ISTANBUL PART 1 – ISTANBUL

14,2 Million people, an uncountable number of cars, different road signs than we are used to, 3.113 mosques, high buildings, loads of cars sounding their horns, a continental border, kebab and lots of small streets, we are in Istanbul! Because of the political tension between Turkey and Holland, we were not sure it would be safe to drive through this country with a Dutch license plate. Now we are here and we left our car two nights parked on the streets in the center of Istanbul and everything is still good. Of course you never know what is coming, but it doesn’t looks like that many people will be bothered by this. Actually most of the Turkish people say that they really like the Dutch people.

The streets in old Istanbul

Just before the border crossing with Turkey we had this chat with each other “there should be soon one border where they want to tear our car apart to look whatever we are carrying with us” and bingo. Fortunately we had to not take everything out of our car. But they were really curious about the thing on our roof. So we had to uncover it and just before Tom wanted to unfold the whole tent, they said it was okay. So we got away quite easy. Not that we had to hide anything, but if you have any idea how are car is organized then you would understand that it’s not fun to take everything out. Turkey is our thirteenth country and the first where one a visa was obligatory, so we’ve collected the first stamps in our passport. Finally proof that we are really on the road and not hiding somewhere in Holland. From the border we drove to Istanbul where we booked an Airbnb apartment. After a dose of traffic chaos we arrived in the neighborhood Balat, where our Airbnb was situated. We stayed there for two nights in a very colorful studio, car parked in front of the door, so all set. Balat is a nice neighborhood which actually looks like a small town on its own with small street where we would definitely got lost without gps.

Haglia Sophia Istanbul

Since we only got one day in Istanbul we wanted to see something of the city. And of course Istanbul has our favorite tour, the free walking tour. On the internet we read that we had to subscribe ourselves for the tour, which is different compared to the tours in other cities. We subscribed ourselves, but never got a confirmation. Nevertheless we decided to go the next morning and just see how everything would go. To get to the starting point of the tour we had to take the bus. “Unfortunately” is it in Istanbul impossible to buy bus tickets in the bus. So you have to buy an Istanbul public transport card, forgot the exact name, at authorized selling points. So we went to one of these selling points, a tiny market, but they just sold there last and the next selling point was walking half the way down to the center. So we were just looking to each other what to do and what then happened, neither one of us could really remember. But somehow the owner fixed for us a free ride to the place where we had to be. So one minute later we were in the back of the van of this guy, quite new and luxuries van actually, and he brought us to square where we had to go. We wanted to give him a few Liras for his service but he didn’t accept it, so we thanked him a few times before we disappeared in the mass on the square.

Sultanahmet mosque or Blue mosque Istanbul.

On the square we were looking for our free walking tour. In the beginning we couldn’t find it. Then Dani spoke to an older man, sitting on a couch, in the hope he maybe knew where the meeting point was for the free walking tour. Yes he did knew, he was the guide with nobody to guide. Not very surprising if you don’t send confirmations and definitely not when you sit like him totally unmotivated. But okay he wanted to give us a tour, but we had to pay. Understandable, but not if you ask 15 euro per person,  the whole idea of the free walking tour is gone. And since he was sitting there so unmotivated we decided not to go with him. But we saw, just before for we arrived a Spanish guide leaving with guests. We decided to chase them and do the tour with this group. This was of course only possible because Dani speaks Spanish. So Tom had a very attractive guide this morning. The Spanish guide was a nice guy and did his utmost, but still it’s our first time that the free walking tour was a bit of a disappointment. After the tour we strolled through the grand and spice bazaar. But we had to much city in a very short time period, we decided to go back to the studio and had a relaxed tranquil night for ourselves.

Roof top view from our Airbnb studio in Istanbul