First trip to Istanbul

Already Thursday … and still no report about last weekend. Shame on me. But now it’s time, because the next weekend is arriving, with new exciting experiences (at least I hope so – it will start with an evening/night hiking tour on Friday and will lead to the CouchSurfing-meeting in Borovets).
So last weekend we went to Istanbul, supposed to be the largest city in Europe with over 14 million inhabitants. I heard a lot of good things about this city beforehand, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. Istanbul is not far away from Bulgaria, it’s 8-10 hours by bus. Sure, I would have preferred a train – but the bus was way faster and cheaper and there are several buses a day and not only one. And supposedly it was more comfortable. I was really impressed … Bord service, more the enough room for my feet, comfortable seats. I would never have thought that I would enjoy an 8 hour travel by bus. And it was really cheap – only 40Лв (about 20€) per direction.
What really was annoying, was the border control which took one hour. We had to show our passports five times (on the way back only four times) and I even had to buy a visa for 15€ (which I knew beforehand, I always check the homepage of the Austrian ministry for foreign affairs before travelling to another country). My visa is valid for three months, so I have to go there again soon – maybe already next week.
At our arrival at 6am we were greeted by the morning-prayer of the next mosque. After getting a map and a ticket for public transport we tried to reach the sea before sunrise – what we unfortunately didn’t manage. But we had breakfast at the sea. Very nice.

Some days before we went to Istanbul we had dinner at my CouchSurfer’s place again and we met a Turkish guy there who gave us a lot of tips what we have to visit in Istanbul. So we went on a sightseeing-trip – The Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, built 1609-1616 was our first spot, directly followed by the Hagia Sophia which was built over a millenium earlier in 532-537 as church and has been converted to a Mosque after the takeover of the Ottoman Empire in 1453. Both are very impressive buildings.

So, I will not continue with too much details, this would take too long, and I just want to write an article for my blog and not a book. Next I want to show you some pictures of the Bosporus, the sea connection of Black Sea and Mediterranean and the view of the surrounding quarters. They really offer some impressive views of hilly Istanbul. It doesn’t matter to which direction you look, you can only see populated area. It’s crazy.

What else is worth telling about? We have been to The Grand Bazaar which has been built in 1455-1461. It’s really huge, but very touristic at most places. But there are some hidden quarters, which are worth seeing. Anyway, it’s very impressive.

On Saturday I left Europe for the first time in my life :) We went to the Asian side. I think it’s different from the other side were we came from … but it’s more like another quarter of the town as being ‚Asian‘. What we noticed in whole Istanbul, but especially on the Asian side: People are very friendly, often too friendly. For example, you watch a mosque from the outside … immediately somebody is here and invites you to see the mosque. We were even allowed to stay for the evening prayer. Fore sure, if you pass a shop or a restaurant they want to convince to come in and see – for me it’s annoying, but it’s just the culture there. I also didn’t really fell comfortable in the restaurants, it’s different to what I’m used to.

The Turkish guy also recommended us to see the Istiklal-Street near Taksim Square. As this was not far away from the place where we lived in Istanbul (a friend and CouchSurfer from Vienna, who is doing Erasmus in Istanbul currently), we went there on Saturday evening. Crazy … the street and the side-streets were so crowded, it looked as if half Istanbul was there. We just went through the road, you could hear different music from the bars, people talking and having fun. Very, very nice. It was hard to resist to go to one or more of these places, but we decided to be tired and therefore went home. During day time it’s a shopping street, like Mariahilfer Straße in Vienna – but it’s restricted to pedestrians, and there’s an oldtimer tramway running through. And I found a Space Invader!

Still, so much to tell about this trip – But I think it’s enough for you to get an impression and for me to remember later. Now I know, why I avoided to write it earlier … it took me two hours. Hope you enjoyed reading it, I also enjoyed going there.
What else happened? I have to leave my flat in mid of November, because the project where the girl who I’m living with currently we will be changed, so she doesn’t have to stay in Bulgaria (which she really regrets, because she tried to find her roots here). But I think I already have a room for afterwards, although it might be crowded till beginning of December. We will see.
On Wednesday I was presenting Austrians national parks and the UNESCO world heritage sites in the class Landscape Architecture. I would have like to put the presentation on my blog, but unfortunately I had to use copyrighted material, so I don’t feel save with this.
So, stay tuned for the next update.

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