Istanbul was an assault on the senses: the sights were beautiful, the smells were great, the taste of the food was oh-so delicious, the city was so incredibly loud at all hours of the day, and it was super easy to physically run into one of the 20million inhabitants of the city. The three days was an awesome experience. We enjoyed the mosques, the food, the sights and just being in the city. The people were very kind, very welcoming, and very generous.
Istanbul was our first step into a ‘lesser developed country’ after Italy. It had a hodgepodge of fully developed / lesser developed features. For example: public transit (trams, subways, and buses) were totally easy to use, very clean and much better / more sensical than what we used in Italy. However, there was dilapidation everywhere throughout the sprawling city and beggars were around every corner, including little kids who would try to take stuff from our pockets while screaming at us.
Some things were incredibly cheap and other things were disproportionately expensive. We could have a delicious dinner for a whopping $4 each finished with mindblowingly delicious baklava for $0.50. Going to a museum, however, could set us back $30. Other than the museums, we found most things to be cheap.
It seemed as though everyone was trying to sell something or had an uncle / father / brother / cousin who had a shop and was trying to sell something. A lot of restaurants had these well dressed fellows standing in the sidewalk or street that would ask us to look a the menu and eat at that their place. We probably passed about 1,000 restaurants so we really had a chance to hear all sorts of pitches. Another time, I was trying to negotiate a steeply discounted guided tour; the guide stated that he’d give us the rate if we’d buy a turkish carpet. He didn’t seem to understand the concept that we’re homeless and had no need for carpets.
We had a lot of fun, we’d go back. It was a trip!
Enjoy the photos!
We had a great time in Italy! We didn’t really plan on being in Italy very long but we ended up staying for quite some time – around eleven days total. We didn’t see a lot of Italy, actually, we didn’t travel much at all. Instead, we focused on spending more time in one place and took cooking classes along the way! Our time in Italy was in a small area of Italy: Bologna to Padua (near Venice) to rural Varenna (Como Lakes region). The flat areas of Italy smelled and felt a lot like Minnesota in the summer: farm like and a bit humid. Varenna, a city on a mountainside, was a really cool little town.
I was completely unprepared for the beauty of Italy. The food was magnificent, just brilliant. We learned a few simple recipes at at couple different places that were just delightful. Some of the more fun recipes was learning how to make pasta and pizza.
Fun facts we learned while traveling in Italy:
* Italians tell us there is no “Italian” cuisine or language. Italy is all about the city and the city’s specialty. In Bologna, our spaghetti had no tomato sauce and that’s considered normal for Bologna.
* The wine and the champagne were oh so good! We didn’t have to spend much to get something great! One of the wines we enjoyed the most was a whopping $1.50 for the bottle. I have no idea how anyone can make money off that.
* There’s an encyclopedia of pasta. Something like 5,000 different pasta recipes. That’s a little under seven factorial so that small amount of combinations results in a lot of different recipes! I never realized the pasta world was that complicated.
* There’s some things that are absolutely flabbergasting about Italy. Namely, how individuals buy fare for public transit. In a million years I would never have guessed that the nearest news stand or random shop closest to the stop would be the place to buy a ticket. When I asked a local about this he said, ‘Well I could just say, “that is Italy”, but it’s more complicated”.
* Food is serious business. Criticizing one region’s food seems to be quite the faux pas.
* Venice seems to have mastered the art of extracting tourist’s cash.
* Rick Steves is everyone’s tour guide and Rick Steves has groupies. It’s hilarious!
Overall, we had a great time. We’d love to go back to the Como Lakes region and explore all the little towns and do more hiking!
Enjoy the photos :).