1. Suzanne’s wallet being stolen on the tram within the first hour of arriving in Istanbul. Although this wasn’t a highlight, as that was her favorite wallet, she said it was worth it to have the money stolen for the experience she had while filling out the police report. Not only was she gawked over by numerous men at the station and invited to dinner, but she was also driven back to the hostel in the back of the police car, lights flashing and going at a mad speed (during the 5 minute drive back.)
2. Sitting down to dinner at 6pm, only to remember that it was Ramadan, and although the restaurant was packed, dinner would not be served to the customers until around 7pm when the sun set. (Luckily, since we had a show to go to at 7:00 they served us earlier, although we felt quite guilty being the only ones eating in the room of starving people!)
3. Going to a Belly Dancing performance, although the waiter who was enamored with us was by far more entertaining. Suzanne and I quickly found that all you had to do was make eye contact and you would have a string of suitors. The waiter supplied us with 2 bottles of free wine, endless appetizers, fruit, dessert and even made me a flower out of paper!
4. Being offered free apple tea, a glass of wine or a beer whenever we walked past a restaurant.
5. Enjoying the gorgeous views from the Galata Tower. We looked down on the sparkling Bosphorus Strait, grey stone lined city streets and countless mosques that scattered the endless rolling hills but whose spiraling towers guided your eyes to their points like the runway lights for a plane. I’ve always thought Prague to be the most beautiful city; however, Istanbul has taken it’s place. Istanbul is like a dream city, you truly feel like you are a princess both with the surrounding architecture and the constant affection of admirers.
6. Enjoying our first dark beer (literally called “Dark Beer”) in over 5 months at an outdoor restaurant on the riverfront.
7. Watching a Dervish Concert–the men dressed in all white, twirling and dancing–at the historic train station while eating roasted chestnuts.
8. Walking to one of the main parks where a Ramadan festival was taking place. Street vendors lined the area with toys and trinkets for the children, and multiple stalls and booths were set up selling traditional Turkish food.
9. Walking to the ferry to purchase a ticket, but being stopped by a man on the boardwalk who wanted to sell us a tour on a smaller ferry boat. We told him we couldn’t afford the price of the tickets (which came to about 20 US dollars each) so with a brief talk to the boss, we were able to get on free as well as served hot Turkish coffee as soon as we sat down! We cruised down the straight admiring both the Asian and European side of Istanbul, the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents.
10. Being showered with presents after we got off the boat. We only stopped to tell the man thank you for letting us take a free tour, but while we sat chatting with him he quickly got up and went to his car to bring us back little Turkish flags, rings and necklaces. Spoiled, with a capital S!
11. Enjoying a massage and soaking up the warm water and hot steam at a traditional Haman Turkish Bath. After sitting in the bath house, we waited our turn for our massage, which was great but I was quite shocked to find that in addition to a massage, there was more or less a naked scrub down that followed–imagine big foamy brushes, exfoliating crystals and buckets of water. Quite similar to a car wash.
12. Getting a tattoo. Well, a henna tattoo that is. I’ve always detested tattoos from an early age (mostly due to my dad’s strong opinion against them) but after the final touches were drawn, I do have to admit I quite liked it and felt pretty “cool”. And, although I will never get one as I am extremely fickle about loving something and then hating it, I can now relate to why people do get them and see how it could be quite addicting.
13. Eating dinner at the Ramadan festival, and trying the most random concoction of a baked potato which included basically every vegetable and condiment imaginable piled onto one potato. Mustard and salsa, check. Green beans and cooked cabbage, check. Tomatoes and peas, check. Hot dogs pieces and corn, check. Let’s just say it was “interesting”, and although you should always try local food, this is definitely something I will skip on my next trip back…
14. Suz and I sitting contently, sharing our potato dinner in the middle of the park. Dressed in our fisherman pants and sarong to cover our shoulders with our wet hair pinned up and mascara running down our faces as we just left the Turkish bath. In short, we looked horrendous, but with literally doing nothing other than sitting there, we were offered free apple tea, then later serenaded by 8 guys (one singing us songs with his guitar) and given sweets, bracelets, necklaces, and rings. Quite the ordeal!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not trying to boost my own ego with these accounts, it’s just that I’ve never found a culture of men who were more extreme with their lavish gestures and constant acts of affections. Even Italian men wouldn’t be able to compete! (gasp!) All I can say is for women who are going through a breakup, forget the sad love films and containers of ice cream; instead, buy yourself a plane ticket and head to Istanbul! It’s pretty much a guaranteed fix to cheer you right up:-)