Mosques, bazaars and nice dinners

In the last ten days we spent five days in the center of Istanbul. The first time, we went together with our host family. Because the girl is only four years old, we couldn’t walk around too long, although we got a quick view on many of the main sites. A few days later we visited the city together and did most of it at a slower pace. Then, Nienke’s father and a friend of his arrived on Friday and stayed for a couple days. With the four of us, we walked around Istanbul for two and a half days. By now, we might even be able to be city guides!

It was really great to have Nienke’s dad, Jan, and Aalf here. Normally, we wouldn’t visit all the touristy things, but together with them we entered almost all the famous buildings. First of all, we walked around the Topkapi Palace, which was very interesting. Of course, we couldn’t miss the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar; we really loved wandering around both of them. Then, we climbed up to the Suleyman Mosque, that has a splendid view over the city (especially when the sun goes down!). The next morning, we visited the Hagia Sofia, which looks a lot better on the inside than on the outside. Nevertheless, its size is very impressive! Afterwards, we visited the famous Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque), although we couldn’t really see anything with all the construction works. Finally, we walked to the beautiful Galata Tower, where a lot of people were waiting to get in. We didn’t want to wait that long, so we continued walking. Besides visiting all these buildings, we’ve also walked around some crowded and nice-looking neighbourhoods and eaten some incredible (and some less incredible) food. And most of all, we had lots of time to chat and catch up! Thanks for the amazing days Jan and Aalf!

The rest of the week we spent time with our host family. On Thursday, we collected the daughter from school and took her for a tea and a simit (some kind of bread). Although she enjoyed being with us, she was very tired and fell asleep in Nienke’s arms on the way home. She slept for 20 minutes, but then she woke up and wanted to play with us. In the ten days we lived with her, she learned many new English words; most of all by playing memory!

Last Monday was our last day with the family, although both parents needed to go to work and the girl went to school. Thus, we had the morning to ourselves and did some shopping, charged all our batteries and got ready to leave the next day. In the afternoon, we walked to the school where Aytan, our host, works. She asked us to visit one of her lessons, in which the students are working on a special project about solving environmental problems. Before the lesson started, she showed us the buildings and the yard; they even have chickens walking in the garden! The school is a technical high school for teenagers from approximately 14 to 18 years old. The students take a.o. electrical and automotive classes, so when we walked into a classroom, we really didn’t understand anything they were doing. When our lesson started, we introduced ourselves to the students. Then, they wanted to ask so many questions that the only thing we did with them was just talk! It was a great opportunity for us to get to know some of the Turkish education system and for them to learn some things about (education in) The Netherlands.

On our last night in Istanbul, Nienke cooked pumpkin soup, while Aytan took care of some salads and fish. After dinner, we had another nice talk with them and said our goodbyes. We really enjoyed being part of their family and we learned a lot about Turkish habits and typical foods. If we ever come back to Istanbul, we will definitely visit them again!

Right now, we are a few hundred kilometers south of Istanbul. So far, the main roads in Turkey are quite good and we get an average of about 70 km/hour, which is pretty fast for our standards. We will visit some touristic sites during the next few days, but then we will go further down south to our next Workaway address. We really look forward to temperatures above 20 degrees, swimming in the sea and spending a lot of time with the animals on a horse ranch. Please stay tuned for more adventures in the coming week!