The journey. Part 1: Europe. Istanbul

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September 9. The journey begins. But first, few days in Europe. 

My last day at work was on Friday and the flight was on Monday. A little calm European vacation before the wild unknown of South America would be great, I reckoned.

First flight: Moscow – Istanbul. Why Istanbul?

My way to South America looked like this:
Moscow – Istanbul (layover) – Marseille – Madrid (layover) – Rio

Super random I know – that’s just because of cheaper tickets.

First flight was to Marseille with layover in Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. These airlines are really nice, they have great options for layover, checked luggage is included in price and the price itself is good.

Also, I’ve dreamed to visit Istanbul for years. Turkey is absolutely unique country uniting in itself both Europe and Asia geographically, historically and culturally. Istanbul seemed like a perfect place to enjoy some Middle Eastern vibes mixed with European. Well and I generally have a soft spot for Middle Eastern culture. 

So I got a ticket with a 24h layover in Istanbul, booked an Airbnb with the view on Bosphorus and jumped on a plane.

I’ve never been so excited on an airplane. 

I’ve never gone on a journey without a ticket back. With no knowledge when I’m going back. With no knowledge where in fact I’m going.

I knew where I’m staying just for the first week after I jumped on that plane. 

I had no idea what would happen after that.

Istanbul

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Among other benefits of Turkish Airlines they also offer some free stuff like a city tour which was just perfect way for me to get to know the city better in a short time.

I had 2 options: city walking tour with a start at 4pm and night boat tour starting at 8pm. On the website they say you have to register on the tour 30 min beforehand (in the airport). I got there 5 min to 4pm and still easily signed up for the 4pm tour. Perfect. Few minutes later we got on a bus and moved towards the old district Sultanahmet. 

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The tour is just what you’d expect – a bit boring, a bit crowdy, but in a few hours I saw some main landmarks (e.g., Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar) and the history behind them, I got to the city center quick and for free aaaand we all got a free dinner in a traditional Turkish restaurant.

After dinner I said goodbye to our lovely tour guide and went to look for my Airbnb that was somewhere nearby. 

INSPIRATION
Book: Orhan Pamuk «Istanbul: Memories and the City»
Movie: Taken 2

Oh my God, I remember it now and it seems so surreal: pushing through the crowd on a busy Turkish market, passing by street cafes filled with people, inhaling shisha vapes and kebab flavours from food counters while wandering along the streets. The streets that count thousands of years, the land that has seen the change of empires and eras.

I got to my Airbnb, left my semi heavy backpack and went on a little walk in the neighbourhood to see a tiny bit more of a night Istanbul.

While I was walking every vendor was calling me to buy something or to enter his restaurant. A bit hustly, that’s expected but still I never like it, it’s very tiring and annoying.

I stopped by a little kiosk to get some water. I had a handful of Turkish liras from my short trip to Marmaris couple years ago, but I didn’t have enough for a big bottle of water.

«It’s okay, – the boy at the cashier counter said. – No worries, take your water.» 

Do you remember the times, when your mom sent you to get some groceries and if you didn’t have enough money the cashier would say «It’s okay, return it later»? It felt like those times. It’s the strangest and warmest feeling of trust and compassion, it is amazing. 

The next morning I woke up to the sounds of seagulls. I opened the window and felt warm salty breeze. It was a very bright sunny morning. I looked through the window and saw ships slowly sailing along the Bosphorus. Bright blue sky, bright blue waters. The first morning of this journey that turned out to last more than 6 months, but I had no idea of that back then. The only thing I knew: that’s a damn nice first morning of the trip.


Expenses
Airbnb with view on Bosphorus – $25
Bus city center – airport 18 liras ($2,6)
Water 1,5L – 3 liras ($0,5)
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