Second stop in Istanbul, Turkey

After exploring Turkey, we came back to Istanbul for a couple days to catch a flight for our next destination. We arrived in Istanbul after our night bus from Izmir. We surprisingly were able to sleep for most of the bus ride. We arrived at the main bus station under pouring rain. There was a little bit of confusion to know if this was the right stop, but we managed to communicate with the bus attendant. He told us to get out and catch a minibus to get to Taksim Square. We hurried toward the minibus, and it was a good timing as it only had two seats left. 

As soon as the bus drove closer to Taksim, we recognized the area from our first stay in Istanbul. We stepped out and walked toward the hostel. It was located on a side street close to Istiklal street, the main pedestrian shopping street. Because it was 7:30 am and raining, the street was empty, with just a few delivery trucks. It made it a lot easier to walk through. We finally found the hostel and rang the bell. The owner showed us our room and we dropped our bags, as quietly as possible as one of the guys in the dorm was still sleeping. We went back out in the rain as we both really needed food. 

We returned to Taksim Square where we had seen a little coffee and pastry restaurant. We enjoyed our breakfast of Americano coffee and chocolate croissants. While eating we looked out the window at all the Turks and tourists running around and breaking their umbrellas. We had though that the umbrellas being sold on the street looked sturdy, but after 15 minutes looking outside and just seeing people with the white transparent umbrellas having trouble, we changed our minds! After our breakfast, we went back to the hostel where we spent time to inventory everything we carry in our backpacks to see if we still needed all of it. Later we went for a walk to see the Citadel and the park surrounding it. We had a nice supper in a restaurant located in the main pedestrian street. Our our way back to the hostel we bought a bottle of wine to enjoy while chatting with our roommates for the night.

The next morning we had a weird experience.  AA suddenly felt ill, runny nose and dry mouth. Our roommate from Dubai was laughing at us a little bit, but soon Seb started to have a runny nose and was coughing as well. Few minutes later, we were all three sneezing, and looking for tissues to blow our noses. There must have been something in the air outside or in the hostel because as soon as we got out, no more runny nose. We checked out and left our bags at the hostel for the day to visit some more sights of Istanbul.

We walked to the Bosphorus, where we sat down and had improvised breakfast sandwiches. We went for a walk in the more touristy quarters surrounding the citadel.  We met many really cute kittens, one must have been just a few weeks old. Small enough to fit in a pocket (which AA considered for a few minutes). There are many stray cats and dogs in Turkey. It is really sad to see them eat garbage and being very skinny.  

We finally made our way to Hagia Sophia Mosque as well as Sultan Ahmed Mosque (known as Blue Mosque). We decided to have a look at the Blue Mosque and followed the crowd. The inside courtyard of the mosque is filled with big interesting information boards. They cover the beliefs of Muslim and the history of the religion. We lined up behind quite a few tourists, but the line was moving fast. Seb had though of carrying his orange Jordanian scarf, so AA was able to cover her head without having to rent a scarf. We took our shoes off and walked in the mosque. The mosque is beautiful, and has amazing mosaic tile work. The area where locals go to pray is through a different entrance. The men and women pray in different areas as well; the men in the larger area in the middle of the mosque and the women towards the back. Many tourists where being really loud and not very respectful of the people praying. We spent some time taking the beauty of the place in before going back out in the city. 

We continued to explore Istanbul for the remaining of the day, before walking back to the hostel to get our bags. We decided to get ourselves some Starbucks coffees so we could enjoy American style coffee and free WiFi. Seb ordered 2 large coffees while AA stayed outside keeping an eye on the bags and the only available table. When we tried to log onto the WiFi, it didn’t work so we asked the employees who told us we needed to register with a valid Turkey cell phone number… Which obviously we don’t have. And if we did, we probably would not need free WiFi as there is usually a data package with the phones… After drinking our huge coffees, we needed to use the bathroom, only to be told that they were not open right now. This was not the best Starbucks experience and we will probably stick to the very basic little coffee shops next time we are looking for a place to spend time and use WiFi.

After our deceiving Starbucks experience, we walked toward the underground station to get on our way to the airport. We decided to walk instead of getting on for just one stop on a different line. We were walking toward the station when suddenly AA said that maybe we should double check that our flight was really leaving from Istanbul Atatürk Airport. We had been so sure that this was the case that we didn’t feel the need to double check again. We were really surprised to see that our flight was actually leaving from Sabiha Gökçen Airport. This airport being at the other end of the city, on the Asian side!  We didn’t expect that, so we rushed back to the subway station we were just at, got on for one stop to Taksim and almost ran to get to the bus stop where we first arrived in Istanbul. We were lucky enough to catch the bus who then brought us to the right airport. It is a good thing that we are always on the safe side when planning time to get somewhere, because we arrived just in time for the start of the check-in. It was a very good reminder to always double check the booking confirmation.

There was a pretty big line up at the Air Arabia counter, and things were moving really slowly, but hey, we were at the right airport now! The crowd was also different, because our first flight was to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Most women were wearing their headscarves. We finally checked-in and decided to go through security right away thinking that food could wait. Making sure we were going to catch our plane was the priority. We found our gate and went back to the restaurant area and sat down at a table only to be told they were closing in ten minutes and we couldn’t order food. We walked to the second level of fast food restaurant, but they too where already done, because they close at midnight. Apparently 10 minutes before you can’t buy anything. We hurried to the sandwich shop we had seen by our gate and surely, it was already closed. So we had to go with the only option left, a really expensive not really tasty dry sandwich and small bottles of water. We ate our lunch and finished jut a few minutes before boarding. The plane took off at 1:10am, almost on time. We had a short one hour and ten minute connection in Sharjah Airport, but we landed almost 30 minutes late. By the time we got off the plane, in the bus and through security, it was already the last call. We hurried to the right gate, and took another bus… who brought us to the same plane we had just left minutes ago. It was quite funny because when we checked-in at the Air Arabia counter in Istanbul, the guy had given us the same seat numbers for both flights so we sat in the exact same spots. This second flight was pretty smooth and we arrived on time in the buzzing city of Kathmandu in Nepal.

Hagia Sofia :

 

Sultanahmet :

 
 
 
 

 

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