Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Complicated Love Affair that is Turkey: Part 2, Istanbul and Bodrum

A:  Istanbul
By now you are probably wondering where all the complications/frustration I mentioned in Part 1 are......well, Istanbul to start.  I am going to preface some of my following negativity by saying that we did have an amazing experience overall and that if we had to do it all over again we still would.  Well, maybe not everything.  We stayed in old town where all the tourists, sites, mosques, palaces, and bazaars are located.  Although we enjoyed all of said things, it would have been way better to go visit those places during the day while staying away from the tourists and vendors at night (our mistake, not Istanbul's).  Istanbul is a gigantic, crowded, and hectic city and getting around/finding places is not the easiest and proved to be a considerable part of our frustration. By now we consider ourselves pretty well traveled and hiccups like not being able to figure out how to buy a train ticket can be a little more frustrating than it used to. Aside from the getting around problems, I was really just getting tired of people trying to sell me something, get me to come into there restaurant (even if they just clearly saw us leave another one), and general running commentary/blatant staring at my wife.   Even with Nicole fully covered (sometimes literally from head to toe even though it was a humid 90 degrees), we could not walk more than ten feet without hearing "Where are you from?" or.... "My friend, don't worry I am not a guide....but I do happen to sell the finest rugs in Turkey!" .....or "Beyonce! I love you!"......"Top Model!"....Naomi Campbell!"....or my personal favorite...."Jennifer Lopez!"  (This last comment was immediately compared to when Mason was called a "Guido" by some drunk guy in Hawaii.....those of you who don't know this story, ask me sometime...it's a classic). It was humorous the first day trying to have fun with it, but by day three we were both ready for a new location.  We decided on a simple plan:  Go to the Blue Mosque early before the crowds and then get the hell out of the tourist district! We successfully woke up early (sounds easy, but for us, this is an accomplishment) and made the very short walk over.  This little trip made for one of my favorite moment in Istanbul.  The Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are two of the most impressive structures I have personally ever seen and to view them without anyone around in the early morning light made them seem all the greater. No crowds, no guides, no vendors....just us and the stray (or not stray, could never really tell) dogs and cats cruising around neighborhood looking for breakfast and the monumental structures that look the same as they did hundreds of years ago.  Then we got out of there....and began the search for someplace cool to hang out for the evening.  We eventually found it (not easily) after roaming from area to area and passing several roads full of lively bars with zero women in sight....anywhere.  That was a strange feeling for me, as well as Nicole.  We would just turn around and keep moving on. This all led to the finding of a very cool and hip area (with gender equality) and ended up having a great evening eating delicious food and drinking wine and raki.  Aside from our extremely shady walk back across the city and to our hotel (at one point I had incredibly bad but couldn't find anywhere I felt comfortable leaving Nicole alone for the .5 minutes it takes me to use the bathroom),  this was a good moment to end our Istanbul adventure on.  Nicole and I both agreed that the one thing that would have made our trip much more enjoyable would be to go with or know someone from Istanbul to show us around.  Not rocket science....I know. We are good on Istanbul for the time being.

B: Bodrum
Known mostly as a party/beach town, we arrived in Bodrum with great anticipation.  The town itself is beautiful, with most of the buildings painted bright white that contrasts with the brilliant blue of the ocean.  Right way we noticed one very important detail, no beaches. Hmmm...ok there goes my research.  They did, however,  have a long boardwalk full of clubs, restaurants, and bars that seemed, at first glance, primed for all night dance parties so we were okay.  Unfortunately, the place ended up being just another tourist town with no sense of culture, heartbeat, or character. I have never been on a cruise, but being in this city is what I feel like being on cruise would be like; crowded, tacky (Nicole's favorite word), bad food, and expensive drinks. Over the past week, we ate Turkish food for every single meal, loving it the majority of the time. This was the first time since being there that we were forced to avoid Turkish cuisine opting for a burger and wine one night and Spanish tapas the next (both were actually very good so I guess I shouldn't complain).   Even the party scene left us wanting.  Hundreds of people walking up and down the boardwalk at 3 AM but hardly anybody dancing in the bars or clubs! One afternoon, tired of the crowds, we decided to walk along the port area and if a boat opportunity came up that we had a good feeling about we would take it just to get away. (there were tons of what I would dub "tourist trap" boats) Well, the opportunity came up.  We ended up renting a beautiful 30 foot, three cabin yacht from 10:30 to 5:30, just for us with lunch and a bottle of wine,  for about 200 USD.  I doubt there are many places in the world that one can do that!  We had an amazing time cruising around, reading our books on the deck, and swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea.  Nothing could have been more relaxing, a true holiday moment, and a perfect end to a crazy trip that at times felt more like work than vacation.

In my opinion, Cappadocia and Istanbul should both be on ones bucket list.  They are completely different but both experiences of a lifetime that I will truly never forget.  I apologize for the sometimes negative storyline, but hey, if it was perfect then everyone would go.

Next stop: Greek Sailing Adventure with PJ, Jennie, Amy, Drew, Aspen, and Paul....can't wait guys, see you soon!

The Grand Bazaar

Traditional apple tea...basically tastes like apple cider. I loved the orange tea because it tastes like hot tang! (which is now a new saying)

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Blue Mosque

Istanbul loves cats! 

Blue Mosque

Taksim Square (where the protests were)

Taksim Square

Hmmm...what to get?  I know, let's have the worst meal in history that we will refuse to eat and get a free bottle of wine from the manager so we don't write a bad review.   

just keep swimming...just keep swimming....

The ocean was incredibly clear! This was taken from up on the boat looking down in about 20 ft of water.


1 comment:

  1. So the yacht thing was pretty awesome! And Nicole looks great with curly hair! :-) I want your life....

    - Felisha