We’re in Kolkata (but this is about Istanbul)

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this (sorry Mom), and I think I just have to dump thoughts here.  I’m going to start with Turkey and try to do it justice. Then I’ll move to our trek to India and how it’s been in Kolkata so far.

Istanbul, Turkey. I went from Singapore to Istanbul and waiting a day and a half to meet up with Ashley and Marissa. Their bus got in to the station at around 9pm, and they had me worried that they possibly weren’t going to make it (their bus was scheduled for around 8). From there, our Couchsurfing host Tarik met up with us and brought us to his house in Karakoy, which is on the Asian side of Istanbul(the city spans two continents!) He was an awesome host for the three days we stayed with him.

He took us around the touristy sites on Friday, the Prince Islands on Saturday, and we made our own way on Sunday. On Thursday night, there were some Polish guys also staying at the house, so we all went out to a fast-food place that makes something similar to sloppy joes. The hamburgers were wet with some sauce so that you had to eat them with a wrapper to avoid getting too messy. Good stuff.

As I’ve said, Istanbul is beautiful, and its historic sites are incredible historically and aesthetically. The city is predominantly Islamic, and there are many, many mosques to see. We didn’t make it to the Hagia Sophia, but we did go to the Topkapi Palace, Süleymaniye Mosque, Blue Mosque, Galata Tower, Taksim Square, Spice Market, and we crossed the Bosphorus River too many times to count.

Tarik also cooked dinner for us on Saturday and Sunday nights, with Sunday being an all out multi-course meal with four other surfers who were staying at the house (two Canadians who were teaching English in Spain, another Polish girl, and a New York screenwriter). Sunday night was definitely one of my favorite nights thus far. Dinner lasted about three/four hours and we talked for quite a while. We tried some raki (some Turkish anise-flavored drink you mix with water that was pretty good).

Final thoughts on Istanbul: it’s beautiful, so glad to meet up with Marissa & Ashley, Couchsurfing proved itself, anxious to get to India.

Oh! The ice cream! How could I forget the ice cream?!?! I mean, it was cheap in China, but in Istanbul, you get a performance when you order it! Also, it’s stickier than the ice cream in the states. Apparently it’s called dondurma, and it’s made from orchids. Go figure. It’s so much better than normal ice cream.

Next begins our journey to New Delhi and then to Kolkata. I don’t have time to write these right now, but believe me, it’s been an adventure.

First morning in Istanbul

The view from the restaurant on top of the hostel I'm staying at.

So I’m here in Istanbul, Turkey. I got in around noon yesterday, and I’m meeting up with Ashley and Marissa tonight. Istanbul is just as beautiful as everyone has said. Just look at that picture! If I turn around from that position, I see the Hagia Sofia two streets away!

The hostel I was at last night (Istanbul Hostel) was really great. Not the nicest, that goes to the hostel in Shanghai, but it has the best feel to it. Breakfast is included, and I woke up this morning to a cup of coffee, a plate with a block of feta cheese, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, olives, a hardboiled egg, and all the French bread I wanted. And I ate it on the roof.

Fun story. You know the saying “It’s a small world.”? Well, traveling makes that saying sound dumb. Cities have similarities, but the time it takes to get everywhere and the vast differences in cultures make America seem very removed from the rest of the world. That is, until you realize that there are four other USC Class of ’11 grads staying at the same hostel you are in Turkey. It’s a small world.