London part 2 : what everybody wanna see

 

General Information: London, as most people know, is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. It’s a cosmopolitan city, expensive (not as much as they say, but still yes) and giant. It has about 12 million inhabitants with the surroundings. It’s a city where you can find everything and it’s truly fascinating. I didn’t expect it to be this way and I didn’t have so many expectations, because I had an already created image of a distant, cold and gray London and, nevertheless, again the travels overthrew my prejudices. It’s the best thing about travel.

In this article I am going to list which are more or less the places that one “has to see” if you travel for the first time there. If that doesn’t interest you, well then read my previous article, where I talk about the most alternative things that not everyone sees and that seemed to me the most beautiful of all.

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London part 1: what not everyone sees

In this article I would like to talk a bit about a face of London that not all tourists really see. As it’s a giant city, there are a lot of important things to do and see, especially if you go for less than a week. I already had a list of less flashy and touristy things that I wanted to see, but it also helped me to spend the afternoon with a Croatian friend who lives there and took me to see the things that she likes. You know that I always like (if possible) to have a local experience because you always find out very curious things. So in this article I leave you with what I recommend you to see in London.

1) City: it’s a very interesting part of the city. It’s the financial headquarters of the whole UK and beyond, it’s the city within a city, since it has a certain autonomy. Why is this allowed only in the case of City? Because it’s a part of the city that brings a lot of money to the British government budget. The money comes, nobody cares how and where, and the economy continues. It is a neoliberal utopia, within a more socialist country, in my opinion. What you can see in City, plus thousands upon thousands of people in fancy outfits running to get their sandwich, eat early, and head back to the office, is Sky Garden, one of numerous skyscrapers with spectacular views of the entire both City and city. And best of all, it’s free. Of course, you must sign up in advance, a few weeks at least, it’s very easy, everything is done online.

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Portugal part 2 : Coimbra

General Information: The city of Coimbra is roughly halfway from Porto to Lisbon. It’s actually closer to Porto. It’s a university city and has around 150,000 inhabitants. In other words, it’s not a big city and you can see everything you want by walking. Ok, there may be some hills so you kind of need to be in shape for Coimbra but it’s a good training.

How to get there?

I went by train, it’s not such a long trip and it’s very beautiful to see the landscapes. Of course, back it was longer because the train was slower and we stopped in all the small towns, even had a time for some coffee in Aveiro.

Where to eat?

The showcases of so many restaurants, cafes and bakeries invite you to enter. I loved the food, it doesn’t matter where you eat, whether sweet or salty, everything is delicious.

Tourist attractions:

1) The University of Coimbra: it’s the oldest in Portugal and among the oldest in all Europe. In addition to the quality of its study programs, it’s famous for the peculiar clothing of its students, the same that inspired the famous British author J.K. Rowling for the official costumes of Hogwarts students. I only visited one part of the building because it was getting late, but by the time I get back I have to go to the library, they say it’s very nice.

 

2) The Santa Cruz monastery: a very nice monastery founded in the 12th century. I recommend entering because the walls are full of tiles, which I love and could stay to see them the whole day.

Personal observation: Honestly, I traveled to Coimbra just to see the university and the students clothing, because this is where J.K. Rowling was inspired by the Harry Potter saga. But, I will describe that in another article that will talk about my wanderings around the places connected to the Harry Potter story. Spending a day in Coimbra was very beautiful, I must admit, with or without Harry Potter things, Coimbra has magic and the visit is worth it. Actually, I think it could even be two days, a weekend, to be able to see and enjoy the city well. It’s nice and there is good food everywhere, quite a temptation. So I think my friend and I spend more time eating and drinking coffee than walking around the town.

What I have seen of Portugal so far (and I hope to see much more in the future) implies that good people live there, that they eat well, that there is a lot of history, culture and art out there, at each step a different legend, an old tradition, something special, … but also, it must be recognized that the country recently experienced an economic crisis. Of course, there are many tourists who don’t realize it, because they are on vacation just wanna relax and nothing else matters. But it seemed very evident to me, so many damaged facades, the depopulation, the pessimism of the Portuguese are out there, they float in the air and are easy to grasp. After all, it is the homeland of fado and saudade, melancholy and regret run through their veins. Don’t be fooled by appearances, Portuguese may seem Spanish and Mediterranean, but in reality they are not. They are from the Atlantic, much calmer and more nostalgic. Well, besides when they are partying. Because if I know something well, it’s the nightlife of the north of Portugal, and I can say that these people from the Atlantic have quite a good time. At the party there are no regrets, they are left in oblivion to remember them the next morning.

Small dictionary of Portuguese :

Hi – Olà

How are you ? – Como vai?

Where is… ? – Onde está?

When is the next train ? – Quando é o próximo trem?

Thanks – Obrigado

You’re welcome –Por favor

Welcome – Bemvindo

Check, please – A conta, por favor.

Can I please have a coffee with milk ? – Um café com leite, por favor.

I love this town. – Eu amo essa cidade.

How much is it ? – Quanto custa?

Portugal part 1 : party in Porto

General information: Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, with some 300,000 inhabitants. It’s located in the north of the country and is considered the capital of the north. It’s a beautiful, safe and cheap city, at least I would describe it like that. The currency they use is the euro and they speak Portuguese. As it’s a tourist country, there are quite a lot of people who speak at least basic English or Spanish so if you don’t speak Portuguese (I’ll leave you a small vocabulary in the second article, just in case), you’ll be however able to communicate with people.

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Gran canaria part 2: classic tourism

 

General information: Gran Canaria is the largest island in the entire archipelago of the Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic ocean, a three-hour flight from Brussels and with the time change of one hour (less). Sometimes people get confused and believe that the Canary Islands are next to peninsular Spain, but no, those are the Balearic Islands – you know Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza and those famous things. The Canary Islands are next to Morocco, so geographically seen they are not even in Europe, but in Africa. Canary Islands are 7: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Tenerife, Gomera, Lanzarote, La Palma, El Hierro. The islands have a population of around 2 million inhabitants. The capital, located in the north of Gran Canaria, is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, better known as Las Palmas, with some 400,000 inhabitants. The currency is the euro, as in the rest of Spain. It’s a very safe tourist destination, you can go there alone without any problem.

How are the people?

The Canarians are Spanish, but they are much more like Latinos than as Spanish, with an accent, mentality and lifestyle. Relaxing, always in a good mood, kind, taking the necessary time and more than that to say hello and talk to their friends and those who are going to become their friends, eating and drinking well : all off that is essential for many Canarians. It’s not enough to say that I liked the people, no, I loved them.

How to get there?

By plane or by boat, depending on where. But since it’s an island, the most common thing is to go there by plane. Gran Canaria airport is located in the south of the island and it’s very easy and cheap to go by bus to Las Palmas from the airport. Well, they came to pick me up, but for going back I took a bus.

What to eat?

You have to take advantage of those good prices (taxes on the island are very low, therefore the prices are low too) and eat in restaurants every day hahaha, the obligatory thing is clearly fish, but in the end you can eat anything, it’s good and cheap. Also, something typical of the Canary Islands is “leche y leche”, that is, coffee with condensed milk. A bit too sweet for my taste, but it’s necessary to try, it’s something very typical from there.

Tourist attractions :

1) Playa de las Canteras: One of my favorite places on the island. It’s a beach that simply attracts one to be there and stroll to exhaustion and then have a coffee always with a view of sea, waves and surfers practicing there. I even think that after San Sebastián beach (in the Basque Country) it’s the most beautiful beach I have seen in Spain. For now, I need to travel more.

2) the dunes of Maspalomas – that is something where you can find all the tourists and almost no Canarians, except if they work there. In the south of the island there are a couple of small towns made for tourists already in the last century when the Canary Islands began to open up to mass tourism, that old and typical “sun and beach” tourism, which was what people from the north of Europe were looking for. Right now you could see many retirees from northern Europe who spend part of the year in the Canary Islands and another in the countries from which they originate. Why? Well, in the north you don’t have sun for 6 months and in Canary Islands you have the eternal spring. It’s also common to see families with young children staying in those resorts next to the dunes. I understand the logic, the Canarians got money and jobs there but also took tourists away from the city, so they avoided rising food / rent / everything prices and also prevented tourists from invading their lifestyle. Apparently, tourists and locals alike benefit from such tourism. Anyway, returning to the dunes, is considered to be an extension of Sahara, which is very near by and, with the help of the strong wind, sends some of its sand to the Canary Islands.

3) shopping malls: Don’t make them fool you, in Gran Canaria there are many shopping malls because tourists buy a lot, not because Canarians love shopping. The Canary Islands have a privileged status when it comes to taxes, a decision by the Spanish government so that people don’t leave the islands as much. The price of food, clothing, rentals and everything is incredibly low for such a popular tourist destination. That is why shopping malls flourish, there are a lot, and the same brands that would be much more expensive there are cheaper, so I also bought a couple of things, of course, to feel a little more like the typical tourist from the north – I came from Brussels, where I currently live. A quality coat that in Belgium or in any other country I would pay 60/70 euros there I paid 20.

4) La Vegueta – the old and colonial part of Las Palmas. It reminded me a lot of South America, I wonder why. There is the cathedral and a couple of pretty churches, there is the house of Cristobál Colón, many places to go with friends and eat something, there is a street full of cafes and shops, there is the university … there are several beautiful things to see, I recommend you to pass one day there.

5) the continental part of the island: it’s nice to go to Pico de las Nieves (the highest peak of the island) or at least to go through some viewpoints, such as Unamuno (the detailed description in the previous article, you ‘ll see why) or anyone else really, because you’ll have a spectacular view and literally be above the clouds, it’s a beautiful feeling.

Personal observation:

Unlike the first article in which I told you about all the unexpected adventures of my trip to the Canary Islands, in this one I told you what I think most of the people who visit Gran Canaria do. Stroll along the sandy beaches, go for a leche y leche or dine in a restaurant with a good view – what is normally the ocean view, go to the shopping mall, go to the dunes of Maspalomas, visit the Vegueta. I honestly don’t know how I managed to do all this and everything that I had already explained in the previous post in so few days. Didn’t I sleep? I hardly stayed for a week. Sometimes I surprise myself. And well, that was a relaxing vacation, not to mention my most active trips haha ​​that are even crazier.

Although I traveled alone to Gran Canaria, I was with my friends who live there almost every day, so I was really able to get a good insight into the culture and daily life of a Canarian person. I am aware that few people have the privilege of meeting many people from there, of going through the villages, of staying in a hacienda in Santa María de Guía de Gran Canaria (sound like a telenovela I know) with a view of the sea and the banana crops. Apparently I’m lucky in this life, I don’t know what else to say. Although I believe that in part you get to deserve the luck with your acts. So, the conclusion is that it’s clearly more beautiful to go where you know someone, because there is the guarantee that you will have a good time. But in any case, Gran Canaria is a tourist destination that everyone can enjoy, whether you know someone there or not.

Gran Canaria part 1: adventure tourism – all included

To clarify the doubts, from the very beginning, when choosing to go on vacation to Gran Canaria for a week, I was not looking for adventure tourism, and even less any kind of adrenaline. No. I wanted to escape the Belgian cold like the swallows that escape to the south. I thought it was a beautiful island with many retirees from northern Europe who drink their coffee, eat, look at the beach, take a walk and THAT’S IT. Without haste, without follies, a life so, but soo calm that it even bores, but it continues that calm and doesn’t change. Perfect for a week, even for two, maybe for a month, I’m open for new things. That is what I thought. But the plans of my friends were, well, we can say, a bit different. Or actually very different. A huge difference, a giant abyss, almost like the ones I was going to when they took me to the Unamuno viewpoint, or almost like the ocean I was sailing through thinking I was going to fall inside. But how did those things happen without me noticing? Waves, speed driving on a narrow roads…hmm it was not the plan, wasn’t it? (I remind again, the name of my blog is so true and suites perfectly to my life)  That happens to me trusting friends, below I tell you everything, the whole story.

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Istanbul part 4: all the colors of Balat

In my last article on Istanbul I will talk about Balat, which is supposed to be the most colorful neighborhood in the entire city. But, I think Balat goes much further than that. Yes, there are millions of tourists every year who go to Balat to take their pictures out there and then upload them to social networks. It seemed so exaggerated what some were doing that in addition to taking a couple of normal photos with my friends, I also made others making “model” faces. I like to mock people (myself too) and I have no remedy, as usual. Here I leave you the exaggerated photos and those colorful things that make the neighborhood so attractive to a tourist.
You can see that there are very touristy parts with many cafes and nice little restaurants with terraces full of tourists. Tourist, tourist and a bit more of tourist 😉 Those sites are more expensive than usual, precisely because they are located near or within those colorful streets where all the influencers spend half of the day waiting for their turn to take photos. And we are in the middle, a bit laughing at them, a bit taking photos.
Well, I am, of course, exaggerating,  you don’t wait half of the day. It’s about 20 minutes maximum maybe, but if you want a photo in which no one else comes out, then you will have to come at dawn, or simply settle for more people in your photo, and that’s it, it’s not the end of the world, go to drink Turkish coffee and everything will be nicer. That coffee I definitely don’t share with anyone. 
Balat is also known to tourists as the “multicultural” neighborhood of Istanbul. Indeed, it’s a part of the city where in a few kilometers you can find an Armenian church, a Bulgarian Orthodox temple, a synagogue, a Greek Orthodox cathedral,… I suppose you know that Turkey is a country with a large Muslim majority, what makes Balat even more interesting. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that, traditionally, since the time when Istanbul was Constantinople, the seat of the ecumenical patriarch is located in that city. That means that basically, the center of all the orthodox religion (which is within what we call Christianity, for those who have doubts about it) is precisely in Istanbul. In other words, Balat is a gem for lovers of culture and history. Below I leave the photos of the religious temples:
Bulgarian Church of St. Stephen:    
Armenian church :
Synagogue – since you have to ask for a special document that certifies that you can enter, then we stayed outside and I could only take the photo of the door with writings in Hebrew.  
Of course, all this doesn’t reflect so much the actual situation of Balat. I would say, and if one day you visit Balat and spend at least one day there, walking and strolling there and not so much posing for the photos, you will realize that it’s a kind of a neighborhood that we could call “traditional”, and clearly there is nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what one expected after reading so many multi-culti things about Balat, right? Of course there are Christians who live in Balat, that is more than evident, when I was going to choose a place to have a coffee while waiting for my friends, I was surprised with several cafes that were decorated with the Christmas tree and also had several religious icons, photos of the saints, Jesus and the Virgin. I leave the photo.   
But, they are not a majority in that part of the city. If you go up a little bit (it’s a part in several hills I think, because you have to go up quite a lot and constantly) you will see that there are many Turkish flags on the street, in the cars too, there are children playing football on the streets, there are many women with tchador (one traditional muslim garment, black, covering the whole body but exposing the entire face, but not the hair), there are cafes exclusively for men, there are many mosques, there are many shops for traditional garments for both women and men. And above all, there are no tourists. Being the synonym of a multicultural neighborhood, I would say that this is a great confusion caused by those superficial tourists (I know you may get offended, but it’s the truth) that they have neither the desire nor the time to investigate further, to go further. Why, if you can just go to the tourist part of Balat, say oh how nice that there is so much diversity, so many colors, have a breakfast, lunch, or coffee that is quite expensive and westernized and tgen you leave, because there are so many other tourist places waiting to be photographed, documented and sent to our friends or shared on the social media so that everyone will be envious of us. The Balat that I knew is different: yes, it’s tolerant so that if you are walking in western clothes through the traditional part, nobody is going to say anything, nobody is going to look ugly at you and make you feel bad, which I thank a thousand times because in the European capitals things are very but very different. But also, I would say that it’s the most traditional neighborhood I visited in all of Istanbul. If you don’t believe me, go there, but you will have to look a little more than those facades of so many colors. And I swear to you that I now consider Balat prettier than before, because tourists don’t get to take away the soul, it’s still a neighborhood where normal people live, with not so high incomes, but they live with their own perspective of their city and its neighborhood, quite different from that of tourists. Hopefully and they never lose that essence, whether we like it or not.
Small Turkish vocabulary :

Hello – Merhaba

How are you ? – Nasılsın ?

Thanks – Teşekkürler

Check, please.  – Hesap lütfen

Aiport – havalimanı

Water  – su

Where is…? – …nerede?

So cute! – çok tatlı!

What’s the time? – Saat kaç?

Yes – evet

No – Hayır

So beautiful! – çok güzel!

Istanbul part 3: Kadiköy and Üsküdar: Asia’s hidden jewels

 

In the second article dedicated to my trip to Istanbul I already wrote about all the tourist attractions. So what is the third article for? First, not even a hundred articles would be enough to describe how beautiful Istanbul is and to list all the things to see. Second, no, in the previous article I didn’t mention everything, I mentioned almost everything. The best is left for the final, right? What I want to talk about now is a part that is practically the opposite of everything that a tourist who was in Istanbul will tell you. Forget Hagia Sofia, it’s time to take that boat and go to Asia. Few tourists come there, at least at the time when I was there for the first time, and it’s a time when many tourists come. It’s the Asian part. I don’t know why before I came to Istanbul I thought that the European side looked more the way the Asian side actually looks. Another one of my mistakes based on prejudice. Because in my small Croatian head I thought that Asia means East, and we already know what the East is like. Yes, I am the umpteenth proof that someone with a university education (I even have a Master) can be more racist than someone who didn’t finish the elementary school.

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Istanbul part 2: the madness wrapped into a sweet

General information: Istanbul may not be the administrative capital of Turkey (it’s Ankara), but it was the capital of the East Roman Empire, Ottoman empire and it must be recognized that it’s the actual center of the country, it’s where everything happens, where there are more job opportunities and where more and more people move to. It’s a huge city, with its 15 million inhabitants (they say it actually has much more, but these are the official figures) and more than 5 million tourists a year, it has everything. It’s located on two continents, Europe and Asia, separated by the Bosphorus channel, which makes the city even more attractive and special.
How to get there?
Well, it depends on where. I left from Sarajevo, because they have a very good connection with Istanbul. (I was first coming from Brussels, spent 6 days in Croatia, went by car to Sarajevo, the night before randomly got invited and overslept in my friend’s family house in Novi Travnik. Don´t ask, I don´t know.) So, I came by flight from Sarajevo. It’s only two hours of flight and with Pegasus Airlines (low cost) I got quite cheap ticket, and that was for the New Year. There are other airlines that go there, but they are usually more expensive. Of course, sometimes Turkish airlines has offers, so you have to check the prices from time to time. We landed at the Sabiha Gökcen airport, which is an hour and a half from the center (if we assume that the center is where Taksim Square, in the European part). There is very good connection with the bus (the Havabus company) to the center, and it’s quite cheap, 3 euros in one direction, you buy it directly on the bus, in cash.
What to eat?
Well, I liked the food. Especially the sweets. But everything else too. Actually, when I returned from Turkey, I started watching Turkish videos and recipes and doing everything at home. I find their gastronomy very interesting, because it has connection with Mediterranean cuisine (Greek in particular) and with the Balkan cuisine (heritage of the Ottoman Empire). That is, sarma, burek, baklava, lokum or Turkish coffee (not filtered) are not somethig unknown to me. What I didn’t like so much is that they like to make it all spicy, I prefer more moderate flavors. So let me continue with the Turkish coffee. Besides being so tasty, also, after taking it, I read the future to my friends. It’s not a joke, it’s wisdom.
Practical information: Make sure you always have some Turkish money, because sometimes it’s not possible to pay by card, whether you are in the bus or in a restaurant, and less in a bazaar (market). The Turkish currency is lira, and one (right now January 2020) equals 0.15 euro ($ 0.17). If you want to have internet always and not only when there is wi fi, then you will have to buy a Turkish card for your cell phone. It costs more at the airport (about 20 euros), but since I didn’t want to be without internet I bought it. As my accommodation was in the other part of the town, I wanted to be in contact with my host, because I didn´t want to be homeless the first night, it was evening and I would be feeling scared without a phone with internet in such a huge town, yes, imagine my brain understandind that Brussles is actually more dangerous than Istanbul. Mindblowing. Anyway, my friends bought the SIM card the day after and payed less. You also need to show your Passport while buying the card.
As for the security, order, cleanliness and stuff, I assure you that the city is safer and cleaner than many European capitals (you didn’t expect that, didn’t you ). The subway is cleaned perfectly, public spaces are also very clean. You can walk around the city relaxed, without thinking that someone can steal you. Obviously, as everywhere there will be a minimum probability of that, but there it’s a really loz¿w probability. So, good for Istanbul.  Another reason to come back. (as if I needed more of them)
Public transport is really well organized for such a big city. There is tram, metro, metrobus, bus, taxi (normal one and apps too), whatever you want.
If you wanna go to the bazaar (market), and you will wanna go because every tourist goes, you have to haggle, you have to be insolent and pretending to be “in a bad mood” until prices fall by half or even more. It’s not about offending them, they like to haggle. Don’t be silly, don’t pay more, especially if you don’t have a good budget.
There are just few supermarkets in the tourist areas, but in the non tourstic parts of the city you can normally find them everywhere. Also, of course, a lot of exchange offices, there are millones of them open even till late in Taksim or Sultan Ahmet area.
When you are in a cafeteria, tea shop or a restaurant, don’t be surprised if the waiters bring you tea or coffee that they did not manage to drink, they are like that, a little vultures with those things. I don’t like that, we Croats are used to being in a cafeteria for 4 hours, always drinking the same coffee, which has been cold for centuries, but nobody will take it away because it’s considered rude and an attack to our privacy. Anyway, almost the only thing in Istanbul and Turkey that is not positive.
Tourist attractions :
1) Bosphorus – the beautiful channel that separates Istanbul into two parts, the European and the Asian part. It’s quite an attraction (and a very surprinsingly cheap attraction) to pass the canal by boat, or to cross one of the bridges that connect the two European parts (that is quite close, so you can go walking although it can also be crossed by boat, bus and subway) . And having a good Turkish coffee with the Bosphorus view is simply priceless. (Thanks to the Turkish guy who took me there, for the umpteenth time I tell you, those Turks are beautiful, men and women, all)
2) Besiktas – the neighborhood that until reaching Istanbul I was directly associated only with the football club, and that because years ago a Croatian player was there. But, as my beautiful host (they were all really beautiful, can I even highlight one) explained, it’s a neighborhood where Turks like to have breakfast. So on a Saturday / Sunday between 10:00 – 13:00 it is perfect to walk around the neighborhood and sit down to eat in one of many restaurants and cafeterias in the area. The atmosphere is very pleasant, the people relaxed, there is not that tension that is sometimes felt in the most touristic parts.
3) Sultan Ahmet – It’s the most tourist area of the city, with Hagia Sofia, the blue mosque, Suleiman Mosque, Sirkeci station (I mention it below) and with many «bazaar», even the most famous – grand bazaar, is located there. I have to admit that I didn’t enter almost any of the mosques or palaces and I was just once/twice in a bazaar. You go once, you buy what you have to buy and bye. All this was too touristy for me, unnecessarily expensive, and I just didn’t feel like seeing any of it. Always the same everywhere, religious temples, palaces, shops. Well, no, I had no vacation since two and a half years, so I wanted to relax and Istanbul is a city where you can enjoy, time seems to be frozen and me there drinking my coffee forever and just don’t care about anything, randomly smiling to everyone because I was truly happy there. My friends were staying at Sultan Ahmet just to see all these famous things faster, but this time I just wasn’t in the mood for that kind of tourism.
4)Sirkeci terminal (Orient Express) – This train station is famous (among tourists and lovers of detective books at least) because it’s the terminal station of the Orient Express. We all know about the “Murder on the Orient Express”, so this train service became one of the most famous in history. Created in 1883, it begins in Paris and ends in Sirkeci. It’s a very interesting experience to see this terminal when you think about the whole story and mystery behind it.
5) Taksim: the “main square” of Istanbul, although it’s difficult for such a giant and diverse city to have a main square. And also in the Muslim culture and architecture, from what I realize there is no such concept of the main square. It’s something very typical of Christianity. So it turns out that Taksim is actually one of the city’s tourist centers. The big street where you enter from Taksim is full of beautiful and well-kept businesses and buildings, it looks like any other European city. It’s nice to walk around, but it should be noted that prices in restaurants there, as in Sultan Ahmet, can be much higher than normal. And that is why Turkish people don’t go there, why, if you can eat well and cheaper and in places where there are not so many people, why not. Fun fact: in the middle of that pedestrian street of one of the shops I heard the song “El cuarto de Tula” of Buena Vista Social Club and obviously I went there and began to sing, wondering why Turks put it at full volume at like 14:00 just like that. And the guy who worked there told me that he loves that kind of music, so we talked a bit, I recommended other songs, we were there listening to a whole BuenaVista playlist for a some time, before I left. Nice and unexpected experience. It wouldn’t surprise me even if I listen to music in Spanish in Krasnoyarsk now. It’s everywhere and I like it 🙂
Personal observation: I have to say, Istanbul reminded me of another huge, beautiful and crazy city that I visited a year and a half ago. This is Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, the cultural capital of all of South America and the crazy and perfect mix of Europe and Latin America. Now you will say, but what does Istanbul have to do with Buenos Aires? I don’t know exactly, but there is something they share, the two cities are somewhat chaotic, but they work, 15 million inhabitants each of the cities. And this two have it all, they are also financial centers of their respective countries, but they do not lose their elegance because of that. They are full of interesting cafes and small restaurants everywhere, relation quality-price in terms of food is amazing, which is an exception in large cities. (New York, Madrid, London, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, none of those cities is good with quality-price). And in addition, another thing is that Istanbul has that special touch, like Buenos Aires, they are cities that throws you into their hurrican, mess you up, play with you but leave you room to breathe fully and have unforgettable experiences, which consist of many small moments that as a mosaic build a great unit. What I can conclude is that I loved Istanbul and that’s it. End of the story.

Istanbul part 1 : the poetry of Bosphorus

There will be some other articles in which I will describe what to visit / do / eat / whatever in Istanbul. Don’t worry. but this one here will be like a summary, introduction and conclusion of the trip. Great, pure philosophy. Just what people need in January 😉
What happens is that Istanbul exceeded all my expectations, I was fascinated by everything, people, culture, the city itself, the good atmosphere that you can always feel there   … when I say everything, I don’t exaggerate, it’s really everything. And yes, I’m learning Turkish, and yes I’m going back there, I paid my visa for $ 35 so I’m going to make the most of these 5 months left. Apparently, I was illuminated with that interesting sunset on the Bosphorus, or something just hit me in the head, but I can’t stop laughing to the eventual problems and simply being happy since I came back from Turkey and also while being there.
So, if I say that I liked so many things, I might even be more interesting to talk about what maybe was missing. What I expected to see and I didn’t. Otherwise, it will be a boring article, pure compliments to Istanbul. Flattery and no complaints, handwriting of a European person. Almost impossible. Well, it’s only because I spent a year of my life in Chile. Without that, I would be like the rest of the vast majority of people on my continent. So enjoy, you don’t read this every day.
The only thing I thought I missed in Istanbul was having more green spaces. Parks. I saw just two or three. There simply aren’t so many. I don’t know if it’s because I was a bit spoiled after living in cities (and certain sectors of those cities) that had a lot of green, parks everywhere. I was missing a bit of that in the largest Turkish city. The city is so beautiful, so colourful, and more than that, full of scents that come from the bazaar (the market), and of course, there is also the Bosphorus. The smell of the sea is one of the most beautiful things in this life for me. I am from the Mediterranean and it cannot be otherwise, I love looking at the sea, thinking (or not, it doesn’t matter), feeling that smell of salt and water together in a perfect mix, in a paradise for all the senses. And that is where, one day before leaving Istanbul, crossing the Bosphorus by boat with my friend, I understood one thing. I was watching the waves and the birds and there was a musician singing melancholic Turkish songs in the background. And actually, my conclusion was that the city was also perfect without parks, because there was the Bosphorus.
That same night, I went to Taksim (it’s more or less the main square) and was walking around, waiting for my friends. I felt very well, honestly, the destination that my friend chose for the new year pleasantly surprised us all three. Well, I had time there and I started thinking.
Since the end of the 2019 and the beginning of 2020 I lived it in Istanbul, it was the perfect place to summarize the year and reflect a little on what happened. 2019 was a very intense year. Change of continents, change of life, total development, for the umpteenth time, of the incredible system of adaptation that luckily I have written in my genetics. In the Diković family four generations were born in the same place (geographically). Each of us was born in a different country (geopolitics). Yes, we had to adapt, always, but without losing our essence, the joy (a bit of madness too) and the good sense of humor that we also carry in our veins.
And that same night (dramatic music in the background : o ), walking around in Taksim and waiting for my friends, I understood that it was worth leaving Chile. (şok, şok, şok for all the people that know me and that are reading this) After seven months thinking that, even if the reason told me it was the best thing for me to come to Europe, my heart really wanted to stay in Chile and never come back. There I already had a life, many friends, people who love and appreciate me, I had a work visa that cost me a lot to get, I finally had it. I had a second homeland, a country that accepted me with all my good and bad things and I accepted that country with all its wonders and imperfections. But, in a very short period of time several things happened (let’s recognize, not necessarily good things), I got an opportunity in Europe and I left. It’s true, I couldn’t adapt so well to Belgium, so I began to miss Chile and thinking that it would be better for me if I have stayed there. But in the meantime I traveled a lot in European countries where before I had no interest in. It’s interesting that I was practically visiting the edges of Europe, no longer the “center” And after my unforgettable and beautiful experiences in Sweden, the Canary Islands, Portugal and now Turkey I began to see everything from another point of view. If I hadn’t returned, I would never have seen my old friends, they would never have introduced me to other people as or even more great than them. I would never have left behind those ridiculous prejudices I had of certain nations or cultures. And at that moment, walking through Taksim I thought, I’m happy, really happy, me now, and I wouldn’t change that moment for anything in the world. All those experiences, either. Yes, although it’s difficult to tell this to myself and although it seems strange (after all the praise and tributes about Chile that you can read in 849430 of my articles), I am glad that I’ve returned and discovered another facet of Europe, the corners that were hidden for me, the jewels so bright that before I was not able to see the brightness in all its splendor, as I can do now. Every second I spent in Turkey was great, I spent it smiling and happy. I loved the culture, the sweets, the history, the current situation, the differences, the views, the madness of being in a city on two continents, the Turkish language, and more than anything, the Turkish people. They are beautiful, nice, cute, I don’t know how to describe them because they are too much and it’s difficult to find the exact words for those wonderful people who hosted me, took me to know spectacular views, that made me laugh, that taught me some Turkish, preprared to me and my friends Turkish food and coffee, talked to me with such passion about their country and the situation there, took me to discover the soul of that giant city, that offered me the best of them without asking for anything in return. çok teşekkürler is the only thing that comes out right now. They deserve much more than these two words, but sometimes seriously the words are not enough. That’s why there are the çok güzel photos. I also include my Croatian friends, because in just a few days there we already became half Turkish, So you don’t even see the difference.
P.S. Of course, not all the people are in the photos, I forgot two of them. Normally I don’t take so many photos, but my dear Ana, who has a lot of friends in Istanbul, asked me to take a photo of every one of them as a proof I saw them 🙂 I must say that I met the majority of those beautiful Turkish people thanks to her. Ana, sen olmasan ne yapardım 🙂