Johanna 's Travel Blog

December 27, 09:10 AM

Winter weather complicates things. Looking back many of our travels begin this way: some snow/ice, delay, exhaustion before arriving. However all of these these were tempered by our brilliant ‘lack of a plan.’ Without a strict itinerary and zero pending responsibilities, James and I could relax more during the process.

Now 6am on Monday in our hostel in Taxim, Istanbul I’m awake. Pleasant rain, vocal gulls and and believe it or not hunger. A few hours till breakfast, and wondering what that will entail. Time for a TN post.

From the top: Christmas in Lowell was really nice. Kathy and Joe made mountains of traditional German sweets, Italian favorites and the family’s tradition of Sushi and a movie on Christmas eve mirrored the practices of the Jews I know (minus the Church service). A really warm and welcoming place. It was also great to see the movie “The Fighter” in Lowell where it took place and much of it was shot. Marc Wahlberg has so many visible muscle groups.

Leaving midday on the 25th, we avoided much of the holiday rush. The airport was peaceful during the 5 hours were spent there. After a 3 hours delay in Boston, we got to Frankfurt and since we missed our connecting flight to Munich (by about 4 hours), we got to hang out in the airport there for another 3 until we could catch a flight to Istanbul. It was 10 degrees and snowing outside in Frankfurt. Since it was the Sunday after Christmas, trying to get to the city center seemed ill-advised. Unlike NYC, food and shopping options were limited. We patroned McCafe (much to James’s chagrin) where I had a coffee and he worked his way steadily through the 5 lbs of chocolate—Christmas booty. I think we still have some poppyseed cake. We found a refuge camp-like arraignment of cots in the middle airport and James caught some shut eye entangled in his bags for security. I was too skeeved out and walked around like a zombie for a while.

Our plane to Istanbul sat on the runway for about 2 hours before taking off. I finally fell asleep for part of it and have minimal memories of the cramped flight other than James eating some beef concoction and reading the same page of “And Then We Came to the End” about 6 times. Upon arrival, we each paid $20 cash for a 90 day visa sticker. We had read in our book that change is not given, but were surprised to be asked “What is this?” when we initially handed over $30 in hopes of a deal. Once we found 2 $20 bills we were good.

On to the more interesting things: Istanbul
Scenery details: It was raining, streets were cobble stones and pock marked, cars were whizzing by occasionally without headlights and it was dark.

We navigated our way through the subway/tram/light rail system with relative ease. Our hostel-advised transfer point was closed or no longer in existence, and so we had to relive the failing of the DC metro’s red line and stay on a loop the approximate size of the beltway. It was fine. It allowed us some time to make gross generalizations: all of the women appeared to have dyed blond or scarf covered hair and there were many, many more men out, walking or transiting than women. More on that soon.

In Taksim we found our cute hostel “Neverland.” With vividly painted walls and stenciled political/anti war messages, it was fortunately nothing like the Jackson Ranch (this is not a really funny joke, sorry). Our room has the kinds of shower where the entirety of the tiled bathroom gets wet (not the toilet paper with the clever metal flap). After handing our passports over to the host (to sell we assumed) we set off to find some food and see the area. The 1st stop was a bookstore where we found a pocket dictionary and then some sweets to tie James over (for the oh, 40 more minutes it took to find some more substantial food. We noticed that the area was touristy but for Turkish people. Lots of cobble stone streets crowded with hukkah cafes came off the drag which was adorned with blue and white New Year lights and populated with familiar corporate chains and guys selling roasted nuts. The clear bubble shaped umbrella vendors made a killing, I was probably the only person without one and most likely stood out in my purple raincoat. Black is certainly the color de mode. My hair may not have been died blond, but I was called “Barbie” twice. We ate at a nice underground place called Mekan where we had an eggplant, tomato and cheese thing and a refreshing shepherds salad (chopped up middle eastern style with really creamy sheep’s cheese), We were handed English menus (though our waiter spoke to us in French…) and so were burdened with “tourist” prices and paid too much. We felt bad about leaving before the customary after dinner tea was offered, but the place was closing it was after midnight and I was cold. Greater cultural sensitivity, religious site visits and figuring out when we will fly to Egypt are on the agenda for today.


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