The seven week adventure across Eastern Europe begins, and it starts in Istanbul, Turkey! Well, first I have to make it out of Korea in one piece. I had a plane booked with China Southern Airlines, which failed to get me off the ground. I was on the Express Bus to Incheon Airport from Daejeon, to catch my 3:30 pm flight, when I received a call from the airline letting me know my plane had mechanical problems. Super!!! So, when I got to the airport I was then shuttled to a hotel as I waited for a direct flight with Turkish Air at 11:45 PM. The good news is that I was able to take this trip direct and I arrived at about 5:45 AM. Originally, I was going to make a transfer in the middle of China, with a 3 1/2 hr layover. When I arrived in Istanbul, I had planned through my guesthouse to have a driver pick me up. Of course he wasn’t there and I had to call to find out where he was. Normally I wouldn’t get a pickup from the airport, but I was hoping to just have a smooth entrance to the start of my trip. I did finally make it to the guesthouse to get a nap in and a shower. Figured I was already too late to cancel my reservation, so I might as well use the place to hang out when I’m not sightseeing.
Old Town Istanbul
My guesthouse (Bahaus Guesthouse) is located near the Blue Mosque and Ayasoya Mosque, so that is were I headed first. I found the Blue Mosque much more beautiful. I arrived around the time it opened to the public and didn’t find it to be that crowded. Then again, it is a Monday! I hesitantly went in while wearing shorts because everyone else was. There were signs that showed what to wear, but it didn’t seem like anyone was paying attention to it and nobody said anything to me. I did avoid going into the main building though. It looked like they wanted money and I wasn’t going to pay to go in.
Outside the mosque I visited the “Walled Obelisk” and “Egyptian Column” before moving on to Sultanahmet Park. I also passed by the Ayasoya Mosque I had mentioned earlier to try and get a better picture.
Not far from here was the Hagia Eirene (“Holy Peace”). It’s an Eastern Orthodox Church that originally stands on the location of a pre-Christian temple. It was built in 532, burned down, and then rebuilt in 538. Then as I continued on through the park, to the Topkapi Palace. I didn’t go in either of these place, and I’ll probably regret it. As I start his trip, I’m already going over budget and got a bit worried. Plus, I’ll be back in Istanbul at the end of my trip for a few days, so I’d rather hit up a number of these museums, etc. when I can buy a pass that gets me into most of the hot spots without having to pay for everything individually. Today was a little about getting my bearings sorted for when I come back!
The rest of the day of sightseeing was spent wandering the streets and getting lost. Most of the roads in “Old Town” are still cobblestone and I was really digging the architecture. The last “must see” place I went to was the Grand Bazaar. Being a Monday, it wasn’t that busy. On my way there, a Turkish guy told me I dropped a penny. I acted like I didn’t speak English and moved on. I’ll have to look up and see what kind of scam he was pulling with that pickup line, unless it’s equivalent to dropping a bar of soap;-)
That was pretty much my first hot and sweaty day! Looking forward to meeting up with an old friend, Gina, who used to be my bartender at Brickhouse (one of the expat bars in Daejeon, South Korea), who lives in Istanbul now! After hanging out with her, I’ll be taking a night bus to Sofia, Bulgaria. Until then, I’ll just be chilling, while drinking a beer, and looking over the beautiful water.
End of the Night with an Old Friend
The best way to finish my day off in Istanbul was seeing an old friend of mine Gina!! She met up with me on the Old Town part near the Blue Mosque. We went to a nice restaurant were she had a Sea Bass, I had Fish & Chips, and we split a sea food salad. The food was really good, but because of the heat and humidity, the time adjustment with my body, and the fact that I eat like a bird because of Korean food, I was not able to eat as much as I would have liked. Well, the important thing was seeing Gina because it has been about 5 years since I had last seen her. I’m looking forward to connecting with her again when I come back to Istanbul at the end of the trip.
After eating dinner with Gina, she took me on the metro to make sure I made it to the right station. I did make it in time and started my journey to Sofia, Bulgaria at 11:00 PM the same day I arrived into Istanbul at 5:45 AM.