Friday, August 24, 2007

After 5 Minutes in Turkey...

My last full day in Turkey was a day of walking. After breakfast, I had to buy a bus ticket to return to Bulgaria, and the walk was an hour to get to the metro, and from the metro, 15 kilometers to the bus station. This part of the city is not even at the end of the line, but only half way out on the metro. I can only imagine how gigantic this city; and we only stayed in one section (Sultanhamet).
After buying the bus tickets, which were pretty cheap, only about 25 US Dollars, it was a long metro/walk back to the old center. However, I saw more of the city, and one of the most fascinating parts of Istanbul, and any big city, is just watching everyone else walk by. I could spend a whole day just people watching, but unfortunately, when you have such little time, you have to spend it touring the city itself. Marjan and I decided we wanted to see the Asian part of the city, and we took a boat across the Bosphorous strait, but by the time we arrived, we were so drained that we decided to take another boat to the third ‘section’ of town that was closer to our section. I can say that I have been in Asia, but it lasted for only about 5 minutes. Regardless, the distinction between Europe and Asia, as we have discussed so often in political science classes and history classes, is random anyways in its geographic limits, so I’ll just say that I have been traveling through Eurasia.
When we got back to the European side, we wanted to walk up a hill to look at an impressive tower. After the climb, we saw more of our hostelites, which was a surprise, given the size of the city, and we all headed to what is known as either the Spice Market or the Egyptian Market. It was an enormous, underground market filled with, you guessed it, spices from all over the world. It smelled delicious, and I wanted to buy everything, but I knew it would be silly to lug it around Eurasia. Instead, I was content to buy a Turkish coffee maker for the great price of 4 dollars, and I am excited to add this device to my kitchen.
The shopkeepers in Istanbul are unique. In other cities, I am only approached by vendors when I show interest in a good or a restaurant. It has been completely different here. Everywhere you go, people try to persuade you to come to their cafĂ© or look at their goods. At first, it was amusing, but near the end, it just got annoying. When I am not hungry, I don’t want to hear about how good your kebabs are, and when I’m poor, I don’t want to buy a Turkish rug. They are hospitable, though, and we were invited to sip Turkish tea while perusing Turkish scarves and chatting with the vendors.
Turkish tea is ridiculous. They make it sound like it is something special, but it is just Lipton tea. I am not kidding; they don’t even try to hide the fact. They just hand you your hot water with a Lipton tea bag and call it Turkish tea. I didn’t think that Lipton sounded very Turkish, so I wikipediaed it and sure enough, Lipton was created by a Scottish man. Post offices are also really hard to find in Istanbul. I bought some postcards, but didn’t send out a single one, because I couldn’t find a place to drop them off or buy stamps. I’ll probably just end up delivering the cards by hand. By the way, if you ever want to receive a post card, send me your address and maybe you will get one!
Last night was a night of packing and saying goodbye to the other people at our hostel. I met some interesting people, mostly Australians, and it is weird to think I probably won’t ever see these people again. I will probably stay in contact with one of the Aussies, and maybe can visit her in Australia, but the others will just be small memories of my travels. One of my favorites was a woman from the Basque region in Spain who had been traveling for seven years. She gave me a lesson in using vosotros and conjugating commands in this form because we don’t study Spain Spanish in highschool or university. We also chatted some in Spanish and I was surprised to discover I can hold a conversation in Spanish.
This morning was a rush as we finished packing and took public transportation to the bus station. We made it on time, however, and our bus was brilliant. It was like a plane, but roomier. They even served food. The time flew as I continued to read Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera”, which has been a great, but somewhat disturbing, read. The only annoying part was going across the border, which took an hour and a half, but now I have two more interesting passport stamps, so I won’t complain. Marjan and I split up in Plovdiv; I am now staying in the Traveler’s Hostel and she is at a friends. It’s kind of nice to be alone, but my stomach is growling and I’m not sure if I want to go out to eat by myself. Regardless, I should head out, and get something done!

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