Arrived at last

Trip Start May 17, 2006
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Flag of Turkey  ,
Saturday, May 20, 2006

Well I arrived in Istanbul two nights ago. My first day was quite a long one. We saw lots. We started by having breakfast at the hotel before catching the bus to go to Sait's friends house. The first thing I noticed was the traffic. I am glad I am not driving here. There are only two lanes painted on the road but there are four lanes of traffic! They drive very fast here and they had to teach me how to cross the road because no one stops for pedestrians.

We had to take a bus to get to where his friend lives and it was easier with the backpacks but by the end of these last couple of days I've been dying for luggage with wheels. What a workout! We walked so far in two days with lots of stairs and hills. Istanbul is made of seven hills and when we take metro the escalators are so steep and long that it makes me sick to look up. I've never seen such a long escalator. And everything is on motion sensors (except traffic lights) to save energy (even the escalator slows down till you step on it and then it speeds up).

After we got to his friends house we rested for a while before going for a walk to get something to eat and sight see (I didn't realize we would walk for an hour first). We walked along Besiktas to Ortakoy where all the palaces and mansions are and also an art gallery of Ataturk (it lines the street). We then had kumru (it is melted cheese on top of sliced hot dogs in a bun) to eat before going to the Bosphorus to meet some friends and go for a boat tour of the Bosphorus and Istanbul. It was beautiful. It was so sunny out but the wind off the water kept it fairly cool. The heat has not been that bad but I hear that it gets much hotter the farther south you go (which is where we will be going).

After our boat tour we got a kumpir to eat which is like a large stuffed potato. After that we went to a Starbucks (not my choice!!) to meet another friend. It was a nice cafe on the water. By that time I was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open.

There are lots of restaurants and brand names here that are in Canada. I've seen a couple of McDonald's/Burger King/fast food restaurants here. It doesn't seem that different yet but it will when we move away more from the touristy areas.

I rode my first double-decker bus and my first subway. The central subway station is called Taksim. There are so many pigeons there you could probably catch them. There are old women in the square that sell seed you can feed the pigeons with. And there are no public washrooms. You have to pay to use them. AND I used an old fashioned toilet on the ride to Ankara. It is like a hole in the floor and I didn't know what to do or how to use it. But I just went for it. Apparently those toilets aren't really used anymore but I lucked out and got some of the only working ones left!

The bus ride was so nice too. They have someone that caters to you and serves you coffee or tea and snacks. There was a movie but the seats weren't that comfortable. I got to say I was in Europe and Asia now both within a few minutes. When you cross the bridge you change continents just after I think.
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