Saturday, September 21, 2013

Turkey Trip: Istanbul

The very reason Turkey is among my top destination list is Istanbul, followed by Capadoccia. Few years ago I was doing my rare potato-couching sesh in front of the TV and came across a show about Turkey. Ever since, I know I have to visit that place, I just know. Why? It's plain magical. Istanbul has a very interesting historical dynamics embedded to every single part of the city while Capadoccia is pure God's creation. If I were not Indonesian and not from a tropical country, I imagine I'll regard Indonesia as my Turkey: exotic at best. It was that amazing.

Surprise, surprise.
I never imagined I will ever spend 6 weeks in Turkey plus the awesome companions. I didn't even know where I was going 2 months before the departure date. Few months back I vowed to live a better life, to explore, to travel, and discover.. now I believe words are prayers.

Most, if not all, travelling guides regard Istanbul as the top destination in Turkey. One reason is because of its geographical location which shared Asia and Europe continents so you could stand in two different continent in a day. The other attraction is, of course, the history. Istanbul is the heart of the great Ottoman Empire and many of the most important architecture of the empire still stood awesomely in this very city. The most famous ones would be the historical sites around Sultanahmed area. To name a few: Blue Mosque (Sultanahmed Camii), Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), Topkapi Palace, the wallet-squeezing Grand Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, and there goes the long list.

Aladdin's lamp!

I went there during one of the free weekends with a unique mixture of friends: Di (Malaysia), Venus (Hong Kong), Ann (Taiwan), Ilhem (France/Algeria), and I. Everyone on the street (even the tourist-expert sellers in Grand Bazaar) was having a hard 1-2 seconds to understand why we travelled together. We took a 1.5 hours bus from Izmit and go to the European part by ferry (Europe-Asia in one day ticked! actually it was only 20 minutes or so :p). We were having our aww and oww moments in the ferry because you could see some of the unique camii (mosque), it was just plain beauty.

Our first destination was the Grand Bazaar, because it was just across the street from our hostel. I tell you, every single thing, every-single-thing in this bazaar is very unique. Some say its similar to the other Mediterranean nations but lolwat I come from the other part of the world so bear with me okay. But then, just small tips if you are planning to devote most of your holiday allowance in this place: it may not worth the deal. The sellers are definitely tourist-experts and they set the price triple or quadruple most of the times so if you have time or budget-conscious do your little price research from shop to shop. Chances are the shops outside the Bazaar are way cheaper so if you don't have time just buy from these ones.

The next destination was another side of the European part (even this part is divided into two) to see the Galata Tower, stroll over the packed Istiklal Street, and the-then-so-hype Taksim Square (because of the protest, but it was not on when I was there). The beautiful french girl (that is exactly how I called her :p) got us two kind local guides and we stroll over to the other end of the Bosphorus. Isn't nice to have a pretty girl in your group? :p

Street performer (?) near Galata Tower

I don't know why everyone is so mesmerised by the street artist :p

Another street musician on Istiklal Street

The next day we went to the main attraction: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, small handcraft market, and went to the seaside to eat the infamous fish bread. Before finally go back to Izmit :)

Before flying back to Jakarta (and Sydney in a week), I spent 2 days in Istanbul with some of the girls. I stayed in the same hostel with Di and Anelya (Kazakhstan). We had an amazing dinner and went to Topkapi Palace the next day. In an instant this has become my favorite spot in Istanbul. Why? This is the palace of the Ottoman sultans (plus a special building for their Harems), the oh-so-beautiful place is not only full of flowers, gold, one of the biggest diamond in the world, Moses' (self-proclaimed) wand, and unique Ottoman designs everywhere but also the history, politics, and dynamics of being in the central of the power. If you ever read Aladdin or 1000 stories of Arabian Nights and saw the grails and plates made (not plated) of gold with precious stone decorations.. they are real, people! REAL. Long story short, you really have to see them by yourself!

Blue Mosque

The fish bread! I always remember the story of Jesus, fish, and bread whenever I see this picture

I met/saw several groups of Indonesians strolling over the streets in Sultanahmet. I didn't know Turkey was such a destination, but I can understand why. Maybe it is the perfect definition of exotic for us :p In Hagia Sophia, I bumped into a group of Indonesians who were having a temporary work in Istanbul to set up some sort of IT thing. I also met two Indonesian students in the tram. Don't you think they are sooo lucky to study there?

Cordial House Hostel
I only stayed in this hostel during my both visits to Istanbul but compared to any other dorm/hostel I have been in my life (including the other hostels in Turkey), I can say this is one of the best! Free internet, clean bed, clean bathroom, although not too appealing view (but who cares about the view anyway, you got Istanbul to discover!), near tram station and Grand Bazaar. The price is also very very reasonable. I stayed in the dorm room (6 bed) and 3 bed room with private bathroom. Both are nice :)


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