So off I set on Thursday morning on my Dublin bike whizzing past traffic before hopping on the Air Link bus and arrived at the airport with a good bit of time to spare, so just spent it cursing all the things I forgot to bring. I’ve quickly fallen out of the travelling routine. Before boarding I had the lucky chance to share the toilet with Tommy Tiernan, which wasn’t as funny as you’d expect. He left the cubicle looking very guilty and exited without washing his hands. Nice lad! I was up in the air in no time with Turkish Airlines which is very decent. I was expecting a Ryanair job for the price but food was class and free beer went down a treat.
I landed in Istanbul at 5pm and waited for a while to get some maps etc. While queuing like an arse I noticed a load of guys on their own in the airport hitting on foreign women who had just arrived. Now those are brass balls! I hopped on the metro knowing exactly where to go but got too into the new One Direction album that I missed my stop and ended up cursing to myself while travelling back and eventually finding my hostel. All checked in I went for a bit of a wander and checked out the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque at night which are amazing. I also took the chance to have my first but not last Turkish kebab. Delish!
Back at the hostel I met an Irish lad and we popped up to the bar for a few casual scoops. Lie number 1. We ended up chatting with a few Aussies and Kiwis and after a few beers we were on our way to Taksim Square to find a club. The night itself was a bit of a disaster. We ended up following one Aussie for an hour who was convinced he knew where he was going but we just ended up walking up and down the street for ages. After a while the Irish guy, 2 Kiwis and I got split up from the rest, and after a local tried to rope us into a seriously seedy looking bar we stumbled upon what can only be described as pure madness: an 8 woman hooker fight in the street. After a while the police arrived and proceeded to do nothing while having a smoke as these women smashed up some cars and each other. After a while the pepper spray was out and we legged it home.
Once I got back to the hostel, I found that my hostel bed was occupied by an American girl and being the absolute gentleman I am, I decided to kip on the couch until the hostel owner woke up himself and found me another room. The fact she was good looking had nothing to do with this chivalrous act!
I was up early the next day to grab some breakfast and discover the city by day. I started off with a tour of the Hagia Sophia which is incredible followed by a tour of the courtyard of the Blue Mosque. For lunch the Irish guy and I stopped off at the Pudding Shop which is infamous as a backpacker hangout during the 1960’s. Prices have obviously increased since then so after a quick coke we were out of there for a better kebab elsewhere. After the greasy kebab we stopped by the Grand Bazar which is incredibly huge and with a serious amount of random stuff and then wandered down to the Spice Market to try some local Turkish Delight.
To work off this newly found belly I walked across to the Golden Horn and around that part of town for the afternoon enjoying getting lost in hilly Istanbul for a few hours. All walked out I made it back to the hostel where the Irish lad left and I grabbed a power nap before heading up to the bar for a sneaky few beers and free dinner with the Kiwi lads. Even more of a nightmare than the previous night! We were only out at Taksim Square 5 minutes before the guys wanted to get kebabs and we ended up losing each other in the winding streets. With no one else around I had to make the brave call of heading home and was all tucked up by 1am. Wild night!
Even though I was in bed early on the Saturday I woke up in a whole world of pain the next morning and managed to make it out of the bed at around 11am to make something of the day. We met up with some Turkish people we had met in the hostel the night before and had a walk around the city centre before popping into the local Irish bar James Joyce which was pretty decent to be honest. The beer was the same price as Coppers too! We stayed there for most of the afternoon and to watch the mighty Irish rugby team hammer the Aussies in Dublin and celebrated with a few Guinness.
As we didn’t want to do anything wild we headed off for a game of pool but called it a night around 11 as was a long day! Wild Saturday!
Waking up a lot fresher on Sunday I knew I had to get a bit more done as I had quite an unproductive Saturday! So after waking up around 10am I popped over to Asia on the boat which took about 20 minutes and cost €1.50. Once over there I had a quick look around and stopped off for some kebab breakfast/lunch. There wasn’t a whole lot going on over there apart from the mad prayer call every so often so I headed back to the European side of the city and checked out the Palace near the hostel which was quite nice.
In the afternoon I met up with the Kiwi lads and after a few power outages we headed for a stroll in the city after sunset. We stopped off at the Spice Market again chatting with some locals and tasting a variety of Turkish, dropped by a local café to dabble in some Turkish tea before the two guys had some Shisha to top it all off (don’t smoke kids). On our way back to the hostel we headed into a mosque during prayer time which was a bit of a surreal moment and I even had to leave as we were getting serious evils from the locals. We had a quick kebab before hitting the hay. The alarm went off at 4am and I was up and ready for the airport where a nice Turkish lad was chatting all the way there. I arrived with plenty of time to spare and even got a sneaky nap in before heading back home to Dublin.
Overall, Istanbul is pretty unique city with a serious amount of history and somewhere that really needs more than 4 days to see all the sites. It is also a pretty cheap city once you avoid the tourist traps like everywhere. The Turkish people themselves were extremely friendly and I would definitely go back someday, perhaps for some dancing with the lads. Fingers crossed the next trip is soon!