I am not going to spend my whole morning typing up our travels thus far...but since we have wi-fi in our room, I thought I'd update a little on our trip so far!
We had a very LONG trip to Istanabul...about 28 hours total. Our two flights before Madrid were delayed significantly, so when we got to Madrid we had missed our flight by literally 10 minutes. Thankfully, there was a later flight and we got a voucher for food. We weren't too upset, just exhausted, but I was happy that I got to spend even just a couple hours among the familiar. We ate tortilla espanola and I had zuma de naranja (just fresh squeezed orange juice, but it sounds fancier when I type it in spanish). I know it was just airport food, but it reminded me of the last time I was in that airport, coming back from my beloved Santiago de Compostela, trying to spend as many minutes as I could in the country I fell in love with.
Anyway, we arrived in Istanbul around 11pm (4pm NC time) and the things got crazy. We weren't able to get many Turkish Lira because 1) The bank in Raleigh had none, 2) RDU and Madrid didn't have any and 3) We literally sprinted from through JFK to make our flight to Madrid, and had no time to stop to find money. When we got to Turkey, we realized our cards didn't work, even though 1) We already have talked to our bank about our trip and 2) They worked fine in Madrid. We panicked a little because we had only about 20 euros and 15 TL, and we needed to buy visas to get into Istanbul. I think the man selling Visas gypped us a little, but we didn't care. We made it through, only to find that our one checked bag did not wait for us at the airport. They sent it back to Madrid...we should get it sometime today.
We arranged for Joel's friend, Olgun, to pick us up at the airport. He arrived with a friend, Mustafa. When we got through the baggage claim, there was a HUGE crowd of people waiting, and all of a sudden, I see a Turkish man, about Joel's age, running in front of the crowd. He jumped on Joel and gave him a big hug. He was so patient to wait for us, and he understood that we had NO money, and offered to help us in whatever we needed. This culture is so hospitable.
He drove us through the insane streets of Istanbul..I was holding Joel's hand for dear life as Olgun sped through the highway, dodging cars left and right. As we neared Taksim, Olgun and Mustafa started yelling out the window to pedestrians to point the way to our hotel. Every 100 yards they'd ask someone and the man would point down the road, or point right, or tell us it was up ahead.
We finally got to our hotel, and the men waited for us to make sure everything was ok. We thanked them and although they offered to take us to get food, we had to decline. We were exhausted. I think they understood and we promised to meet up with them the following day (last night).
Joel and I woke up late yesterday and went down to the hotel's breakfast. It was AMAZING...seriously, I already know I'm going to miss it. There is a huge spread of: bread, cheese, meat, olives, 15 different kinds of sauces, jams, and Nutella :), yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, cereal, eggs, and juice. Oh my goodness, even though I just ate, my mouth is watering just talking about it!
We walked up and down the main street near our hotel room and figured out stuff with our bank, bought a memory card for my camera (of course, I forgot it), and Joel taught me how to order water from a street vendor. He took me to his old apartment and then to his favorite restaurant. He is so happy to be here, and I'm learning why. The city is really interesting and the people we've met so far have bent over backwards to be hospitable.
We took a nap at our hotel after lunch, and met up with Olgun and Mustafa for dinner. Thankfully, they let us buy them dinner, but they ordered for us. I think I had lamb and rice. Joel had some sort of tomato-y lamp with yogurt. After dinner, they walked us to another part of the city with a beautiful outdoor cafe. They taught us how to order tea, or chai, and we talked aout, of all things, Obama, Sarah Palin, and a protest I had seen earlier in Taksim Square.
After our tea, they walked us all around the city, by the Bosphorus, several Mosques, into a bazaar when half a dozen men came up Mustafa trying to get us to sit down and smoke a hookah type thing. I know it's not called a hookah, but I forgot the name. Mustafa bought us Magnum bars...if you've never had one, you've never lived. Quite possibly the most delicious ice cream bar on earth. We talked about education, their businesses, and how to get around the city. I am still floored at their hospitality. Saturday, we're going to meet up again and they will take us to the Grand Bazaar. I can't wait!
This ended up being longer than I had planned, but I don't want to forget a single detail of this trip. I'm already sad about leaving in a few days! Thank the Lord that we were able to go on this trip...last night we were daydreaming about our next adventure-Spain? Germany? Who knows!
I will try take more pictures today. I need to get over the fact that I am a tourist and there are no two ways about it-I'm going to look touristy no matter what I do!
Ok, time to get ready. Gule Gule!