I can’t say anything about Istanbul without first saying that I could not have picked a better individual to spend my first Christmas away from home with than one of my closest friends, Caitlin Orfeo. Through every adventure we had, it was nothing but enjoyable to have her around. Istanbul was a beautiful city, although with many uphills. The hostel we stayed had a phenomenal view of the Ayasofya from its rooftop, and at night it was a wondrous site to behold.
Our first full day in Istanbul it rained and rained and it was cold and very windy and I was scared it would ruin our image of the city forever. However, the days got brighter and warmer after that and I think going to the waterside the next day with the sun out and shining made me instantly fall in love with the city. What other city can you see something so breathtaking and full of history no matter where you are standing and looking? It also really amazes me that half of Istanbul is on another continent. One evening Caitlin and I went over to the Asian side via ferry to have dinner with a friend of mine, Leo. We joked when we got back and went for scrumptious dessert that only in Istanbul could you have dinner in Asia then dessert in Europe.
Our hostel owners were very nice and even trusted us enough to walk their dog. The main owner took a special liking to us—or me, as Caitlin would argue—and took us out for breakfast on the riverfront to see some sites that tourists usually don’t see because it’s out of the main attraction area, and he even gave us a room upgrade. It was an easy place to meet people too and we picked up a crew of two more people for our lovely Christmas dinner. One was our friend Bruce we met on a train bound from Bulgaria, and the other was a guy David we met who was traveling by himself. No one should spend Christmas dinner alone was our philosophy. We also had grabbed a Christmas drink with Bruce at an English pub decorated with laughing Santas. Bruce is probably one of the most good-natured people I have ever met, and I kept thinking that he was ‘so Scottish.’ It was also nice on the trip to see my friend Aylin from college, who took Caitlin and I to the posh neighborhoods in Istanbul.
I think what I love most about Istanbul is that the old and the new reside in peace with each other and seem to seamlessly intertwine their lives. It’s hard to find that in today’s world in which old and new seem forever at odds with one another. Maybe Istanbul knows the answers to those battles, and we should take the time to study it in earnest.
From my obsession with their apple tea, bad pickup lines geared towards black people (constant use of ‘I like the chocolate one’), hidden treasures, great shopping, and too many memories to count, I know I want to return one day myself.