Well the time has come to say goodbye to our convoy, after another day of traveling together and camping out at the shores of the Black Sea, we woke up had one last breakfast with Hop, Skip and Jump Co, then bid each other farewell. They’re heading for Istanbul as well so there is a chance we’ll see them again. It was nice to be in a convoy, there were definitely a lot of upsides to it, particularly the camping out portion.
So here we are again, on our own. The day was fairly uneventful, we drove and drove until we got to the Turkish border where we ran into a number of teams. I got to finally meet the tattoo guy. For those of you who don’t know ,the tattoo guy is this dude who, while totally shit faced drunk, got a tattoo of another team’s logo on his arm. It’s there, and it’s real and not going anywhere any time soon.
After a bit of a pinball style bouncing around to various offices ( we totally forgot to get our Turkish visas. WHOOPS!) we were cleared at last to enter Turkey. The other teams had already gotten through and went ahead, but in true fashion, we caught up and waved goodbye as we passed the whole lot of them.
Once more we’re stuck in sweltering heat, which really sucks. Yes the windows are open, but basically just hot air is blowing through, and of course the sun is bearing down on us, toasting some of us to golden perfection while others are more of a reddish pink. We managed to find the house of our Turkish host, Seray, who’s also a friend of Kristina’s aunt. After a quick bite to eat, we all piled into their car and had a quick drive around the city. This would be just a preview of how amazing Istanbul is.
This is another place that I feel my words would do no justice to describe, but I’ll give it my best. This is perhaps one of the most lively and gorgeous cities I’ve ever been to, a wild mish-mash of modern and ancient, it was breathtaking and awe inspiring and I enjoyed every bit of it. Even the walking. Because there was a lot of walking, in flip-flops no less, and by the end of the day I felt like my legs were going to fall off.
We started our day off with plans to go to the Blue Mosque and then circle around to look at Hagia Sophia, The Grand Bazaar and finish at Taskim square. But before we could do all of this we had to figure out the metro.
I don’t know if we did it right or perhaps I’m just spoiled by London’s underground, but it took us a bit to understand how to get around. First you have to buy a token (literally it’s a wee plastic token that you get after paying 2 lira) pop it into the machine then find your train..but you have to make sure you get the right line because if not, you’ll end up having to exit and walk to a whole other area and have to pay again to get in. That happened with us but were were lucky enough that the guard was kind and let us in to the right train platform. And when you have to switch lines? You exit and then have to pay to enter the new platform. It’s all silly and frankly I wish it was more like what I’m used to but hey, new place, new rules and all you can do is just go with it.
While on the metro we ran into some rally peeps, two of them in fact and both from France. Best part was when they saw Scott, they pointed at him and said “It’s Mario!” it seems Scott has found his fame with this rally, he’s known as Mario to everyone. A celebrity.
Our first stop was The Grand Bazaar which really was very grand and filled to the gills with things to look at and buy. So much gold, loads of spices, dried fruits and Turkish delights. I wanted to buy so many things, but alas, we’ve got limited room and have to pack light. And I reminded myself that there was still more to see, especially at the end of this rally when Kristina and I will be going to Korea and Japan.
After looking around and taking plenty of photos, we moved on to find the mosques that were dotted all around the city. You can see them from afar and they make for one grand view. Before we were permitted to enter any of them we have to cover up. While it was stupidly hot we wanted to respect the culture and of course see the mosques, so on went the scarfs. Luckily I found a scarf that perfectly matched my hair. Unluckily, I couldn’t put it on to save my life so Kristina saved me.
The Mosques were gorgeous both inside and out, and overall we greatly enjoyed them. Inside one of them I saw that there were only men on one side, and Kristina told me that it simply was one of the rules. Also, at one point Scott took up the task of photobombing as many selfies as he could. While waiting for Scott and Maartje, I made a friend with an old man who was rather affectionate and by the end of our conversation decided that I was his new daughter.
No matter where we went, both Kristina and I kept getting comments on our hair. People were especially amused by mine as all of my hair is blue right now. One woman even came over and gently tugged on a piece of it before asking if she could take a photo with me. Her husband looked horribly embarrassed but took the photo anyways. I wonder if this is going to be a recurring theme as we go along.
We eventually wandered over to a bridge where Scott told us that there were boats that were handed fresh fish from the sea, they’d then grill it up, stuff it into a loaf of bread with onions and lettuce before being handed to the people on shore to eat. You could also get a little cup of pickles that are served floating in a pink brine.
Now, me being the unfortunate one with the Crohn’s, I’ve had some trouble the last few days as my stomach isn’t quite used to this weird diet of mostly potatoes and bread. I was hungry and I wasn’t getting enough nutrition so I broke my no meat rule and went for it.
The fish was amazing. It was so stupidly simple, but the flavor was just fantastic. Seriously if you ever come to Istanbul, look for the bridge. I don’t remember what it was called, but you’ll know when you find it. It smells delicious.
Scott wanted to finish our tour of the city with a stop at Taksim square, but before we got there we had to climb up a wickedly steep hill. About midway we had to stop, Kristina wasn’t feeling so great. The thing is, a lot of the food out here is just meat with few veg. So there aren’t many options for vegans. I can go for a day or two without eating, a not so pleasant side effect of Crohns, so I tend to forget that others can’t exactly do the same. I wasn’t making sure Kris was getting enough food, which was an oversight on my part. So I found a falafel place where I put on my best Cali girl accent and managed to get a discounted falafel with extra hummus and falafels. The guys were sweet and even turned the AC on for me while I waited.
Quick snack over, we walked down a shopping centre where we got to listen to some amazing street musicians, and for a bit I felt like I was home as we were surrounded by Burger Kings and Starbucks as far as the eye could see. We reached Taksim Square, where apparently several years ago it was a bombing site. A lot of people died from the act of terrorism. And it was here we concluded our day in Istanbul. Our feet were aching from all of the walking, and we were more than ready to get out of the sun and have a good rest.
The following morning found us waking up at 5:30am to get on the road and avoid all the traffic. I can’t wait to see what new adventures we’ll find, as all of the things coming up are totally new to all of the team.
PS: During today’s drive, Scott brutally murdered a traffic cone with Eddy.