germans in the airport, even street touts here in Istanbul. Who knew??
I left the hostel after checking in at about 3:30PM. I'm staying in Sultahnamet tonight and walked down to the area with the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofia. I have been here before and knew exactly which bench I wanted to sit on to relax and take in the afternoon. The area was hopping as usual and there were plenty of locals and tourists enjoying the sunny 70 degree weather.
So, I found my bench and planted it. It only took a few minutes before the three boys sitting on the bench next to me started asking me questions. They were about 13 or so and were wearing their school uniforms. I heard them doing their English homework together as I walked up. One of them, who was clearly the ringleader of the group, knew English very well. Come to find out his father is an English professor at the university here. I showed them pics from NYC and we shared music with each other. Turkish pop is exactly what you are picturing it to be. They had a million questions, but I enjoyed it. After an hour or so of chatting they took off and I started walking around the sites. I ran into a chap from the Turkish Army who spoke pretty good English and we walked around a bit. The people are very open here and are genuinely interested in meeting people who are different from them.
We split up and again I walked to an area that I had been to before. The cobblestone street I stayed on last time I was here rises very steeply towards the ancient Aya Sofia. The sides of the steep street are walls of stone that are covered in ivy and honeysuckle. About half-way up there were two old men playing backgammon (a very common site after 5PM here). Just a few short steps away is the entrance to the gardens that surround Topkapi Palace, which is where the Sultans ruled the vast Ottoman Empire. Flowers are in bloom everywhere. Overhead there are many nests of some type of stork that make a very unique call....similar to what I imagine from a whooping crane.
Istanbul is magical and romantic. I forgot that. So many people asked why I was starting here and I think I usually said something about cheap airfare & that it worked with the overall trip timeline and climate. I'll be here for at least a few days before heading south.
No pics today...they won't do it justice anyway.