“We’re back in the ‘bul.” as Andrew liked to say.
We woke up late, as one should after nearly fourteen hours of travel. We lounged in Juliet and Daniel’s apartment until meeting up with Josh, Leanne, and Margarita for dinner. Meeting up with friends at a subway or tram stop in a foreign city will never, ever get old. It’s one of my favorite things. I’ve met friends in the middle of Prague, at a random subway stop in Tokyo, and a rooftop bar in Chiang Mai – to name a few. It’s one of the perks of being a traveler. Your friends travel and sometimes they happen to be traveling through the same country you are in or they go out of their way to visit or meet up with you on your journey.
We met at the Eminou tram stop and headed for a fun dinner under Galata Bridge. “Lady… Listen. Listen… Lady.” the waiter kept trying to interrupt our nonstop catch up to get our order. Leanne and I rolled our eyes. Josh and Andrew ordered beers. Margarita sat enthralled (I’m going to go ahead and pick that adjective, as it’s much more fun than ‘bored’ as she probably was) at us catching up on our past few months of adventures in different countries on our respective trips around the world.
Because of Josh’s newfound love of nargila (hookah to you) we all jumped on the tram after dinner and headed to a rather infamous little alley in an old madrassa in Sultanamet for a spot of tea and a few draws off the ole’ pipe. Not that kind of pipe. It’s much less incriminating than it sounds. At this particular institution, and you get the feeling that it is an institution, old men sat playing backgammon or simply taking a break in between work and their walk home. It’s calm despite the hustle of the men who work there serving tea or heating up and delivering coals to their patrons’ pipes. I had a bit of a “Oh, so this is Turkey…” feeling.
We’ve seen wonderful things here in Turkey (my favorite possibly being Goreme) but it has all felt overly touristy and I was starting to wonder what all of the fuss (over Turkey) has been about. But tonight, I started to get it. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed our time in Turkey, it’s just that I expected rainbows and unicorns every day all the time from the way our friends gushed over their visits here.
A friend recently asked what I thought about Turkey and I wasn’t as positive as I should have been. The factors of our stay didn’t work in our favor. Turkey IS amazing. I can see how it would have felt more amazing for us if we (mostly Andrew) weren’t stuck wearing the same clothes for a week, maybe if were staying in the heart of Istanbul, and we weren’t on a strict budget (trying to make up for an expensive three months in Africa). Andrew pointed out that it was probably unfair of us to put such high expectations on Turkey. It’s one of those countries I already know I’d like to revisit- with less expectation and perhaps more money.
We left our friends earlier than we would have liked to catch the tram/funicular/subway/taxi combination “home.” I was disappointed to have to leave, yet so grateful for Josh, Leanne, and Margarita for showing us a different side of Istanbul that we might not have seen otherwise.