Sunday, 25 March 2012

Istanbul : Last 3 days of my Euro - Trip

Inside of Hagia Sophia
26th October, Wednesday was my 3rd day in Istanbul. My friend Ugur was coming to Istanbul for some of his work and we had decided to go see some of the famous mosque's of Istanbul.  Around noon I had a talk with Ugur and we were going to meet at Hagia Sophia mosque. Even Madeleine too wanted to see them, so we both decided to visit them together.  This monuments were on the other side of the Galata bridge and we took a walk down hill and stopped at a nice looking restaurant for breakfast. The restaurant had a buffet system and there were so many mouth watering vegetarian delicacies to choose from.  The weather was nice to sit outside and have breakfast with come Turkish Chai.   Somehow we took a long time to finish our breakfast, thanks to some deeply engrossing philosophical talks.  It was just wonderful. While waiting for Ugur, Madeleine and me just played around and clicked each other's funny pics.  Finally Ugur came and I introduced him to my new friend Madeleine... ;) And we headed to see Hagia Sophia.  The entrance fee was 20 lira's and for Ugur it was none as he had this tourist card that Turkish people can have by paying an annual fee and then they get free entries to I guess all historical monuments and museums.  Ugur had a kind of satisfactory smile since he remembered his visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra when he paid 1000 bucks to visit Taj Mahal while my Indian friend Palak who had accompanied them paid just 20 bucks.  So he loved to see me pay 20 lira's for the entry.  

The first sight of the inside of Hagia Sophia was beautiful. The whole main hall was beautifully lighted and there were some religious signs.  For more on Hagia Sophia click on this link ttp:// Ugur gave us some brief history about Hagia Sophia.  The place was really beautiful from inside.  I first time saw Jesus sitting in the lap of Mariym.  The mosaic's of the Ottoman King's and Queen's were very pretty. We clicked some pics and finally headed to see the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.  

Inside of Blue Mosque
Blue mosque as seen from outside
of Hagia Sophia
Blue mosque is called so as it has blue tiles on the inside walls.  Luckily there was no entrance fee. ;)  The inside of the mosque was very peaceful and after walking for so long it was perfect to sit on the carpet on the floor and relax for sometime.  I felt like I'll doze off if I had closed my eyes. ;)  Blue mosque too had some wonderful lighting just like Hagia Sophia.  Finally we got out of it and decided to just take a walk around Topkapi Palace as I didn't had much interest to see one more monument.  Soon the weather got windy and cold. While walking back Ugur struck a fantastic idea to have a Nargile (Shisha) and some Chai.  He took us to a wonderful warm place and we spend some nice time getting nostalgic about our times together when he was in Ahmedabad.  I guess I really like making my friends jealous of how wonderful times Ugur and me had together with our friends Dorota, Hector, Asta, Palak, Olga, Liliana, Eymen, Luis and other mf's... ;)  Just like how Luis was made jealous and he came to Ahmedabad to visit us, we tried to make Madeleine jealous of how wonderful place Ahmedabad is to visit.  Though its not that touristic and enjoyable place, but if you have a bunch of fun people around you any place becomes great.  :)  
Madeleine, Ugur and Me having
Nargile & Chai.

So soon it was time to get back, have some time to relax and get ready for the night to party.  We dropped Madeleine to her hostel which came in the way towards Istikal street and went to my hostel to use the internet and search for some cheap Turkish Hamam.... ;)  Yes that was a thing to do on my list the next day. Finally time to get out and have some drinks and meet Madeleine in some time to have dinner and party.  ;)  Ugur and me explored some by lanes of Istikal street and sat at one place to have some beer.  Watching a game of soccer our talks disclosed some unknown secrets of our friends.... ;) Was really funny and great to talk of those wonderful times and how life has moved on since then.  As we were hungry Ugur took me to a nice place and made me have one amazing Turkish potato dish called Kumpir (Loaded baked Potato) ;)  I simply loved it.  Its actually a big baked Potato loaded with various salads and cheese and sauces.  And it was stuffing and quiet cheap too.  I sometimes wondered to myself how can the cost of one lunch or dinner be equal or even more expensive than the cost of one night of stay in the hostel ?  So expensive.

Soon we met Madeleine on Istikal street.  Actually to be honest Ugur and me thought she won't turn up... ;) But was nice to see her again and we all headed for a famous disco.  Ugur told us it has some great music and is generally very crowded.  But that day it wasn't.  Once again some beer and some wonderful dancing.  The night went past and I was quiet tipsy.  Two nights of constant partying, drinking and dancing.  So time to say goodbye to my wonderful friends as I headed back to my hostel.  Next day the plan was to meet up for a visit to Turkish Hamam.... ;)  

It was Thursday and Madeleine's last day in Istanbul. :( We met at the other end of Galata bridge on Thursday morning and went for a light breakfast.  I suggested her the same thing I had for dinner the last night, Kumpir. And soon after that we started to hunt for a Turkish Hamam.... ;)  I had no idea where to find one in that locality.  Madeleine had a map and she had marked some places to find Turkish Hamam.  We went from one to another but the prices were too high.  I was just following her as if she was my GPS. ;) Yes that what I sometimes call her now. ;) Didn't knew at all which direction we were going, but was talking with her and following her.  She was really good at understanding the directions of the map.  So I was happy.  No fuss, just follow.... ;)  Soon we found one for 50 liras a general hamam bath, where they scrub your body once and you can then spend your time in the hamam till you can.  The hamam had separate sections for men and women. There was a man and a woman for each to scrub you and give you a bath.  The man there instructed me with signs to take off all my clothes, wear the towel and follow him to the hamam.  

While he was preparing things to give me a scrub, he told me to lie down on the hot marble floor.  I was the only person in the entire male hamam.  The floor was really hot and instantly my whole body was sweating.  Now was the turn to get a scrub.  So the guy told me to lie down on one side of a big marble square in the middle of the hamam and he started to scrub my entire body with some cloth gloves.  That was hard but it felt good as the body gets rid of the dead skin and a sort of massage that you get is very refreshing.  He than took me to another part of the hamam and made me sit next to a bath and shampooed my hair and gave me a nice hot bath.  Again it was time to lie down on the hot marble floor and get some more sauna..... ;)  But soon the hot sauna was enough for me and I went to take the final bath and what I see is the guy who scrubbed me got nude right in front of me and was having a bath.  That was like omg..... Finally I got out and was ready to move out.  It was a nice refreshing experience but I would say the Kerala Ayurveda massage or therapies are much much better than this. Madeleine came out a little while later and the first look at her felt like wow, she was like a fresh flower who has just blossomed.... ;)

Bosphorus Bridge
We finished with the hamam thing and didn't know what to do. We still had like half day with us and we had to visit the Grand Bazaar too.  But before that while walking towards Galata bridge a guy walked up to us and offered a small boat ride on the Bosphorus river.  Hmm i've already been on it once but why not again.  If you have a beautiful company, warm sun on your head, cool breeze blowing and a discounted boat ride why not... ;) So we accepted the 2 hour boat ride and sat in the van that was going to take us to the boat.  To be honest the boat ride for me was just an excuse to spend some more beautiful time with Madeleine.  We had some very very interesting conversations till now and before it was time to say good bye I felt like the rest of the hours too should be special.  After all its always nice that when you meet strangers and become friends, the times spend with them should always last in your life as wonderful memories.  The weather changed from sunny to cold and windy and than again sunny.  We had some fun moments clicking some nice pictures of Istanbul and of each other too.  I felt the 2 hour ride some how ended very soon.... ;)  And we set off for some souvenir shopping to the Grand Bazaar.

Grand Bazaar
The market was totally full of tourists.  It had shop's selling Turkish sweets, spices, tourist souvenir's, bags, fragrances, jackets, clothes and what not.  Its a very interesting market and a very happening place for shopaholics.  So finally it was getting time to wind off the day and the wonderful times with Madeleine and what can be better than having a good dinner together.... :)  We sat at a restaurant close to her hostel and to our surprise the guy who was calling on customers started to speak Swedish on knowing that Madeleine was from Sweden.  To our more surprise the waiters at that restaurant were able to speak in many languages including Hindi too.

So finally time to say goodbye to Madeleine at the railway station and a long walk back to the hostel.  I still had one more day before I end my first euro trip.  I spend most of the time shopping at the Grand Bazaar and than a long walk from the hostel to Taksim Square to take the bus to the airport.  The last 2 days I could not meet Ugur as he was busy with work and some upset stomach.  The last week of my trip i.e. Turkey happened to be the best part of my trip.  Istanbul is just an amazing place to visit.  So vibrant, colorful, foodie, laid back and yet very happening. I've never been to any city that can match the vibrancy of Istanbul.  And for me it was like a bonanza that I met Madeleine and exploring Istanbul in her company was fabulous.  Not to miss how great and fun it was to meet Ugur and get nostalgic.  29th Oct. morning I reached Mumbai and was greeted with a 5 hour delayed flight.  Finally reached home and felt relaxed.

This was my first time in Europe and I long to go there once again.  Don't know why but seeing and experiencing Europe and its culture has always been in my mind.  Though my initial plan was to visit West Europe, but after I met this wonderful people and became friends it was East Europe totally. ;) I had never been out of India alone to non english speaking countries.  So I was always apprehensive about how am I going to manage and then this countries are so expensive that I always had a fear of running out of my budget but finally thanks to Dorota, Asta and Ugur's help that it was way to easy.... ;)  Now i'm longing so much to travel through other European countries.

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