Ah Turkey, the land of the Ottoman Empire. It’s late afternoon when I arrived in Ataturk Airport. The first thing I looked for is the ATM so I can start with my adventure. Since I’m staying in Istanbul for a couple of days, it is wise to get myself an InstanbulKart that I can use for just about any public transportation within Istanbul. And of course, the transport map is also handy. I immediately took the train to go to Acibadem somewhere in Uskudar on the Asia side where I would stay for a couple of nights.
When I arrived in Acibadem, the next thing I needed was to find genuine Turkish food. The long flight from South Korea made me crave for anything other than the food they serve in the plane. I found a place called Kassab which turns out to be very pricey. The food was great though I could not finish the entire plate because European plates turn out to be quite a serving.
The Bosphorus, Sultanahmet, and The Blue Mosque
From Uskudar, the Bosphorus boat trip is a good 20-30 minute trip which goes to Serkici pier near the Galata Bridge. I have no clear itinerary but just stroll and see how the locals behave since it is the Ramadan period. Turkish people in Istanbul are more secular and do not strictly observe the Islamic tradition of fasting. The public transport system is very efficient and easy to follow.
In Istanbul, most café attendants can speak English but some are quite hesitant to practice. It is very helpful to learn how to speak a few Turkish words. The first thing I usually learn is the script of the language and how each letters are pronounced. Turkish script is easy to read and the vowel accents are the only difference to the English alphabet. There are funny incidents when tourists say names of places that are pronounced differently in Turkish (ex. Fındıklı pronounced F’nd’k’luh not Feendeeklee). Turkish people are usually nice especially in markets and they use a lot of charm to earn your trust. It is quite unusual for Turkish people to see Filipinos and when they become curious, they tend to stare. Their strong facial features could be intimidating but it doesn’t mean they do it in purpose.
There are a lot of historic museums and interesting places to visit in Istanbul. Visiting museums could be very pricey if you don’t purchase the MuseKart and plan to actually visit them all. As of this writing, each entrance fee is 40TRY (Lira) to visit Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, etc. So purchasing the MuseKart is cheaper and it is valid for 7 days. Hagia Sofia is one of the iconic places to visit in Istanbul because it is unlike all churches. It is a hybrid Islamic/Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica which was later converted into a museum. The Blue Mosque is closed for prayer during Ramadan by the time I visited, so I decided not to wait until prayer time is over.