We stepped out of the Crazy Holidays bus into the ‘crazy’ Büyük Otogar bus station. Ten plus hours on a bus from Thessaloniki, with only baklava to eat, our heads were swimming in the masses of people.
It was drizzling slightly, and a touch cold, something I had not expected. We grabbed our bags from the bus, and headed towards the sign that said ‘Taksim’. We waited in the drizzling rain with countless others for the transfer bus to arrive. Finally when it did there was a mad rush for the bus. People were pushing, squishing, doing what they could to get onto the bus. It felt a little reminiscent of a time I had in Uganda trying to get in a Matatu in the rain.
Needless to say the bus was full, and Oliver and I continued to stand under the ‘Taksim’ sign. 15 minutes later and the next bus arrived. It was larger, and we got on without problem. “Finally on our way”, I though. Once we started moving we turned on our GPS’ to get a bearing of where we were headed. We were making our way towards the city, however a lot more north of Taksim. Finally the bus stopped, and the driver told everyone to get out. Here we stood roughly equal distance from Taksim as the previous bus station. However this time north of the city.
Again we waited.
After some help from a young university student we caught our next bus. This time the direction was right, and we finally arrived in Taksim Square. Our plan was to stay with our friend Amanda. She told us to go to Taksim and call her. Here we were in Taksim, calling the number she gave me. It didn’t work. Shit. “Try again without the zero”. Nothing.
By this point it was closing in on midnight. Being a Friday the city was full of excitement and people. Yet we had no place to stay, and heavy bags on our backs. We started to wander. With our phones out, GPS’ on, and WIFI scanning we meandered our way south until we found some free WIFI. Sitting on the sidewalk we Googled a bunch of hostels and saved them to our GPS, then got on our feet and started walking. On our way to the first hostel we stopped in at a hotel. The owner told us, “Istanbul is full, no vacancy.” I may have one room though, I will call the person to see if he is still coming.
After a brief phone call in Turkish he tells us the room is free, 90 Euro for the both of us. We decide we would take our chances on the street and find out for ourselves how full Istanbul is.
The first hostel we get to is indeed full. However the guy running the counter calls all the hostels in the area and finds a vacancy at a place called Rapunzel, situated beside the Galata Tower. A short jaunt and we are there. The French girl behind the counter explains the hostel rules, as her lo-fi ambient techno plays on. We stumble our way up the stairs and drop off our bags, the start of our adventure in Istanbul…
After that night the rest of the trip was a lot less hectic. We found a really relaxed place to stay called 68 Hostel, and finally managed to get into contact with Amanda. Istanbul was a real special place. We spent close to 5 full days there, and it felt like we only scratched the surface. We did a lot of walking and exploring. It was nice breaking off the beaten path a few times and going into neighbourhoods tourists normally don’t visit. Istanbul has a real heartbeat and vibe to it. It was like being in New York with a mosque on every corner, and buildings built 200 years BC. I look forward to my next visit to Istanbul, and getting to explore some of the other sites of Turkey.
Here are some photos from our time in Istanbul.