After checking out the things in the basic vicinity of my hostel, it was time to go further afield and also test out the Istanbul subway. I can say that the subway was pretty confusing compared to the ones in China, which I wasn’t expecting. Combining this with inaccuracies in Google and Apple maps, I did quite a bit of extra walking. That said I finally made it to my destination.
As a keen parkour guy, when I found out that there was a parkour gym in Istanbul I knew I needed to go check-it-out, despite the heat. It didn’t disappoint. I got a solid workout in and had a lot of fun too. I then made my way back towards the subway station, checking out a Mosque along the way.
Overall it was a great although exhausting day, I covered a lot of ground and had a blast. I’m definitely loving Istanbul, despite the warnings about riots with recent political instability, it feels really safe here. I’m also enjoying the more relaxed pace of life in general, compared to the madness of China.
After recovering from my flight with a good night’s sleep I was back up to speed and ready to explore.
The twisting hilly and organic feel to the architecture is a stark contrast to what I was used to in China. The look of the place is also just so different – the absence of temples, insane driving and pollution, and the presence of grass and trees all makes for a very different experience.
The food is also very different. My standard meal has become Turkish bread with chicken and salad which can be bought to for the equivalent of $1.50 Australian. I also really like Balik Ekmek. This is a fish sandwich made from fish grilled right in front of you along with lemon, chilli and fresh salad all wrapped in crusty bread.
My accomodation is very close to the Galata Tower, which initially I thought would be really handy for navigation, however the streets of Istanbul are often so narrow and windy that it’s impossible to see any useful landmarks. That being said, the tower looks rather impressive and makes for a nice area to hang out and grab food, although the banks of the docks seen to have better food at night.
After three weeks it is finally time to leave China! It’s a bit disappointing, I’d finally felt I’d got the hang of the place, understood the customs and the food. That being said it’s exiting to be on the move again!
I had a very late flight so I sat at the airport and ate a decent meal while doing some writing and waiting for my flight. As it turns out I should have not been so relaxed, as giving myself an hour to wait in line and get through security was cutting it fine.
Getting in to Istanbul was great though, it has such an instantly apparent difference to China in pace, look and feel that I’m sure it’ll make for an interesting time.
I was up early and launching in to things in the morning. Early starts are a way of life in China. If you’re not up early you miss out on a decent breakfast (all the street food vendors pack up and leave), plus the buns all go cold. This leaves you with the option of mediocre and expensive restaurant food or waiting for lunchtime.
I met a massive group of 90 Chinese architecture students, all of whom thought it would be a good idea for me to tag along on their school excursion. This was pretty hilarious as they included me in everything, including school photos. There must be a bunch of photos in their university with me as the token white guy, which I think is pretty funny. They were all very nice though and we had a laugh as we all checked out the main attractions in central Xi’an.
The school is surprisingly controlled and orderly for an old group of students. They’re all 18–20 which in Australia makes you an adult. Here they still had regular roll calls to make sure everyone is there, along with a student hierarchy and the teachers as a leadership structure.
I tried this frozen yogurt stuff, which was really interesting. I didn’t know what it was, so when the guy poured the yogurt on a metal surface I assumed he was cooking it. The metal was actually insanely cold and he added jam and nuts to the yogurt to make a frozen dessert. It was actually pretty nice but amazingly cold, much colder than any ice cream I’ve had back home.
For lunch we had these amazingly long and wide noodles, this was very entertaining for the students I was traveling with as my poor chopstick skills were put to the test.
Finally we went to the art gallery. Normally I dislike galleries, finding them to be rather boring and pretentious but China managed to inject enough chaos and excitement in to the place that I actually found it pretty cool! There were people in teams of two racing every which way with paintings wrapped in bubble wrap – always almost colliding with doorways and other paintings, swearing at each other as it happened. Over the entryway there were four guys all trying to hang up a banner. They clearly had no idea what they where doing, dropping spanners and screws on the the concrete down below. Overall it was a pretty mad scene, which was a very fun and memorable experience. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity if I hadn’t run into the students at my hostel either, so that was a very lucky coincidence all round!