Thursday, May 15, 2008


Everything was very last minute. I booked the plane ticket two days before the flight, I bought a guide book the day before I left, and then the next day I was gone.  Here are some highlights of the trip.

Day one:
Caught the train at 8:30 in the morning from Innsbruck in order to make it in time to get to the Munich airport.  On the plane, I met a guy from Istanbul sitting next to me who was studying in Munich. At the end of the flight, he offered me a ride into the city with his mom. This was really great since I hadn't planned exactly how I was going to do it. The airport I flew into is new, and much further away from the city than the main international airport.

They dropped me off at a tram stop, and I took the tram to the stop nearest my hostel. The maps in my guide book were good, but not good enough. As soon as I got off the tram I got pretty turned around, and soon enough, I was lost. There were no street signs that I could read, and the few I saw didn't seem to be on the map.  About 45 minutes later, I found my way to the hostel--luckily just before dark.

Day two:
I woke up in time for the end of breakfast, and decided to see most of the major sites around the hostel. First I went to the Basilica Cistern, next the Hagia Sophia, and then the Blue Mosque.  When I went to the Blue Mosque, it seemed like it was near prayer time since you could head the clerics calling from the megaphons attached to the minarets, and a lot of people were entering. I went to the visitors entrace, read the rules of entry, took of my shoes, and went inside. It was obviously the start of prayer service, but people were still up and walking around. I started walking around to get a better view of the pulpit-like structure when all of a sudden, everyone dropped down. I dropped down too, and soon realized that I was surrounded by people on their knees.  There wasn't much I could do except stay for the service, so that's what I did.  I didn't really understand anything, but it was interesting.

For lunch, I had a delicious Turkish pizza, and then It started to rain so I just went inside an art museum which really just had a bunch of carpets all around.

Day three:
In the morning, I went to the Topkapı Palace which was also just about two blocks away from the hostel.  It was really amazing to see the different chambers, and learn about life as a sultan during the Ottoman Empire. I spent most of the day here, and went back to the hostel to take a nap on the rooftop terrace.

When I got back to the hostel, they told me that they didn't have a bed for me that night, but instead, I could sleep out in the common area. Even though I "booked" five nights, I guess I needed to specify that I wanted a real bed for five nights. It was too late to go searching for another place, and since it was Saturday night, I just decided that I would go out all night and not sleep anyway. In the evening, I went with a few guys I met at the hostel to a Turkish league championship soccer game, and it was really fun. The fans were wild, but I'm not sure they were as wild as in Buenos Aires. After that, I went out with a Brazillian guy who had heard the names of a club from a friend in Brasil, so I went with him to look for it.

But the formula one was going on in Istanbul at the same time, and there were a lot of people in town for the event. When we got to the club, the scene outside was pretty crazy. It was actually a strip of different clubs, and outside were tons of people with paparazzi taking pictures of famous people. I don't think we were dressed up enough and we weren't friends with the bouncers, so we had a pretty hard time getting in. At one place, they wanted us to bribe them about 25 euros to let us in, but since it was almost the end of the night we didn't want to pay.

Day four:
In the morning, I decided to find a new hostel who could garantee me a bed.  Around noon, I should have been tired, but I wasn't. Instead, I went hiking on one of the Prince's Islands which are about a two hour ferry ride away from the city with three other people I met at the hostel. We went to the biggest island, and walked to the top where there's an old monastery.  The architecture of the houses was really, really cool, and the view from the top was amazing. We left the top around 6pm, because we thought that would give us enough time to get back to the ferry dock for the last ferry at 7:30. When we got into town around 6:45, we bought our tickets for the boat, and then realized that the ferry we wanted had just left.  We waited about two hours on the dock for another ferry, but only ones that were going to someplace different came.  No one spoke more than broken English, and we couldn't figure out if we were stuck for good or if there was another boat. Finally another one came at 9:30, and we were relieved that we didn't have to spend the night away from Istanbul.

Day five:
For my last full day in the city I wanted to visit the palaces that were farther away from the center, but I realized that many museums and tourist attractions are closed on Mondays. So I made it a shopping day. First I went to the Grand Bazaar, then I walked to the Spice Market, then to the fish market, and then across to the "new Europe" side to look for some clothes. There were two shops that were listed in the new Lonely Planet as having cool funky t-shirt designs, but after two hours of searching, I found out they were no longer in business.

That night, I wanted to try some real Turkish cuisine instead of cheap pizzas and kebabs, so I went out to a nice restaurant just around the corner from the hostel. I went with five other people I met at the hostel, and we had a great time.

Day six:
I took a shuttle to the airport to catch my flight back to Munich. At the airport, I ran into the same guy and his mom who gave me a ride on Thursday, and I was able to send off some post cards. The plane was not as old as the one that was used the week before, but nonetheless, everyone still clapped loudly when it landed in Munich.

I really wish that the trains ran more often between Innsbruck and Munich, but I ended up having to catch three trains which took a total of three hours to get back to Innsbruck.

I'll post some pictures here soon, but until then, check out my picasaweb album.