Istanbul, not constantinople

last night we took the bus from bulgaria to istanbul. it was a long long bus ride, but the toughest part of it all was the passport control between bulgaria and turkey. first, we go to the bulgarian border, and everyone had to file out of the bus in the freezing cold and have their pasports stamped one at a time. then, next stop was the turkish border, and we all had to get out again. after getting a turkish visa (20 bux on the spot), we all waited in a really long line again to get our passports stamped by the turks. it seems like everyone has been watching the US elections, and the guy asked us whether bush won the election. *sigh*. but wait, the ordeal wasnt over yet. next, everyone had to pull their bags off of the bus, and open them for inspection. the inspection wasnt much of an inspection at all really… the guards just briskly walked by and peeked at our bags, without really digging into them. but, at this point, our bus was gone!! we still have no clue where our bus driver drove off to, but he was gone for hellza days. and it was FREEZING! everyone was standing outside shivering like crazy. finally, eventually the bus driver returned and we all climbed aboard. the whole process start to finish had taken *3* hours!!

after sleeping the rest of the way, we arrived finally in istanbul. we ended up napping for most of today, so we still havent explored the city enough yet, but here are my first few impressiopns of istanbul:

1. first off, it’s *huge*. no, i mean *really* huge. we took a metro forever, followed by a tram for a bunch of stops, and we hadnt even covered that much of the city. the city just goes on forever! from what i’ve read, there are more people living in the city of istanbul than there are in all the cities of greece put together!!

2. second off, it’s way more modern than i expected. i guess i had expected it to be similar somewhat to morocco, but it’s nothing like it. modern transport everywhere, everyone is walking around wearing very fashionablle modern clothes, tons of stores selling cell phones and other high tech stuff. hardly any of the women here wear the traditional head covering at all.

3. the city is super vibrant and thee is tons of hustle and bustle everywhere!

4. the other thing about istanbul, is that there are soooooo many mosques. literally, there is a mosque around every corner. if i threw a stick oin any direction, i woudnt be surprised if it hit a mosque.

5. despite that, it doesnt really seem like people here are very religious. wheni did hear the call to prayer, nobody that i saw even batted an eyelash. no one stopped, no one went inside the mosque, nothing. it was as if the call didnt even happen.

6. the city has really really good food! the dinner caryn and i had was absolutely delicious, and all the food we’ve seen and smelled looks really really good. i think we’ll definitely be eating well here!!

7. their money is ridiculously high numbered. the money they use is the turkish lira, and one dollar is equal to 1.5 *million* lira. so to take out 60 bux from the bank, i had to get out 90 million lira!! the money is especially confusing, vause you laways end up counting zeros. you dont want to mistake a 1million (6 zeros) for a 10 million (7 zeros).

well, that’s all i have to say about istanbul for now. the other thing that’s been occupying my thoughts, is where we will go next. we bought a LP guidebook for the middle east today, and there is soooo much to see. they have a sample itinerary that we’re thinking of doing but that would involve 5 countries in just 7 weeks. it would be a really aggressive plan, and would mean prettyt much 2 days for most of the cities we will see. so it’s a tough call…. should we do it?? on one hand, i really want to see as much as i can see. but on the flip side, i really dont want to be constantly rushing around, and not have time enough to really get the feel of a place and absorb it. i dont want to rush from sight to sight and monument to monument, just to check them off of a list. i dont want to look back on this part of my trip later, and not be able to remember what i saw cause everything is blurred together… but at the same time, how often am i really gonna have a chnace to explore here?? i dont want to skip any out of the 5 countries recommended in the LP. *sigh*. well, it’ll definitely be a tough call.


9 thoughts on “Istanbul, not constantinople”

  1. While I think five countries in seven weeks is feasible, it will be exhausting, especially if you’re visiting more than one city in each country. During my first trip to Europe, I traveled to a different city every three to five days – it was often tiring, but I was usually ready to move on by the time I was scheduled to leave.

    My second stint to Europe was different. Chris and I stuck to a very similar schedule, but we had a *lot* further to travel inbetween cities than my first time in Europe; more distance, meant more travel time, which meant less sleep and more aggravation. Tired Jamie = Cranky Jamie. But I’m sure you know that – remember our arrival in Luang Prabang? Hee hee. I seriously almost lost it… or maybe I did. 😀

    My point is that it all depends on how far you need to travel inbetween cities, y’know? It makes a tremendous difference, f’shizzle.

    So Bush won the election – are you guys sure it’s safe to travel to the Middle East right now? I totally trust your judgment, but I’m a worry wart. 🙂

    I’m feelin’ pretty down and out about the whole thing. So much for traveling to Indonesia after Chris and I take the bar – I’m not convinced it’s entirely safe at this point. But we shall see what befalls us over the next year and a half. Let’s hope for the best!

  2. 5 in 7 weeks seems like too much. I know it is hard, but I’d probably try and just do 3 and at the most 4. But, hey, set a loose plan and see where it leads you…

  3. On my first visit to Europe, I was in super-shotgun mode, something like 2 days in a place maximum. I knew what I was in for when I signed up, which was like a sampler, but when you get to a place you like and want to chill out, you just want to park it for a while. For me, parking it is like 3 days or more before I feel ok.

    In your case, you two are in control of the travel, so if you don’t like the place, just leave soon, and if you like it, park it.

    One of the best pieces of vacation advice I ever heard is to treat it like you will be back again. The vacation could turn out bad if, like you said, you ran your ass all over the place.

    My opinion.

  4. You know what would be cool if you haven’t done it? Buy a cigar and light it with like 5 Million Lira!!!!

  5. Dooood, that’s messed up! It actually really upsets the Turks when tourists pull stuff like that. Ä°t’s very disrespectful to the dude who’s pictured on the money.

  6. yeah, i totally agree that the distance between cities really makes a big difference. luckily, a couple of the cities we are going to are quite tiny, so for the most part, we’ll be traveling short distnaces (i think). i think that in the end, i’m gonna do a sort of compromise between the two options. i’ll probably try to do the 5 countries in 7 weeks as suggested by LP, *but* i’ll try to do less cities in each country than LP suggests. that way instead of doing just 2 days per city, i’ll aim for 3 or hopefully 4. we’ll see how that works out. hopefully it wont be too fast!

    as far as the danger aspect, i think it should be totally fine. i mean, whether bush had won or lost, he still would have been prez while i’m in the middle east, so i dont think it makes much of a difference. from what i’ve read on the thorn tree, the middle east is actually quite safe other than a few hot spots. a lot of the fear we have about it is supposedly quite exaggerated. i’ve read posts from people who say that even right at the time when we first incaded iraq… when you would think people would hate us the most… they were totally fine traveling around the middle east. heh, as long as i dont go to iraq or nothin’ we should be fine.

    as far as indonesia goes, i’m not sure bush’s election will make a difgference there either. oddly enough, people i talked to both in serbia and in bulgaria thought george was “super”. so, although he’s disliked in western europe, i dont know if the rest of the world hates him as much as we think….


  7. yeah, there’s definitely a chnace that that may be a too agressive plan. read my response to jamie’s comment above for what we decided to do.

    btw, here’s the tentative itinerary:

    Turkey – 14 days
    Syria – 8 days
    Jordan – 7 days
    Israel – 8 days
    Egypt – 14 days


  8. yeah, that’s definitely true. we can set an itinerary, and then later just stop and chill for extra days wherever we want. i guess we have no deadlines… other than how much moneys we have!!

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