This was really the first chance I had, in my whole life, to travel alone. All the travelling I had done up to this point was planned by my friends or family, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.
So I came up with a plan. I was going to spend the next three weeks doing tours across the Lakes District in the UK, in the Scottish highlands, and across Wales, and in between the tours I would try to amuse myself. At the end of the tours I would have a week to myself, and then my mom was going to join me for two weeks.
I figured this way I could slowly ease into being comfortably travelling alone, and maybe even give me a chance to read some guide books. Instead, I discovered I really hate reading guide books.
Anyways, to start this next adventure off, I flew from Istanbul to London. I’ve no idea why, but they gave me a lot of trouble at the airport as I was trying to leave the country. The check in desk wouldn’t give me a boarding pass, until the lady behind me spoke to them on my behalf. She was my saviour. But then while waiting in line to board, security guards came over with a blacklight to check my passport. At this point I was fed up. C’mon I was trying to leave Turkey, not stay! Not a great start to travelling alone.
I eventually made it to London, then caught another flight to Edinburgh. My seat mate thought it was amusing that I was traveling to Scotland in order to visit England, but the Lakes District is geographically closer to Scotland so to Scotland I went.
It was nice returning to a city I had been multiple times already. I stayed at the same hostel, knew where to grab food for cheap, and was thoroughly comfortable with my surroundings. I lazed the day away, in preparation for this next trip.
This was our last day in Istanbul, so we wanted to make sure we saw as much as possible.
We started our day with a trip to Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), a mosque that was recently turned into a museum.
From here we moved on to the Blue Mosque, which we had only seen in the evening. It’s the biggest mosque in Istanbul, with 6 towers. It’s an actual working mosque, thus shoulders had to be covered and shoes had to be taken off. While I was inside there were people praying, so it was a much different experience than Ayasofya, which was simply filled with tourists.
This was our last day in Istanbul, so we had to make our way to the Grand Bazaar. Unfortunately my camera died at this point, but know it was crazy! So many stalls, so many people, it was an experience all on its own. We all purchase some scarfs, and I also purchased these gorgeous handprinted bowls (which I managed to keep undamaged during my next 6 weeks of travelling!).
The most fun part was when Aidan found a piece of jewelry she loved, but walked away from, but then wanted to go back and purchase. It was so difficult to find the right stand, but after a ton of searching and so many wrong turns we managed to return to the booth and get her the necklace she wished for.
From the Bazaar we took a little break and crossed the Bosporus Strait to explore the other side of Istanbul. From traditional tea, to ice cream, to Turkish Delight (which I surprisingly found delightful!), it was the perfect way to end our time in Istanbul.
Day 2 started out with a visit to Topkapi Palace, which was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans. It was easier to imagine people actually living here, in comparison to the other palaces I had visited.
Entering the inner court.
One of the libraries
The Harem Buildings. The sultan’s harem had their own private buildings and servants. No one else was allowed to enter.This courtyard was the courtyard of the Harem Eunuchs.
The Courtyard of the Queen Mother
The king’s bedroom
The prince’s room
The Archaeological Museum was nearby, so we headed there next. The museum is comprised of 4 buildings, each with a different theme (Egypt & Mesopotamia; Greek & Roman; Turkey; ceramics)
Throughout the museum there were art students drawing the sculptures. It was really neat to see.
One of my favourite bits of the museum was Alexander the Great’s tomb! The sculptures around it are based on his history, but he was never actually in the tomb.
Alexander the Great’s tomb. The sculptures are based on his history, but he was never actually in the tomb.
From there we headed to the Basilica Cistern, the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns beneath Istanbul. It was built in the 6th century. The pillars in the cistern all have different designs, so archaeologists figure the people used whatever pillars they had on hand. None of them were specifically built for this purpose. For example, there are two Medusa head pillars used: one with the head upside down (below), and one sideways.
By the time we came out of the cistern it was starting to get dark. Thankfully the city has lighted fountains to brighten up the night.
And so our day ended with the site that we would visit the next day: the blue mosque.
From Barcelona, we flew to Istanbul! Our original plan was to go to Morocco, but after hearing about a few bombings, we decided Istanbul was a safer bet.
By the time we arrived and got settled it was getting late, so we decided to just explore our neighbourhood. There was a Mosque nearby, with a huge park in front of it, so we went there first and came across a festival:
We stayed to watch for a bit, before heading down to the water.
I will never be this tanned ever again.
Finally we were forced to head back to our hostel. But I was very interested in seeing more of this city in the daylight.