From Oct 13, 2012 to Dec 17, 2012:
106 days of #vanlife
We left Bulgaria with the idea of going to Istanbul. We both had kind of vague notions of an exotic city filled with mosques, but we really had no clue what we were in for as far as an experience. It was pure chaos, exhilarating and tiring all at once.
From the shrieks of the car and scooter horns, to the prayer calls echoing across the city; from the hurdy-gurdy foot traffic of Istiklal, to the nearly abandoned Princes Island we camped, it was our first real* travel adventure into the unknown.
We were parked a short walk away from the Galata Bridge, which had a stunning sunset view of the mosques. Our first impressions: they were majestic, imposing and fragile-looking, with a little mystique thrown in.
We both love good street art, and we came across this in one of the side streets on a walk one day. We found out later it was by a graffiti artist named Curtis Kulig, and he travels and does this graffiti all over the world.
We spent nearly every day in Istanbul crossing Istiklal Street, which is a trip unto itself. We dodged people, scooters and sometimes a tourist tram while the smell of roasted nuts and meats hovered over our heads.
We were still getting on our travel feet as a couple, and the weather in Istanbul wasn’t super helpful. Rainy days were the worst. We ran out of cooking gas. We got stuck. And sometimes we just needed to reflect and remind ourselves: holy wow, we’re living in Istanbul. Grin.
Istanbul (or ‘Catstantinople,’ as Armando joked) wasn’t just filled with cats. It was overflowing. In the neighborhood we stayed in, there were at any given time 4-5 on any city block. On cars, stoops, the streets- everywhere. This is one that quite liked Mork. We called him ‘Jam,’ for some reason.
Istanbul was one of the first fishing forays for Armando. It was doubly nice that the local Turkish fishermen gave him tips. He didn’t speak a word of Turkish, they had no English/Italian, but (as men will do) they managed to not only communicate. They bonded. Ha.
Jam really made himself at home. He was lovely, almost too affectionate and a little agro. We finally had to kick him out, screaming and clawing, when he got back in our bedding. He wasn’t fixed, so there was a very good chance of him spraying to mark his territory. Ah, Jam. We wish you well-!
I’m not sure, but I think this is a shot of Istanbul from a distance? From the other shore, also called the East Side? Have to ask Armando. You can recognize Galata Tower in Taxim neighborhood.
We took the ferry to Heybeliada Island, part of the Prince’s Islands. We were escaping the clatter of 20+ million people in Istanbul for the serenity of an island weekend, and the seagulls seemed to represent that for us.
We really had Heybeliada Island to ourselves. On one of the beaches, we came across a closed Tiki Bar with chairs outside. We had a very romantic setting, with the distant lights of Istanbul across the water; wine; and a backgammon board. It was lovely.
We’d brought our sleeping bags and set up camp inside the closed Tiki Bar. Which was fine. Until we heard the scratching. I heard Armando yell and the next thing I know, he’s outside. He’d seen a ‘rat the size of a cat,’ so yes, we did end up sleeping outside on the beach that night. Grin.
While a lot of things were very pricey in Istanbul (a teensy pizza for 20 Euros or a crappy bottle of red for 15 Euros), the tobacco was cheap as chips. Seriously cheap. It cost 5 Turkish Lira for 100 Gr. And it was probably the smoothest tobacco we’d ever had. Nice.
The lighthouse in a cloudy day.
Once we’d finally decided to leave Istanbul (after a too-lengthy stay; this was our first travel lesson in ‘not over-staying’ our welcome- and we took it to heart) we actually couldn’t leave. Irony of ironies! First our battery was dead and we had to buy a new one. Then our brake was frozen. Two kindly neighborhood fellas helped us to un-stick it so we could finally go.
One of the more interesting things that was such a new experience for us: not comprehending signs. Not unless there were symbols, and even then we weren’t absolutely sure sometimes. It was challenging.
What about you? Have you been to Istanbul? Turkey? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!