Arrival in Istanbul: From Uninspiring to Irresistible!

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I’m not in the best mindset when I arrive in Istanbul.

Things aren’t going well.  It’s freezing cold.  Nobody will exchange my Jordanian dinars.  As I ride the crowded metro into the city, I quickly learn that deodorant isn’t exactly a “thing” here.  And to top it off, everyone is glaring at me for bringing a huge backpack onto public transportation.

Three weeks in Turkey.  Should I really have planned that?  I have SO much to do — all my posts about Jordan, more posts about Emilia-Romagna, and wouldn’t it make more sense to head back to the UK, see the handsome Englishman I’ve been missing SO much, and just stay close to home — maybe some Peak District holidays in Derbyshire instead, maybe set up’s latest office in one of the Peak District cottages?  And yes, Liz Lemon is begging to climb out of me right now.

I can’t go back to the UK yet.  I need to spend less than 50% of my time there until I’m able to get a visa.  And since I hate paying EasyJet flight change fees, Turkey is a necessity for now.

And then something magical happens —

A car nearly hits our tram.

The driver brakes hard, and half the people on the train fall over.  We pick ourselves up — and suddenly, as our eyes meet, people are no longer giving me the evil eye for my giant backpack.  We look at each other and sigh with exaggerated exasperation, rolling our eyes, smiling and shrugging.

In that near-hit, we have had a bonding experience.

And my spirits brighten.  I look out the window and see the red Turkish flag flying overhead for the first time ever.  The city looks amazing.  Each neighborhood is so different, and I know I’m only seeing a tiny fraction of Istanbul so far.

I step off the tram at Sultanahmet, and this is the first thing I see:

The Blue Mosque at sunset, illuminated perfectly.

And from that point, you can’t wipe the smile off my face.  There’s street food here.  There’s architecture.  Istanbul is definitely a European city, but it has an exotic touch.  I can’t wait to explore as much of this city as possible.

It gets better.  I head to the hostel and meet Jodi and Earl for the first time in real life after knowing each other online for years.  We make friends at the hostel, get food in a tiny restaurant, swap travel blogging war stories.

I’m exactly where I need to be.

Yes.  This time in Istanbul is going to be GOOD.

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24 thoughts on “Arrival in Istanbul: From Uninspiring to Irresistible!”

  1. Hurray! Glad to have been a part of what turned your day around and looking forward to hanging out these next few days. Now, what’s for dinner tonight? 🙂

  2. Glad to hear your opinion of Istanbul turned around quickly! Jealous that you get to spend 3 weeks there and meet up with some awesome bloggers, but excited to read all about it!

  3. Kate:
    Two of my favorite cities in the world, Istanbul & London, and you have been to both in the same month, BRAVO!

  4. Glad to hear your day and time in Turkey is brightening up. Street food always turns my day around no matter what city I’m in. Istanbul just happens to be a great city for street food! Hope it warms up just a wee bit for you. Enjoy your time!

  5. You will easily fall inlove with Istanbul! Drinking alcohol and hearing the call of prayer at the same time is almost unreal. Speaking of street food, wait till you try the grilled fish sandwiches by the water near the Galata bridge! It’s AMAZEBALLS!

  6. My arrival in Istanbul was the exact same thing. On the edge of the city on the metro, I kept thinking…why am I here? What am I doing? Then I saw the first glimpse of the old city and knew it was going to be wonderful.

  7. Amazing story, made me goosebumpy!
    I love your spirit and the fact that you’re continuing even when it’s difficult.
    Istambul seems exciting though. Your post makes me want to go there.

  8. I as well had negative first impressions of Istanbul, though they turned around real quick! I ended up loving it and can’t wait to go back. Now, can a certain handsome englishman take a holiday and come visit you? 🙂

    1. Awww, we talked about it, but he has used up so many of his vacation days the first time I visited and when he visited me in the States. It’s probably not the best idea right now. But we need to plan a trip together for the spring! I’m also taking him away for the weekend for his birthday in January…. 😉

  9. Wow!

    I´ve never commented before, but you were a true inspiration when I found your blog re-searching my solo SEA trip last spring, and when I went this spring I pretty much followed your lead. From partying with Hanoi Backpackers in Halong Bay to the booze- cruise in Nha-Trang. To Cambodia, and to Thailand. And yeah, I also met a fantastic boy from the Commonwealth to travel with, ( and dance with under the stars in south- Vietnam)!

    enough of this, but even before SEA I travelled eastern Europe, and one of my happiest moments, and it was romantic as well, was travelling over to the asian side of Istanbul and sit and watch the sunset over the mosques and getting giggly on turkish beer 🙂
    be sure to check out the palace and dance in the side- streets of Istiklal !

    Hope your having an amazing time 🙂 and in the deepest darkest November light and finals getting closer, it´s always nice to read your updates.

    greetings from Norway

    1. Mari, this makes me so happy — I think I’ll be adding this to my media kit! Thank you! I haven’t been over to the Asian side yet (seriously, I haven’t been doing much sightseeing in Istanbul — I think I will do it all when I return after Cappadocia and Fethiye). 🙂

  10. I cringed when I read the beginning of your post. I thought you were going to say you hated it!! Looking forward to your articles about Cappadocia and Fethiye

  11. I laughed when I read about your glares on the public transport! I remember my first day in London, after like 25 hours of flying and having to catch the underground for the first time ever.. It was like 7am so peak hour! I was definately not a welcome addition to that journey and to top it off I had no idea of the ettiquete of riding the tube and kept saying sorry to everybody for ramming my backpack into them all!

  12. I totally understand the glare feeling! I felt like everyone was just staring at me when I backpacked around Italy with a friend! Always wanted to visit Istanbul! Hopefully soon! 🙂

  13. Loving this thank you for sharing your real feelings with all of us, nice to know we all just wanna go home sometimes before we realize where we’re meant to be!

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