Istanbul Diaries

April 16, 2014

Day 1
We arrive at the airport in Istanbul and stay in queue for passport check 45 minutes. It's hot and sweaty, and at least tree people jump in front of us in the line. The majority her seem to come from the middle east, and I for once feel like I could truly blend in. My mother jokes that I might be mistaken for a Turk, and I reply, that we should have taken with my dad. On the other hand, I know how much of a party-pooper he can be, so a part of me is happy that he isn't with us.
Due to her Austrian passport, my mum has to run back to buy Visa. I have to wait 15 minutes for her, and try to analyse the movie I watched on the plane (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). This doesn't go to well, partly because my head feels heavy and dizzy, and partly because there really isn't that much too it. When we're finally outside, my aunt, who landed half an hour before us, is already waiting. We go outside and hail a cab. The drive to the hotel isn't long. Outside children are playing and pastel coloured houses line up between restaurants. The air is hot and sticky, and our driver seems to be set on a suicide mission, judging by the speed he's driving.
I already love the city.
Before we go to bed in the hotel, we visit the Bosphorus.

Day 2
Our hotel is located near the New Mosque. In a narrow alley we find an unnamed bazaar, one that seemed to have just "happened" one day. We are all ushered into the small streets by a line of tourists and turks. Merchants from both sides yell in turkish, occasionally English, and offer us all sorts of stuff. My mum buys my little brother a fez for 10 lire and we leave the bazaar exhausted but pulsating with energy at the same time.
After a pit stop in the hotel we visit the palace garden, and thereafter the Topkapi Palace. There's a cafe in the garden where we drink turkish tea, which I take with tons of sugar, and have the prettiest view.
We eat dinner in a restaurant where the waiter calls me princess and the music is way too loud. The food is crap but I love the atmosphere, and I love the people. The shop owners will do what they have to do to lure tourists inside and earn money. They are fully aware of their stereotypes, and use the fact to their advantage. 
Before heading to our temporary home, we visit a confectionery "Hafiz Mustafa" where we eat chocolate rice pudding and Baklava amongst turks. 

Day 3
It takes a while, but we finally find the blue Mosque. The line moves quicker than expected, and I hear familiar languages all around me. Istanbul seems to be a popular travel destination amongst Germans and Austrians, and I miss Austria a little. Soon we are inside, and I eavesdrop on a German tourist guide who explains the breathtaking arcitecture. As we are in a mosque, we are barefooted and the women wear hijabs. Growing up as a Christian, and where the muslim part of the family is very passive, I never thought I'd find myself in a situation to wear a hijab. I'm glad I am though, because the Blue Mosque is quite a view, where the sun shines playfully through the coloured glass windows.
Outside is so surreal afterwards, like stepping into another world, or returning from one. 
It is late afternoon and the Hagia Sofia is, to my aunts misfortune, already closed.
We then visit the Taksim Square, where I try to, without luck, hunt down a good international book store. I've read the book I bought, and want a quick, light read. Although I find nothing in my taste, unless I want to read Turkish (not an option) or German (not in the mood), I would have loved their selection here. The Young Adult and fantasy books are kept to a minimum, but their political, religious and women studies section offer a wide variety that I admire. 
The modern part of Istanbul keeps up the vibrant energy that I admire so much, but has all the elements you see in every city nowadays. We visit a Starbucks to use the restroom.
Afterwards we roam the streets of the Grand Bazaar with hundreds of thousands of tourists. 
"We're lost" my mother exclaims when we've taken the fourth left turn to another identical road. "We all are," a passing, German tourist laughs.
In the evening, we track down a restaurant my mum looked up on her iPad, to properly celebrate my aunts birthday. We don't find it, but end up somewhere else, top floor with a nice view. 
My aunt jokes that she's old and I'm lost in thoughts while they discuss all the things that suck about growing older. It doesn't surprise me that I grew up to hate myself and my body when I'm surrounded by this constant body negativity, but I've learnt to let i pass, and lately I don't seem to care. 
It's what I enjoy the most about being here, to be able to roam the streets carefree and experience without feeling bound and tied up. 

Day 4
Today is the day we do all the things we didn't manage the past days, my mum tells me in the morning. They inquire what I want to see, but I have managed to visit every program point. I know my mother wants to see the cisterns, so I say that I wouldn't mind, and off we go. It's more interesting than I'd expect, despite the tourist photos my mum and aunt insist on, and in the end I did find them quite funny. 
I am tired out when we let ourselves down on a bench in front of the Blue Mosque. For three days I have been using energy, and not once really tanked up. My aunt wants to visit the Hagia Sophia, but my mum and I don't feel like standing in line. So we split up, and the two of us go back to the grand Bazaar, where my mum wants to buy a pair of earrings she saw earlier. 
We get back, and together with my aunt we visit the Egyptian Bazaar, that is exactly like all the other bazaars, with slightly more tourists.
My tired mood doesn't help the we-are-slightly-bored-and-very-sweaty situation, but I try to stay enthusiastic. After all, it is hard to be in a bad mood when colours, sounds and impressions are all around you. It should be illegal to be tired when travelling.
As a sort of compromise, after I beg to go back to the hotel so I can sleep a couple of days, we decide to go on a boat trip on the Bosphorus. It isn't hard to find a boat, just go near the water, and about hundred people will yell at you "BOAT TRIP ON THE BOSPHORUS ONLY 1/2/3/4 HOUR/S!! I CAN EXPLAIN". 
The trip on the boat is 1 and a half hours, and I have already had enough after 15 minutes. I guess I'm not a water person, but hey, at least I didn't puke.
Everything seems much more extreme, which is exciting and tiring. I don't I would have lasted more than these 3-4 days. The water is bluer, the sun is hotter and the people are louder. Although I must admit, that the Turks I saw where incredibly chill and relaxed. Despite how much I loved Istanbul, I could never see myself living there. But I can definitely see myself going back one day.

(I realise that this is a very long entry and that most of you will probably skip the text. I still hope you'll enjoy the pictures, though)

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