Istanbul, Turkey

Adam and Andrew’s excellent adventure continues onwards to Turkey, but instead of using a phone booth, we’ll probably stick to an airplane for this journey.

Kebabs, hazelnuts, corn, smashed ice cream and more all the line the streets around Istanbul. More than a snack, the smashed ice cream felt like a show. A server who was all dressed up swung around a half meter long spade-esque utensil kneading the ice cream, lifting it out of its freezer, spinning it around, hitting a bell or two, and then returning the ice cream back only to perform the same routine on another flavor. After a little haggling, Adam and I tried a layering of many flavors atop a sugar cone. The hazelnuts stands, although not as exciting, were impossible to ignore as they sent out smoke signals letting us know when we were close. The smoke from roasting the nuts may have been more okay if the amount of cigarette smoke had not already over-sensitized me.

From the Istanbul Grand Bazaar

A quick aside on cigarettes: Most of the cigarette packs I have seen thus far in Europe have largely printed warnings such as “Smoking kills!” and “Smoking causes cancer” along with graphic images of diseased lungs, removed larynx’s, hospitalized patients and more. However, despite these efforts, smoking companies seem to have little to fear on this side of the Atlantic as most people are not slowing down consumption. During this trip, without ever having a cigarette of my own, I feel like I have begun regular consumption through second hand smoke. In addition, in Turkey, hookah is a very popular activity, and although it is not addictive, it still shares most of the negative effects of cigarettes.

Although cigarettes are one of Europe’s bad habits I am trying to come to terms with, a different Turkish habit that I immediately embraced is the widespread Tavla (also known as backgammon). Most bars and cafes leave out Tavla boards to play while guests drink a beer or tea. One evening, Adam and I enjoy a bit of a Tavla marathon before heading back to our hostel.

While in Istanbul, we are staying at the Bahaus Hostel, where we are greeted by the friendly and always joking Volcano. Volcano is in fact what he called himself; however, it was a nickname for a different name that I did not learn. We walk inside and Volcano steals my hat and sunglasses before giving us a tour of the common areas, bathrooms, and rooftop. Full of information and always willing to help, Volcano made the hostel experience very enjoyable. In addition, Adam and I met the other guests on our first evening while enjoying the rooftop bar, cheap beers and kebabs. And by the end of the evening, we made a plan to tour with three girls we met from Hawaii the following morning. But before morning came, the rooftop provided an international experience in itself as we all taught each other popular games from our respective world regions including the USA, Belgium, France and the UK. I recommend the Bahaus Hostel near the old city of Istanbul to any future backpackers and budget travelers.

Istanbul is a fun city, alive with young people, with culture, and with a proud history. Istanbul and Turkey will be a place to which I already know I need to return.

The view from Bahaus Hostel, Istanbul
The view from Bahaus Hostel, Istanbul