Flying and Arriving

So I took the 6:30AM flight out of LAX and landed in JFK where I met up with a few fellow Contiki people who were flying in from SJC. Flying to JFK was the easy part, it was the waiting for 3 hours as our flight was delayed because of a closed runway supposedly because of Obama (he was using it) part that was annoying. Not only that, but the pilot said that in order to fly out on the shorter runway we had to lighten our plane load by 20,000 lbs. To everyone that sounded like people were getting kicked off. I was rather panicky at that point because I had planned the flights so tightly to fit it in my vacation time that a later flight could possibly mean missing out on the whole tour! Luckily, all was okay as they decided to take off all the extra  gas, not that it sounded safe…but at least we’d get there! After another 9 hours on top of the 5 hours to JFK, I finally made it to Istanbul at 11:30AM the next day!

I had a booked a private car that was there to pick us up and away we drove into the hectic mess of a city that was Istanbul. Our hotel, the Erbil was in Sultanahmet, right in the heart of the Old City.

These were the first views:

I quickly realized the streets were small in Turkey and the people were plentiful AND it was almost all men. Apparently the men worked in the city while the women stayed home or worked on the farm. I quickly checked in and found another tour member to go explore the city.


Istanbul was so hectic, there was the subway packed with people, tourists in huge groups and so many locals trying to sell everything imaginable. We managed to take a quick stroll around the town as seen in this video:

I managed to “borrow” my brother’s flip camera so there will be TONS of videos to come 🙂 Sorry if the quality is shaky… it was too hard to hold the camera steady AND walk around.

Afterwards we took a quick preview of the Bazaar, which was BEAUTIFUL and GIGANTIC and just as crazy and wonderful as I imagined it.

I’ll explain more later about the Grand Bazaar later when I talk about my very interesting and creepy experiences there.

Finally I got my first glimpse of the Blue Mosque, it was surreal indeed. We sat in the park which is situated right between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (its a big pink church) and watched as so many people just sat around chit chatting, drinking Chai Tea and using the free wi fi. Istanbul really had become such a modern city but yet you could still see the beauty of it’s history evidenced by the presence of the Blue Mosque.

Then we headed back to shrug off the stress of our jetlag with our first tastes of Kebab and tea. It was a very interesting experience finding a place to eat because EVERY person wants your business. Usually it involved groups of men chasing you down trying to compete for your business. We ended up at a street restaurant right by our hotel where two competing restaurants (both of which were identical) consisting of two groups of men tried to get our business. We didn’t really understand what the difference was so we sat down on the cushiest looking seats and laughed at how our host looked like a good looking young John Travolta! Too bad he was super creepy and would continue to try to charm us at every meeting. We ordered Hummus (which ended up having a weird sweet peanut taste. Eck), spicy kebab (not bad, although slightly lukewarm not hot) and then ended with watermelon that looked delicious but smelled like it had been sitting out for a while.

We relaxed for quite a bit, paid our 24 turkish lira (TL) for the meal, which around $15 USD and raced off to meet our group in the hotel lobby at 7PM.

Our tour guide Sayat, a local, was born and raised in Istanbul. He lived in the Prince Islands which has only 900 residents on his island and no cars, only horses and buggys. He warned us that his wife was due at any moment with his second child, a son, so he apologized if he had to fly out, but he had a back up. Luckily, that never happened and Sayat was the BOMB tour guide. He knew everything there was to know about Turkey and ran tours all over the world all year long. He was in the rare few in Turkey (0.1%) who are Christian and he wasn’t really Turkish he was Armenian. He had wanted to study Archaeology but realized on his first few times, that sitting with his designated few square feet of land and a toothbrush to dust off any times he “might” find, was not the life he wanted.

We had a great orientation and then Sayat offered to walk us on his way home to the New City (only a few thousand years younger than the Old City), where many students went for drinks and dinner at much trendier hang out spots. Let me tell you, it was a LONG walk but oh so beautiful. Around twenty of us made the walk across the bridge, took a tiny subway car and made our way to the restaurants. It was super crowded and narrow as usual, so we barely fit into the restaurant, but it did look like a happening place. Sadly, in my opinion, the food was only okay, the meatballs were TINY, the Turkish pizza tasted like pepperoni and the Turkish fries were fries with spicy ketchup. I did get to try Turkish wheat beer, called Gusta, which I had to say wasn’t bad. The group kind of split up from there, foreshadowing the trip to come, and my half had a wonderfully scenic walk back home where there were night vendors and TONS of fishermen eating their catch along the coast.

Walking across the bridge at night:

The New Town!

Hope you enjoyed, more to come soon!

2 Responses to “Arrival”
  1. Brian says:

    Gosh, you have no idea how jealous I am of you right now! Didn’t realize how exotic Turkey would look. You need to post some pictures up on facebook!

    • antheabyday says:

      I know, wait until you see the other days it gets better! I’ll post the pics at the end when I’ve blogged about everything, or sometime in the middle maybe. haha hope I don’t use too much detail though and have too many long posts, but there’s just so much to show!

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