Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013
Our overnight bus arrived back at the Büyük İstanbul Otogarı Bus Station at about 8 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. We hardly slept as sick people and crying babies made a racket all night long.
We quickly made our way through the bus station to the metro to begin our journey across the sprawling city to #Bunk hostel. Yeah, apparently hashtags just became cool in Turkey, because the name of the hostel was actually #Bunk.
As you might expect with a name like #Bunk, the joint was run by a bunch of Turkish hipsters who collect vinyl records because it’s “cool” and play “alternative” music in the lobby obnoxiously loud.
Anyway, aside from the overwhelming hipster vibe that I thought we had left far behind in Seattle, #Bunk was a pretty cool spot.
It’s located in the heart of the Beyoğlu district, surrounded by markets, shops and a vibrant nightlife.
Since it was New Year’s Eve and we didn’t sleep the night before, it was our main goal to get some sleep during the day so we could be well rested for the New Year festivities that lay ahead.
Of course we couldn’t check in right way and had to wait until 1:30 when our room was ready.
As soon as we walked into our room we were greeted by Fabiano, a Brazilian who had been traveling around the world for 17 months. We quickly hit it off and made plans to celebrate the New Year together that evening.
After exchanging a few travel stories we climbed into our #Bunks and slept.
We woke up around 5:30 in the evening and got ready for a night out on the town. I made a quick run to the liquor store, and Fabiano, his friend Murilo and two German girls, Pia and Gina, congregated on the top floor of the hostel to begin to bring in 2014.
We hung out, chatted, drank and played Uno until about 11:30 p.m., then headed out onto the packed streets to celebrate the stroke of midnight.
The streets were absolutely packed and full of energy as midnight approached. Fireworks shot into the night sky as the clock struck midnight and of course we took our first photo of 2014.
After a brief celebration in the street, we made our way to Mama’s Shelter where we bee-lined straight for the dance floor and rocked the night away.
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014
We hadn’t slept for basically two nights straight so we didn’t make it out of the hostel until about two in the afternoon.
With only a few hours of daylight left, we decided to explore the Beyoglu neighborhood surrounding the hostel. We visited the Kilic Ali Pasha mosque, the colored steps linking the neighborhoods of Findikli and Cihangir and then walked along the river to the Galata Bridge that connects the new side of Istanbul to the old.
Since we made it all the way to the bridge we decided to walk just a little bit further across the bridge to the spice market on the other side.
Since it was already dark and we needed to do some serious site seeing the next day, we called it an early night and planned our route through Old Town for the following day.
Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014
We had a #bunk friend, Disney from England join us and the three of us were up and out of the hostel by 9 a.m.
The first stop of the day was the Hagia Sophia, a massive former orthodox basilica and later an imperial mosque that now serves as a museum. It’s located right next to the famous Blue Mosque, but since the Hagia Sophia closed at 4 p.m. and had massive entry queues, we had to make it our first stop.
From the Hagia Sophia we crossed the street to the Basilica Cistern, the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul.
After weaving our way through the columns supporting the massive underground chamber, we ascended back to the surface with the Blue Mosque in our sights.
Naturally, before tackling the Blue Mosque, we had to make a quick Starbucks stop for our daily caffeine fix.
With our coffees in hand, we made the short walk across the street to the Blue Mosque.
We approached the mosque just as pray time began, so we were able to spend a good amount of time taking in the grandeur of the massive structure from the outside before heading indoors.
It wasn’t long before prayer time was over and we were able to move inside and revel in the dimly lit beauty of Sedefkar Mehmed Agha’s greatest accomplishment.
Fortunately, while we were inside the Blue Mosque the sun came out.
Since we weren’t sure if we’d see the sun again during the rest of our stay in Istanbul we decided to hurry down to the Galata Bridge so we could see the Old Town bathed under the evening light.
Of course on the way we had to stop by the Grand Bazaar to see what one of the largest and oldest covered market in the world had to offer. Tarynne was beyond pumped.
After a whirlwind trip through the market, we stumbled out onto the water front right next to the Galata Bridge.
With the city now cloaked in darkness, we made our way back to the Beyoglu neighborhood, with a stop off on the way for some pomegranate juice and street food.
With our juice and food in hand we found a nice spot to relax near the base of the Galata Tower.
Later that evening we rediscovered the somewhat-dressy clothes we have buried at the bottom of our bags and went out from drinks at a nice, trendy bar on the top floor of a nearby hotel.
Sometimes despite our limited budgets, we just need to treat ourselves so we still feel somewhat normal.
Friday, Jan. 3, 2014
On Friday we woke up early, dropped off some dirty laundry, and then once again made the 40 minute walk back to Old Town, but this time to visit the Topkapı Palace.
The Topkapı Palace is a massive palace that served as the primary residence for Ottoman Sultans during their 624-year reign. It’s located in the heart of Old Town, only a few minutes walk from the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
The sprawling palace is pretty impressive, although it hasn’t been very well maintained so much of its former grandeur is left up to the imagination.
Of course despite the shoddy grounds keeping, empty pools and broken fountains, seeing the massive fireplaces and intricate tile work is well worth the $20 entrance fee.
We spent a few hours in the palace before walking back to the water front to visit another mosque and the spice market for a few snacks and some window shopping.
While the food and service at Istanbul 360 leave something to be desired, the views are absolutely stunning and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner, drinks and photography session.
After dinner, exhausted from a long day of walking, we decided to call it a night early as we had to wake up and pack for our early afternoon flight to Dubai.