I’m sure it sounds almost blasphemous, but we were tired and ready to go home and go back to work. I actually had a look at shifting our flights to be a few days earlier, but since it was cheaper to just stay here in Istanbul, we did that.
While we hadn’t seen everything there is to see in Istanbul, not even close, we had seen (and done) most of the things that we wanted to do. So, rather than continue to be tourists, we decided to take it easy and just do a little shopping and walking around for the sake of walking around. I even had a holiday from being on holiday and left my camera back in the hotel for the day – it’s amazing how much easier it is to walk all day when you’re not carrying a giant camera (yes, I could buy a smaller one for travelling, but that would be a compromise).
The first day, a Thursday, we didn’t travel far, merely walking around the Bazaar district again, including a quick visit to the Spice Bazaar. The shopping was more of the same, so other than looking at some of the genuine counterfeits (which at $400 were waaaaay beyond my budget) and some souvenirs, little took our fancy.
The Spice Bazaar was a lot smaller than I had imagined, but I guess there is only so much demand for spices… If I was more of a chef (which couldn’t be hard) I might have found it more interesting, but not knowing good spice from what is available from the supermarkets in Australia (and not knowing what a good price is), I kept my distance.
It wasn’t just spices, there were also many Turkish delight and other sweet shops selling pre-packaged boxes of sugar to tourists. OK, they weren’t all pre-packaged, there were some shops making them in front of us, and I can’t deny that they looked very tempting.
Friday, our last day in Istanbul, we caught the tram across the Golden Horn and walked up to Taksim again. It’s crazy, but I had been craving a hamburger after seeing some of the American hamburger shops last time we were in the area – so that was my goal for lunch. I think I was mostly sold on the name, Fatburger, which just sounded amazing. I was starving, and I had to walk a long way to get my burger on. I’d never heard of the Fatburger, but they are meant to be a U.S chain that is rapidly expanding in the middle-east of all places (U.A.E, Qatar). It wasn’t cheap, either, but I have heard that meat is quite expensive here. OK, maybe it was the expectation, or maybe it was because I didn’t add any sauce, but I left there a little disappointed. It was the best burger I’d had in Turkey, but I’ve certainly had better in Australia (and Japan).
We spent most of the day walking down the giant shopping street at Beyoglu, which is filled with all the foreign clothes shops you would expect to see, like H&M. But, the real find was a small alley that was crammed with outlet clothing – and not just regular outlet clothing, this stuff was dirt cheap. We spent more than an hour trawling through the stores there, finding all sorts of things, from Joy Division t-shirts (properly licensed, I’m sure), to South Park leggings (again, properly licensed, I’m sure) and Calvin Klein jeans and track pants. It was a proper treasure hunt, requiring us to trawl through the piles of clothes, and dig deep in the racks of clothes, but it was entertaining, and it proved to be worth it.
It wasn’t just shopping, we also did cultural stuff, like visiting this church…
And then we killed some time by watching the new Transformers movie (Age of Extinction). Sure, we were prepared for, and expecting a terrible movie, but amazingly it managed to exceed those expectations! Cultural differences between cinemas in Australia and Turkey: Australian movie times are the time that the advertisements start, so generally there are twenty-or-so minutes of ads and previews before the main title starts, whereas the movie here started at the advertised time, so we missed the first five-ten minutes (maybe that is why I was confused during the movie…); and there is an intermission (film arashi), which didn’t wait for an opportune time, it just stopped mid-sentence and the lights turned on and most of the cinema walked out (probably for a cigarette).
It was well and truly evening by the time we walked out of that cinema (feeling a little dumber than when we walked in). It was late June, and the start of summer, but the mall was decorated in what looked like Christmas decorations (it is also a predominantly Islamic country). It was Friday night, and the place was packed. We thought we’d go out for a drink somewhere trendy, and look out over the town, but apart from a few cafes that we spotted in the side alleys, we didn’t have any luck finding a bar.
We did find these special sloppy burgers though. I wish I’d remembered the name. Unlike the dry (yet meaty) Fatburger, this was extraordinarily moist and soaked with sauce and flavour – and cheap, too.
We continued walking downhill through the shopping street of Beyoglu, through the narrow alleys near the tower, down across the bridge, back through the old town to our hotel. It was a slightly disappointing way to end our time in Istanbul (and Turkey), but only slightly. Tomorrow morning we catch the shuttle bus back to the international airport and board a plane bound for Brisbane, via Singapore.
The original plan to travel the Trans Siberia had fallen through, as had the plans to move to London, but we’d been lucky enough to visit some amazing and out of the way locations. The original three-week train journey had also ballooned into nearly 8 weeks through four different countries, so I had to return to work promptly to pay it off!
Hopefully we’ll get another chance to ride the Trans Siberian early next year!