Well, I made it back to Basque Country in one peice but not after a super fun weekend in Istanbul! I wish I could have stayed for longer, but alas the weekend will have to do. I would definitley love to go back - it was a gorgeous country! I have so much to tell you about my short trip so I will probably break up the blogs. Today you will learn about my Friday ha.
I had stayed out til about 1am the night before and had to wake up at 4am to catch a bus to the airport. Needless to say I was a bit tired. I learned a rather important at the airport that I probably should have looked up before I left - check in (facturar). Also at the airport, I realized that no one takes thier shoes off over here to go through security. I took mine off like you always do in the States and a couple people looked at me pretty funny...oooooh well. After a short 2 hour flight I landed in Munich. It was pretty busy but I still mananged to grab some post cards and check out some gift shops! All of the shops that I strolled into were like Christmaslands...nutcrackers, ornaments, etc. They also had thier fair share of steins ha! I asked the lady working at one of the stores if she would take a picture of me with a stein...I know I know, I am silly.
I finally boarded the flight to Istanbul. I was suprised that both flights had been on time - not something you see much in the States no? I actually was asked by someone in line if I was Turkish...uuuuh I guess not only can I be mistaken for a Spanish person which happens all the time here, but I look at a tad Turkish as well. Funny.
Upon arrival, I was stood in the passport control line for about 15 miutes only to get to the front and be told I needed a visa. Of course, I have a heart attack and think 'oh no, was I supposed to do something before I arrived??' I went over to the visa desk and asked for a weekend visa - a nice 15 euros and then I was all set - whew! My friend, Alp was there to pick me up! He is originally from Turkey but lived in the States for the past 10 years. We became friends at ASU and then he also lived in New York while I did and now he is back in Turkey working for an international company.
That night we went out to dinner at this fantastic restaurant named Sunset. Check it out here. We ordered some sushi for a starter (mmmm spicy tuna roll!) which I was pretty happy about. I don't know if I really trust the Spanish people here to make good sushi hahaha. But this restaurant had a special Japanese sushi chef and it was amazing. For dinner I had the special - a spicy lambchop with a mushroom risotto and for dessert an apple tart with ice cream (I guess I was missing the States ha) From the balcony you can see the Bosphorous Bridge. It is the bridge that connects Europe and Asia. Istanbul is a city that is on both continents. We spent our time on the Europe side but I was sure excited to see Asia!
Alp explained to me that Istanbul is a lot like New York and over my few days there I began to feel the same way. It is kind of gritty but at the same time SO gorgeous. There are about 13 million people who live in the city (much more than Manhattan but still the same effect) and it is listed as the third largest city in the world! There are a million little neighborhoods just like NYC. I feel like you could live in Istanbul your whole life and still not be able to see everything or learn about all the historic sites! Besides the fact that everything was in a foreign language, I felt pretty comfortable. One thing that was DRASTICALLY different was the driving. In Istanbul, Alp told me that they have the craziest drivers. I thought, come on, I have lived in New York, I am not going to think anything is more crazy than that...but ooooh I was wrong. On the ride home from the airport, I saw people backing up on the freeway if they missed thier exit (like backing up into crazy forward moving traffic) and even saw someone turn his car AROUND on the freeway and drive the wrong way to get back to the exit...the norm in Istanbul I suppose. One time we took a cab and we picked it up after some fork in the road that we needed to go the other way on, so the cab driver just backed up into speeding traffic and went the other way. No honking, nothing...completely regular - ha!
After dinner we headed down to a popular part of town to go out. It is a huge street with tons of bars, restaurants, live music venues and shopping. They had EVERYTHING. Starbucks, Burger King, McDonald's...the works. It was like America ha. Alp told me that McDonald's is all the rage in Istanbul - that they even DELIVER - how crazy is that? We found a live music venue and sang along to some English songs and then they played some Turkish songs, so I got to experience that for the first time. I speak NO Turkish. The man I sat next to on the plane from Munich to Istanbul attemped to teach me how to say hello - merhaba. It may look easy to say but I still managed to be bad at it. So armed with my one Turkish word, I rocked out to a bunch of Turkish songs and had a really fun time.
We stayed out til about 2:30am and then decided to call it a night, considering I had only about 3 hours of sleep and travelled all day. Saturday was going to be full of touristy stuff so we wanted to make sure to be ready in the morning :D A very first fun few hours in Istanbul, would't you say?
Off to work now, will write more about Saturday (a very busy day) and the trip home! Glad to be back :D
Öpücük (kisses in Turkish!)