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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

İstanbul was Constantinople

TURKEY | Wednesday, 20 March 2013 | Views [1313]

Onto the metro of İstanbul I go and suddenly I feel like I'm back in civilization. After two tough months in Ethiopia and Somaliland I feel like I'm reborn and back into a land where I can go to Burger King and Starbucks and it's actually cool enough to wear a jumper. Istanbul's metro is totally packed with passengers and though severely jetlagged I had to stand for a good while. For transport within the city a great bet is the Istanbulkart, which is a touch card similar to the Oyster Card in London. With an Istanbulkart costs are about 50% less than if you use tokens and you get a discount if you transfer to another line. Unlike the Tube, you don't have to touch out and fares are flat rather than calculated by distance. Just riding the metro I can immediately sense the beauty of Istanbul, and in passing I see a flower bed in the pattern of the Olympic rings showing that Istanbul is a candidate city for the 2020 Olympics. As I crossed the Bosphorus Bridge I went from Europe to Asia in a matter of a minute or so. As it marked my first time in Asia I've finally been to six continents! It's a magic number for me, and the only one left is the "Holy Grail" of them all. As the bus emptied out I got to rest my jetlagged self for a minute or so before I had to change buses. Standing again I got off at Söğütlüçeşme, the last stop (in Turkish the ğ is a very soft "g", ç sounds like an English "ch" (as in "chair"), and ş sounds like "sh" in "ship." With my two feet in Asia I got my first cup of Turkish tea and I was instantly in love! With a very delicate flavour the taste is at its best on the back of your tongue, and it's served in an oddly shaped glass.

Walking toward Ali's flat I was enamoured at all the buildings, the colour, and the many things for sale. Istanbul is a welcome relief after the rigours of Ethiopia and I don't have to deal with the persistent and incessant demands for money like in Addis. Calling in at a couple of pastry shops I thought I'd visit later as I was so exhausted and ready for a nap. After some searching I found Ali's flat, five floors up in an apartment block. Ali was waiting for me by a bull statue but was impressed that I found his place on my own. The district he lives in is Kadıköy and he works as a researcher in Taksim across the strait, therefore he lives in Asia and works in Europe. Ali made me some coffee and then I had a (lukewarm) shower, unaware that the water heater wasn't switched on. He felt bad but forgot for a second that I just spent two rigourous months in Ethiopia so it didn't bother me at all. Ali had to go to work so I opted to join him as we headed toward the ferry from Kadıköy to Kabataş. In my short time here so far I love walking around and soaking up the colour and the atmosphere. Being the kid I am at heart I climbed inside a cannon.

Istanbul may not boast sites as world-class as the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum but it seems that Istanbul's greatest attraction is Istanbul itself. As we sailed on the ferry between Asia and Europe I sipped several cups of delicious Turkish tea, and when we disembarked we went to Ali's work. Although I only slept two hours last night I wasn't at all tired. Excitement keeps me awake when I travel! Istanbul was Constantinople, and Constantinople was Byzantium. Founded in around 660 BC this extraordinary city is even older than London and has served as the capital of four major empires (Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman). In 7th grade we used to sing this song in music class and went "Istanbul was Constantinople, now it's Istanbul not Constantinople..." That song was stuck in my head all day. As I sat with Ali's friend over some good food she was intrigued by my travels and we chatted for a good while. With a gorgeous view of the Bosphorus and the Bridge I sat with Ali and tasted a cup of fabulous Turkish coffee!

Very good! I've now been to three of the world's best countries for coffee (Cuba, Ethiopia, and Turkey), and I've now been to another of the world's elite cities. My "Travel CV" is extremely extensive; among the world's great cities I've been to London, Havana, Istanbul, Seattle, San Francisco, and Reykjavik, just to name a few. Ali is thinking of doing his PhD in New York (his MA is in marketing). After soaking up the view of the strait between the continents I was ready for more! Ali asked me if I plan on visiting Hagia Sophia but I'm going to do that tomorrow. As I've mentioned before, when it comes to the main sites I prefer to go on my own since CouchSurfing hosts are often asked to go to the main sites and consequently are likely bored of them. When a host shows me around I like them to show me places that I otherwise wouldn't think of visiting. By late afternoon I was very tired and I lay on some rocks as we waited for the ferry back to Kadıköy. I went from Asia to Europe and back to Asia within about five hours. As we walked back to Ali's flat I wanted to visit some of the shops I had passed by earlier. Whilst Ali did his thing I did mine and I visited various pastry shops, sipped some divine Turkish tea, and stumbled upon a five-storey Burger King whilst I looked for a toilet. The Asian side of Istanbul seems to be more authentic and have a more local feel than the European side, but there are heaps of stylish places to shop and the buildings and streets are just as colourful and just as pleasant to wander. Turkey is a rather underrated country when it comes to wine, so I treated myself to a bottle of Turkish wine as a toast to a fabulous first day here. Turkish wine is excellent! Turkey is perhaps the wine world's best kept secret. A friend of theirs brought over this tasty chocolate cake topped with chocolate sauce, kiwifruit and strawberries. In Ali's words "there's no name for it because she created it." My Kiwi friend Elly is in Israel and I'm in Istanbul, so we chatted via Skype for a wee bit. Although I was tired, I was chatty with Elly and later with my new Turkish friends. As I chatted to Ali and his flatmates they invited me to join them at a club. Whlist I was a little skeptical of going I was buzzed enough after a couple of glasses of wine that I was in the mood. Blowing my whistle gleefully I was excited to be here! I was introduced to a number of their friends and I hung out for about an hour or so but I was too tired to even stand up straight. Needing to crash when I should have taken a nap at 9 AM, Ali's flatmate walked with me back to the flat where I was dreaming of Istanbul almost instantaneously. 


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