The Turkish boarder felt as the first ‘real’ boarder crossing. Driving away from the EU, entering a new, unknown country. The crossing turned out to be pretty ok; we were in line for around 2 hours (happy to be able to make our own coffee), our car was hardly inspected and when Max walked back from the custom-office-desk, the guy from the desk waved and winked to Merle. Welcome to Turkey!
Right after the boarder crossing, we decide to stay in Istanbul for a few nights. From a local we understand that Besiktas is a nice neighborhood to stay, so we drive and find a hotel there. And he is right; Besiktas is a cool, vibrant part of the city. Terraces are packed with hipsters, future designers smoke cigarettes at the door of the Istanbul Fashion Academy, luxuries cars stop at bars, well dressed people step out and are welcomed with cocktails. We did not know what to expect, but we are surprised by the modern city life here. Though we enjoy the atmosphere, we’re also a little bit overwhelmed by city life after a few weeks of mountains and camp spots.
We decide to take a ferry to the Asian part of Istanbul. The ferry is a pleasant pause of Besiktas’ bustle. Slowly we leave Europe behind us and the immens scope of Istanbul gets visible. Stepping on Asian ground, it feels slightly more calm and relax. We wander through the streets, absolutely having no clue where to go. We see a narrow alley, dive in and suddenly stand in an area full of traditional Turkish bars. At one of those bars, people play Rummikub. Correction; we think they play Rummikub. We get invited to join a table; let the game begin.
Ok, this is no Rummikub. We play with 4 (3 Turkish guys and us Dutchies), our new friends don’t speak any English and we try to understand the rules of the game. The pace is high! One stone at the side, 5 rows on the table, one stone back in your set, all stones on the table, quickly shuffle stones, make sets of 7, put 1 at the bottom, 6 on the top. Play again. Haha we don’t have a clue (for the Dutchies; it feels like the Turkish version of Jiskefet’s Stiften). At one point we even change tables. But that turned out to be a joke to confuse us even more 🙂 It’s a hilarious night, and our new friends give us all the time we need get to know the game. We play 11 rounds and after 7 rounds we seem to have got it. The name? Okey 101. Member of the Rummikub family, but far far away from our version.
The next two days we’re tourists in Instanbul. When in a huge line for the famous Hagia Sophia, a man in a suit asks us if we want to use the fast track lane for 20TL extra. He looks quite professional, so we agree. The man says to follow him: we run along the line, squeeze in at the entrance and go directly to the ticket desk. The man buys tickets for us for normal prices, which we pay him + 20. Ok, this was probably not a formal fast track. But we’re in.
We visit the MoMa, wander through the streets and say to each other that this city is definitely worth visiting again for a few days, there is still too much to explore. We end our stay with smoking a water pipe, but when Max’ face turns a little green and Merle almost falls asleep, we decide to head back to the chillness of our hotel in Besiktas 🙂
It’s been a super nice first encounter with Istanbul, but at the same time we miss Troopy – our tiny home- a little and want to be on the road again. We enjoy a final hot, nice shower and then we’re off! Next days: UNESCO heritage sight seeings.