30 Before 30 – Go to Turkey

I went to Turkey! And (not so) shockingly, it was amazing. We stayed in Istanbul, a beautiful, friendly city, that wasn’t what I expected, really. Not that I knew what to expect, but it felt much more European than I had imagined. It was fairly reserved–even in the bazaars (spice Bazaar was incredible), the people working the shops weren’t very aggressive, and when they were it was with more of a wry humor. I felt much more at home there than I thought I would–you think of Istanbul as this far off, distant land. And while it is steeped in history, I felt much less foreign than I have other places.

I went with my friend from Los Angeles, Lee. We worked together a few years ago at a talent agency, she became my work wife, and we ended up quitting on the same day (couldn’t be without each other for even a minute). She is a super badass and went to work for Wendy Davis’ campaign in Texas, and since then she’s been traveling around Europe. It was so amazing to see her in that context. She had hiked the Scottish highlands alone, ridden a camel across the Sahara, also alone (well, that was with a tour group, but she was without a companion). Since I last saw her she’s been to dozens of countries, fallen in and out of love, learned a bit of a few languages–all while living out of a backpack.

Istanbul made me want to see more of Turkey, and I left happy with what I’d seen and done, but very aware to really “crack” the city, I’d need to spend much more time there. Which is my biggest problem–weekend trips are nice to see and do new things, but I think there’s a big difference between being a tourist and a traveler, and I think to really have traveled to a place you need to spend a while, set some roots, make some friends. Build a mini life. So while I love quick trips like this, I always leave just wanting more. Not necessarily a bad thing!

Galata Tower–our hostel was a two minute walk away. Great location, strange hostel. Think we were the only people in it our first two nights.

Literally the best dessert I’ve ever had.

We were right by the Bosphorus, and every morning the most delicious smelling restaurants fed people these (not as delicious smelling) fresh fish.

Hagia Sophia. Incredible museum first built in 537. Spent years as a Christian church until Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and it was converted into a Mosque. It’s so interesting because there’s iconography from both religions. This image is from 867.

The Weeping Column–if you touch it and your thumb comes back wet, you are said to be healed from illness.

Istanbul has so many homeless animals, but they’re all well taken care of–locals leave food out and make sure they’re fed and watered. I fell in love with this cat and thought seriously about smuggling it home with me. (I am an actual cat lady.)

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

The only thing of note that I didn’t photograph was our trip to a Hammam. One of the Turkish woman from our hostel recommended it, and it was both the highlight of the trip and the strangest travel experience I’ve ever had. She warned us it wasn’t a place for tourists, and there was a total language barrier, which made it more confusing but also much more authentic feeling. We arrived and were mimed to undress and go sit in a room with a lot of mini baths in it. After about 45 minutes we thought maybe that was it–just a public place to go and bathe, so we tried to leave. Then about 10 woman came in and took turns washing and scrubbing each other and us. We never knew when it was our turn and kept thinking it was over before it actually was. Then I got sharp looks for using my towel to dry my feet, and ended up having to put my sandals on my wet feet–got me a few blisters, that! I left feeling incredibly clean but not exceptionally relaxed. All in all, a great experience though.