Valery's Mlog

Mindlog of a Freak
October 31st, 2009 by Valery Dachev

Couchsurfing in Istanbul (part 1)

This post turned out to be too long so I splitted it into two parts. I am sorry for being late with it and I hope those who insisted on it will excuse me! :)

Introduction

A month ago a friend of mine – Hristo called me with an offer which sounded like this:

– Hey! What about couchsurfing in Istanbul at the first meeting of “Turkish and Bulgarian Friends” group?

You see… I had an idea about what couchsurfing was (or at least I thought so) and I was not very keen on it. We live in a dangerous world after all and sleepovers at the home of someone I didn’t know sounded a bit risky to me. I generally prefer not doing anything to taking any risks but this time I decided to do something against my nature. So I agreed… but I bought myself a sleeping bag just in case. :)

Traveling to Istanbul

We took off early in the morning with Nikolay (who turned out to be our driver and whom I met that morning), Graham (a Canadian guy from Amsterdam couchsurfing to Iran) and Chin (a Malaysian girl couchsurfing back to her country). The latter two were experienced couchsurfers who stayed at Nikolay’s.

The highway was boring. However the closer you get to the Bulgarian-Turkish border the more sensible the difference is: at a gas station near Haskovo people were already speaking in Turkish, more and more labels are translated and you could actually see lots of Turkish hotels and restaurants there. Even nature (bushes, trees and soil) began changing as Graham noticed. However you still know Bulgaria by the plastic bags in the fields. I told our foreign companions that we are still trying to grow those plastic bags and we have obviously succeeded!

Bulgarian part of the road to Turkey is bad and narrow, and our border looks like a small entrance of a camp. Turkish one however has (at least) eight lines of desks in each direction and some huge buildings – X-Ray, administration, medical center, even a (s)mall!

There were a few kilometers of trucks going to Bulgaria and waiting to be processed. Surprisingly there were almost no cars! So we could pay attention to more interesting things on the highway:

  • There are windsocks with antennas on each few kilometers that obviously transmit information about the winds. I am not aware any weather forecasting network in Bulgaria of this kind;
  • Mosques are everywhere. I haven’t seen that many churches neither in Bulgaria, nor in Greece or Russia;
  • There are some villages that are entirely new ones. Some of them are bought by foreigners and others are actually university campuses;
  • Some hills however are occupied by single ranch-like estates – probably someone’s saray.

We arrived in Istanbul at about 4 pm which made 8-hours ride from Sofia which was kind of fast..

Friday Night

After a bit of struggle through Istanbul traffic jams we got to a car parking near Taksim Square – a very famous and crowded place where people meet. Some of the biggest hotels in Istanbul are nearby. We were early so we had enough time to have a walk on İstiklal Avenue – a pedestrian street going from Taksim Square to the famous Galatasaray Lisesi. We sat on the balcony of Filicori cafe and stared at Taksim and İstiklal, drank Turkish coffee and of course did some Facebooking. :P Five times a day it is a time for payer. A voice from the nearby mosque is inviting people. In the first moment it may be shocking but after that you find it kind of exotic…

While wandering around Taksim Square we noticed a few policemen buses and lots of policemen with shields and protective caps. Some of them were armed  with machine guns. There was a demonstration going on for freeing someone from jail. It was a peaceful one and it went well.

At about 7 pm with met with the rest of out couchsurfing friends (a very international crowd actually) and headed towards a nice place to have a drink or two, take photos and talk to each other. So we got into a market to buy beer, wine and junk food. The stairs leading to Sanatkarlar park were full of people sitting on the stairs and drinking beer, watching the fabulous nighly view to the Bosphorus. You could see all those nicely lit building and ships – from small boats and huge liners… Incredible!

After a few hours of nice chat with people from all around the globe (Turkey, Bulgaria, USA, Malaysia, Poland, UK…) we went to Araf Cafe Bar close to Taksim square. Not a big but comfortable one with nice music – from popular local and foreign music to really surprising songs like Kultur Shock‘s “Mastika”. Although we were all happy of being together and having some great time, a much wiser decision was not to stay late as the programme for the next (actually the same) day started early in the morning.

Well… we were not wise at all and left the bar at about 4.30 am. Surprisingly streets were full of people and they both (streets and people) didn’t seem that scary as in Bulgaria! We got on the car and took the highway to the Asian part of Istanbul. I am not sure if I actually mentioned my mom that I am in Turkey but I guess she was quite surprised by receiving an text message like “Greets from Asia!” at 5 am… :)

Comments

2 Responses to “Couchsurfing in Istanbul (part 1)”
  1. Martin says

    Good post, where is the second part… And your grammar and punctiation?

  2. The second part is still a draft. :) Meanwhile I went to Izmir as well… and had a really thrilling time with our Turkish friends in Bulgaria.
    My grammar and punctuation are… “lost in translation”… :)

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