Monday, September 7, 2009

Istanbul, Turkey

The start of my visit to Istanbul was not fun. I somehow contracted travelers’ diarrhea in Cappadocia (or on the bus ride to Istanbul) and spent my first two days sleeping, drinking water and eating bread. Luckily, I had buffered in some extra days in Istanbul, due to not visiting Canakkale.

Istanbul, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, is a bustling city. My favorite image of the city consists of fishermen on the various bridges, surrounded by the Bosphorus, Golden Horn and mosques. My favorite sightseeing location is Topkapi Palace, especially its harem (private quarters). There, elaborate wooden doors with Arabic script above them connected rooms to courtyards. Many of these rooms contained walls filled with the blue Iznik tiles. Topkapi Palace is a massive work of art, its many buildings and pavilions blend harmoniously with the inner gardens and the Bosphorus.

Another enjoyable part of visiting Istanbul was tasting its cuisine. Unfortunately, due to my illness, I did not participate fully in this endeavor, but nevertheless I got to sample the basics. These included chicken doner kebab, pide (Turkish pizza), borek (flaky pastry with ground beef), baklava and milk pudding.

On my last day in Istanbul, I took an overnight bus to Sofia, Bulgaria. I was told the departure time would be 9pm, but a staff member clarified to me that it was 9pm departure from a satellite bus station and actually 10pm departure from the main bus station. In fact, the bus company really tested my patience as the actual departure was 11pm! On the way, of course the bus stopped several times. However, the interesting aspect about these stops is that they were at shopping/restaurant complexes owned by the bus company. Pretty business savvy, eh?

One more point to note. When crossing into Bulgaria, the immigration officer asked me if I had enough money for my stay in Bulgaria. Since when did Bulgaria start becoming a country for illegal immigration?

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