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July 31, 2006 – A journey to Istanbul, Turkey in Middle East

Turkish Hospitality

After landing in Istanbul, felt a huge sigh of relief from the past few days of commotion. Rick and I got our Turkish visas and backpacks and then set off for good ol' public transportation, the metro. Early into the ride, a couple of Turkish seat neighbors struck up a friendly conversation with us. Before they got off at their stop, they gave some contact information in case if anything or any travel advice was needed. Such hospitality after coming from a hostile place was very welcoming!

After getting off at the last stop of the line, once again, another Turkish guy offered help (again, without us even asking) and walked us toward our destination. On the way, he pointed out different sites and showed us pictures of his daughter. Normally, I would be quite skeptical of this and think that he was some sort of tout, especially after experiencing that from places where it's the norm. But, he really was genuine. Seriously, I was bewildered to receive such great hospitality right after what we've just went through. Bid him a great thank you and a farewell, while we setted off to the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul.

one of the many beautiful mosques in Istanbul – this one’s by the University near the Sultanahmet area

Thankful to the hospitality and that the backpacks were much lighter (shipped five kilos of stuff at the airport in Tel Aviv – shipping was actually cheap there and by air mail too - rather than by sea), wandered mindlessly and blissfully around. While looking for a hotel, synonymously absorbed the new sights and sounds. It was getting late into the evening and Rick suggested that the next hotel he sees will be the place where we should stay.

After skipping the first very expensive one, turned onto a random side street off the main road. Luckily the next one, a cute boutique hotel, had a happy desk clerk in it. He gave a good deal (same price to a hostel I was looking at online that morning) and a room with an awesome view of the city, the Blue Mosque, and what looked like a bay (couldn't see very well due to the night). Had free wifi, too (very much needed – way behind with too many pics to upload).

view from the hotel window at night

After dropping off the backpacks, went to walk around town at night. Many locals and tourists were out. Realized how close we were to the major sights and that Istanbul is a very walkable city. Came upon an open-air restaurant that had a live Turkish band and a whirling dervish dancer. Watched and listened for some time. Things definitely come alive at night in this town. After some tasty doners and dirrums, went back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

whirling dervish dancer behind a nargileh (or otherwise known as sheesha in Egypt – they smoke these everywhere in the Middle East)

locals and tourists hanging out at the Blue Mosque at night

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