Day 01 – Thursday 21 June
Wow, so we are finally here! After 12 months of saving money and counting down, the time has come for our massive adventure. And the wait has definitely been worth it. The flight over with Emirates was quite breezy. No complaints from myself or my fellow travellers [other than the delay between topping up our drinks] we had two short stopovers and made it to Istanbul in about 20 hours.
When we first arrived in Istanbul there was a slight mix up with our rooms. Apparently someone had been checked in to mine and Jenny’s room, but the hotel staff were happy to swap it over. Which we found a bit odd – the staff just went in and took out the current guests luggage and put it in to a new room. Luckily, the guest happened to be a friend of Annie and Aidan’s [our travel buddies] who came over from London to do the same Intrepid tour with us, Nick. Eventually it was all straightened out.
The first night we found a nice little bar for dinner, of course we all decided to eat Kebabs then topped it off with some apple and strawberry shisha. We didn’t stay out to late as it was pretty hard to sleep on the flight over and didn’t want to be too wrecked for our actual first day of our Turkey adventure.
Day 02 – Friday 22 June
With an early start to the day, Annie, Aidan, Jenny and I finally got to meet the rest of our tour group, after arriving late on the Thursday, we hadn’t had the chance yet.
We began with a guided tour of Istanbul with our host Burak, a top bloke with tonnes of knowledge of the local culture.
As the day heated up, we made our way around town and got to see:
– The Hippodrome
– Gülhane Park
– The Blue Mosque
– Burnt Column
– Had some Turkish tea in a back alley cafe
– Walked around the Grand Bazaar
– Read the Koran at an old book store
-The Süleymaniye Mosque
– Rüstem Pasha Mosque, And finally;
– The Spice Bazaar
After the guided tour, we made our way around and found some interesting shops selling some strange animals you wouldn’t normally find in a market such as parrots, peacocks, and baby turtles, to name a few.
Later on we got accustomed with some more shisha, and tower beers. In between and the beers and flavoured tobacco, Aidan and I went to a local barber for a cutthroat shave and I also got my mop shaved off.
Day 03 – Saturday 23 June
With another early start to the day, our tour group departed from Istanbul and caught the ferry to Bursa, taking about 1 and a half hours. Bursa is a very interesting city with a fascinating Ottoman history well off the beaten path. One of the highlights of this city are the natural hot springs which were fashioned in to public baths and were a favourite of the early Byzantine Emperors. With separate sections for males and females, the baths are set inside a beautiful building with a large marble pool inside the hamam, and it is the only one in all of Turley!
Today, Bursa is in the top 5 wealthiest cities in Turkey. Also, the early Christian Emperors introduced silkworm cultivation and so began the famous industry which survives to this day and was once the last stop of the Silk Road Karavans traveling from China and India.
During our tour, we were guided around the local Bazaar by Burak where we got to see some of the famous silk markets, and also some fresh fruit, meat and veggies. According to the locals, if you eat artichokes for 70 days straight, it will restore your lungs completely to full health.
Later in the afternoon we got to sit with some locals known as “The Lovers’ – a group of 5 men who get together to rock out with some traditional Turkish musical instruments. Everyone got up for a bit of a dance, too.
To continue on with the traditional Turkish music, we finished the day off with the famous Whirling Dervishes. The first hour or so consisted of sitting around, listening to a sermon, which of course we coudn’t understand. The long wait was definitely worth it in the end. The Dervishes were aged between about 10 and 40 years old, all whirling around for at least half an hour, spinning themselves in to a trance, leaving us all perplexed [and a little dizzy] as to how they managed to stay standing up.