The time I went to…Istanbul

The time I went to…Istanbul

Written by Heather

Topics: Experiences Abroad

This is the first post in a new series called “the time I went to…”, in which I will FINALLY get around to sharing about my travels pre-Australia. I wrote about them on a super old blog that only my parents and friends Dennis, Evan, and Gunther read (thanks guys!). I want to revisit these places and maybe you’ll enjoy joining me.

Several friends have found themselves in Istanbul over the last few months, and reading their posts takes me back to 2008 and the one week I spent in the city. After spending two weeks in Barcelona with Nicole, I ventured to Istanbul for what would become my first true solo trip.

Who is Vito Gomes?

I don’t know who Vito is, but his shuttle bus driver was waiting for him at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport at 2:30am. Vito never came, and neither did my pre-arranged shuttle bus driver, so I would have been more than happy to snag his.

I was silly nervous about flying into a city in the middle of the night alone. Public transport wouldn’t open until 6am, so I had scheduled a shuttle to take me from the airport to the hostel. By the time I found another company willing to take me into the city, I was beyond tired.

The driver was a little confused when we got to the streets of the old city near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. After driving in circles, he almost decided to drop me off before we found my hostel.

In my frugal traveler ways, I had decided against paying for a room that night. The man at the front desk said I could hang out on the terrace until morning. I curled up on a metal bench that was way too small for me and shivered in the cold night air. It didn’t take long for me to wonder what in the world I was doing in a new place in the middle of the night all alone. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how nervous I felt, but I suppose I hadn’t developed enough confidence in my abilities to navigate solo travel.

Soon enough I found a perfect view of the Blue Mosque from the hostel. I listened to the call of dozens of birds before the call to prayer began sounding from mosques across the city. And I started to fall in love with Istanbul.

First view of Istanbul at 4am

Courtyard of Blue Mosque/Sultanahmet Camii

Try some Turkish Delight!

By morning I was ready to explore the city with a new friend from Melbourne. We visited the Spice Market before heading to the Grand Bazaar, where one stall owner invited us to have coffee with her as I contemplated purchases. We found scarves to wear when visiting the mosques. A few male stall owners shamelessly chatted us up in hopes of selling some “love tea” or “Turkish Viagra”.

That evening I witnessed first-hand the saying that Turkish men fall hard and fast. I was on my way to find something for dinner when a voice called out to me with travel tips. I allowed the conversation to continue, and before I knew it, we were still talking and having dinner six hours later (following two apple teas and a trip to his family’s carpet business). At every step he assured me he was just introducing me to the city. Once we got to his family’s store front, I knew he just wanted me to buy a carpet. During dinner he shared that it felt like we had known each other forever. He complimented me more than almost any man ever had. He wasn’t shy about asking me to join him for the rest of the night. When I declined, he said I was too closed off. Then with a twinkle in his eye he said, “You should really have some Turkish Delight this week — even if it’s not me.”

“You are not Turkish, but he is Turkish…that is so nice.”

Thanks to HospitalityClub.org, I’d made a couple of Turkish friends online before arriving in Istanbul.

With Emin in front of Hagia Sophia

Emin, in the photo above, was an absolute rock star. Whenever he wasn’t busy working, we’d get together for tea, dinner, a walk around the city, or something touristy. One day as we were walking by a lane of restaurants on the water, a tout called out to me, “You are not Turkish, but he is Turkish…that is so nice.” We got an approving look. Ha!

I was also very fortunate to meet Arda on Hospitality Club.

With Arda in Taksim on my last night

We met in Taksim for raki and hours of conversation. Later, when the cab driver didn’t understand how to get me back to the hostel, Arda translated for us before finding his own taxi.

Hagia Sofia

Later this week — or quite possibly next week knowing me — I’ll share part two of my fantastic week in Istanbul.

12 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Gav says:

    Lovely writing and a great idea to write about your previous travels.

    I’ve enjoyed talking with you about these and think it’s great you’re sharing them with everyone else :-)

    Love you beautiful :-*

  2. Nicole says:

    I still think this is one of the most brave things you’ve done to date! I don’t think I’d have the confidence to travel to a place like Istanbul by myself. It helps that you’re so friendly & open to meeting new people – you always seem to make new friends on your travels. :)

    • Heather says:

      I’ve been really fortunate to meet some great people wherever I’ve been — and great people and come to me like YOU.

  3. Andrea says:

    I have never heard of hospitalityclub.org. Thanks for the heads up and great post! I look forward to your others :)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Andrea, I used to really use HC! I’ve had more luck using it than Couch Surfing. Thanks for checking my blog. I’ll check out yours now!

  4. jade says:

    Super excited about this new feature! Love revisiting old travels and reliving those special moments. Can’t wait to read about the second half of your trip- you are so brave!!

  5. I’m dying to go to Istanbul – can’t wait to read more about your adventures!

  6. Kyle says:

    You are so brave! I’m a little chicken to travel on my own…and DEFINITELY chicken to travel on my own when arriving at night to a city I don’t know and don’t speak the language.

    • Heather says:

      I certainly don’t feel brave — not even now! People say I’m brave for going to Oz without knowing a soul, but that was somewhat easy. Many of the places still on my wish list are ones I wouldn’t want to go to solo — I’m chicken for more solo travel too!

  7. Jaime says:

    I love everything about this quote “You should really have some Turkish Delight this week — even if it’s not me.” – Sadly I just got to kiss one so thats as close as I got to having some…lol!!! I think I am catching on and fast about Turkish men and their delightful ways to make everyone swoon over them. They are beautiful… seriously some of the most beautiful men I have ever seen. Oh & I still get that scared feeling arriving in a city late at night or early morning… it’s such a scary one but amazing at the same time.

    • Heather says:

      It was a good lesson for me to learn on day 1 — something I’ll never forget :-)

      I’m glad you’ll be able to go back soon…oh how I wish I could join you!

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