So it has been a while since I last wrote anything so I feel compelled to write a decent length post here.
Anyway after a brief hiccup leaving Xanthi (something about deciding not to run the train "because this is Greece") I ended up hopping a midday bus the next day to Istanbul. So after saying bye to Rosie (who gives the best hugs in Frisbee), Matt and Karen I spent what felt like ages (but really wasn't that long at all) on a bus full of Nannas getting clucky over the one child on the bus (who wouldn't shut up). I nearly lost my bus at the border with turkey when I was the only one that needed to go off and get (pay for) a visa and it started to drive off before I came back...
Karen was right though... Xanthi backlava was AWESOME and compared to it the Turkish stuff here in Istanbul just in't cutting it=(
Anway I got in late(ish) in the arvo/evening to Istanbul and was immediately confronted with the most chaotic and insane bus terminal I've ever seen, but with skill, luck and fortitude (my bag is kinda heavy) I managed to negiotiate the combined train and tram network from the Bus station to my hostel in Sultanamet... kinda like the "temple bar" of Istanbul... Touristy/Backpacky but still cool.
I trudged up to my room after checking in to be greeted by something on one of the beds that was even more distressing than used condoms... a travel bible... So I ran for dinner (kebab of course). I returned to find 4 christians in my rom and I lasted a good 26.4 minutes before I took off for a shower and a quiet beer downstairs with the soccer.
So of course the table I ended up sitting at was 4 Australians, 2 Canadians and an Irishman and I sat down in the last spot just before the waterfall... say goodbye to THAT quiet beer. Anyway these guys and girls were getting pretty loose and spent so much money at the bar that we got unlimited free shisha all night for the rest of our stay...
The group was also the first time I could remember everyones names. Aiden was the Irish guy, Jo the Canadian girl and (get this) Richard the Canadian guy (easy), Nick and Chris the Australian guys (my cousins' names) and Phoebe and Katie the Australian girls (my other cousins' names! woot coincidence).
Towards the end before that carted off into the nightlife Chris even pulled out his guitar for a version of the Axis of Awesome's 4 chord power song... Very cool and easily the best backpacker song to play ever.
Next morning I woke up and faffed about for a while and then went to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia (the Church of Holy Wisdom). Both were very cool and quite monumental, Because Aya Sofia used to be a Byzantine Orthodox church before it was converted to a mosque it's also the only mosque I've seen with pictures of Mary and Jesus in it. I also wanted to go to the palace and archaeology museum but being a Tuesday they were closed. So I had a midday siesta and the went to the Grand Bazaar.
It was chaos there, not as bad as you'd imagine though... All the carpet dealers are elsewhere it seems. Another nap and I joined Nick and Chris for a pipe or three and a few drinks, with Jo and Richard joining us later. Now Nick and Chris went to Knox or Shore or somewhere like that and were pretty typical private school north shore kids. And Jo described Richard (somewhat harshly, but hilariously) as "an ego with arms and legs" but they were all fun kids.
I started the evening by joining Ina the finn (who had a stud on one of her teeth...) and after her friend got back from her date she left us to be replaced by Nick (number two) from Perth and his two friends. But I had a relatively early evening (2am again) as I was off on my gallipoli bus trip the next day.
So I woke up at 630 in torrential road flooding rain to jump on a bus for the 5 hour drive to Gallipoli. My good weather run continued though as it wasn't raining there. 7 of us on the tour with our guide Eleif (A-Leaf), a 50 year old bogan couple and a 20 something year old bogan couple included. They mean well and can't help being bogans though... they thought I was pretty amazing though given I could sleep stretched across the aisle on the bus and was so "super seasoned" travel wise. They were talking about thieves for ages, how amazing it was I'd travel alone and that I eat local food and try things like shisha.
I could bag them but I won't... as I said they mean well and they're WAY better to deal with than Americans. Kind of a "wow this is different" approach not a "hunny we don't do that at home! they're wrong".
Gallipoli was a pretty cool place to see... lots of photos and I find it awesome that the Turks love it too... Because it is where Attaturk cut his teeth and the only front of WW1 they won..
Elief was an awesome guide too and had good knowledge. Very "modern" in her views too... like the "modern young turks" you hear about... A pretty kick ass ambassador for turkey really. But everyone on the bus was getting down on "sleepy the bus driver".
And then it finally happened... a turkish guy spoke turkish at me during a pit stop assuming I was turkish... everywhere I go that happens... I should be a spy or something.
After getting back to Istanbul late I met Nick, Chris, Jo and Richard and we got a little bit loose on the town... Lots and lots of fun and the first time in a while I've gone out stupidly late etc... 5am home. Jo and I went a but nuts on the dancefloor (Turkish pop is quite gay really... and No speak Americano is a big hit here too) and Nick and Chris pulled out their "Rhodesian" accents my man... These accents are so insanely un PC and rude but very very funny...
"We hunt the darkies at night... but you can't see them so you have to aim for their teeth..."
"We're not racist though..." "Ahhhh we're racist"
"Mugabe was a smart darkie.. during the war he wore a frown and sunglasses... so we couldn't see him my man..."
A sleep in today and I went to the Palace and Archaeology museum... The arch museum was pretty cool (if you're into that). I might be a less sophisticated thing, or a we were pillaged by the europeans thing, or a we don't care about it thing or perhaps a the ottomans trashed it all thing... but the museums here don't have the same level of exciting stuff as other places... especially byzantine stuff.. just lots of broken statues. But both these places were pretty cool.
EDIT- After writing the above I managed to lose my berlin ring =( but I bought two fancy ones today at Taxsim square and I made it to bed before 2am for the first time in Istanbul! And because I was the first in my room to bed I was even able to turn the light on to get ready for beddy byes. I did a cruise up the Bosphorus today, starting in pouring rain. It was pretty interesting but the cruise did combine two of my most hated things in Istanbul. Stupid American (and British) tourists (both young and old) and sleazeball turkish guys... Americans are so freakin' stupid stop comparing Istanbul to places you've been before... it's Istanbul and as such an absolutely unique and amazing city... Asking where the suburbs and CBD are is just pathetic. And watching Turkish men try and pick up little blonde tourist girls 15-20 years younger than them is pretty sickening... they're not interested and just afraid to tell you to piss off..
I did see some nice views and a couple of pods of dolphins though =)
Lunch at the fair end of the Bosphorus was nice, but I probably didn't need 3 hours waiting in the rain to return. But the weather was a lot nicer. Then when I got back I went to Taxsim square (sober and in daylight for once) and walked "the street". That was cool... some very cool places along the way (and a decidedly high number of piercing and tattoo places given the lack of stupid piercings and tattoos I have seen here.. but then again 16 million people... I took a few photos especially of this graffiti fist I first saw in Berlin and I think I saw in Paris... and I have seen all over Istanbul. I wish I had more time to explore that area, but I guess you could spend months wandering all the alleyways there.
Then I got lost trying to find the tram stop and spent a while wandering through the "dodgy" parts... which ironically where safer for me given there'd be noone targetting tourists and noone was trying to sell me stuff...
All up Istanbul is a pretty amazing place... Hard to believe I've only been here 4 days... But yeah quite cool.
A couple of random observations
Cats are everywhere
The turks love a bromance and bromantic embrace... and whatever the female equivalent is
Cats are everywhere
Turkish emos are funny
Cats are everywhere
Vendors will say "euro" when quoting a price and then accept that amount of lira... dodgy!
Cats are everywhere
The only thing more annoying than Americans in your hostel is groups of 20-30 european school kids... SHUT THE FUCK UP and stop it with the hairspray too!
And did I mention cats are everywhere?
Love, Hugs and Kisses from Kitty Town