Chillin in Istanbul

The irony of traveling is that eventually you want to take a break from your vacation. I booked my stay in Istanbul for 5 nights because it was the midpoint between the rest of my travels and India, with the specific intention of taking it easy. I’d say I succeeded, with much thanks to the amazing view from my hostel, Cheers Lighthouse!

When I first arrived in Istanbul, I took a shower and a nap. I awoke to the return of my hostelmates, 4 Saudi Arabian boys, 3 of which were celebrating successfully completing medical school. They will forever be known as The Saudi Boys.

Fun Fact: Booking a mixed-gender hostel is often cheaper, but you never know what sort of ratio you will get. Often it’s 50/50, this time it was 4:1, males in the lead.

The Saudi Boys were Abdullah, Mohammed, Haider and Ali. I guess you could say I was a little thrown off at first by the fact that I was surrounded by males, but they were all very sweet. They explained to me the trouble they had with the French boy who had previously occupied my bed, and said they were so happy I wasn’t afraid of them. I responded by saying that being surrounded by doctors made me feel very safe. Instant friendship, in spite of my status as an infidel.

My first evening was spent going out with a feminist doctor of Indian descent around the area of Karikoy. It was poppin’, but I was exhausted from staying up all night in Cairo still. I ate a grilled halloumi salad (wink to Leanne for the introduction), had one beer and then I went home around midnight to go straight to sleep.

The next morning, I had breakfast with the Saudi Boys. At breakfast, a peppy Mexican girl named Myriam invited us all to go to Kadikoy, the Asian side of Istanbul.

Fun Fact: My first interaction with Myriam was when she was trash talking vegetarians, but we became friends anyway 😉

On this excursion, I got to know lots of my lovely hostelmates like Karina, Sharif, Okba, Leandro and Jimmy. We made our way to a ferry then took a nice ride across the sea. Kadikoy was adorable, but very quiet due to the Eid holiday.

We found this adorable umbrella street as we roamed around. After walking a bit, eating Turkish pizza, baklava and tea, we headed back to the hostel.


Later that evening, I met a lovely gentleman named Adrian who happened to have a bottle of Raki he was sharing. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Fun Fact: Raki is a Turkish liquor tasting of licorice. You can drink it alone, but everyone with me was mixing it with water. Adding water, for some reason, changes the color from clear to cloudy.

Accompanying my Raki and friends, the owner of the hostel (Tony Montana) made me a vegetable casserole with cheese. Delicious. After another drink, a few of us ended up on the balcony attached to Adrian’s room with a gorgeous view of the Marmara Sea. Soon after, I retired to my own room. The Saudi Boys stayed out even later than I did (and they don’t even drink)!

The next day, I slept in. Of course. I spent most of the day hanging out on the balcony (working on blogs…) chatting with Adrian, Karina and Myriam. I made my way to the ATM to get out some cash because Turkey does not take cards at many places.

I also picked up some honey because Abdullah and I had both had a sore throat. He might be the doctor, but I was the one making him hot honey water with oranges. We were both better in no time.

I also tried to get Haider to open my lens cap… He spent quite some time trying and even started looking up techniques on YouTube. Still no luck.

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In the early evening, I went with Abdullah and Mohammed to a performance of the Whirling Dervishes. It was a beautiful show, but it made me quite dizzy and I couldn’t understand the lyrics that were apparently an alternation of Arabic and Turkish. It was a beautiful ceremony.

Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed during the show. However, Mauricio had a little photo shoot in the museum/lobby after this amazing Islamic cultural event.

When we returned home, I met a lovely gentleman by the name of Ethan. He was Adrian’s friend who had returned from Marmaris. Not only did he look exactly like Adrian, but these guys also had the same freaking last name (with slightly different spelling) and WEREN’T EVEN RELATED.

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(P.S. Are you sure you aren’t related?)

Those guys, Karina, Myriam, Abdullah and Mohammed all had dinner at the hostel restaurant overlooking the Marmara Sea. Being a vegetarian is hit or miss when you’re traveling. In Turkey, it was miss. For dinner, I had hummus and pita.

Then, Tony Montana came around with some freshly made shrimp, on the house. These are the perks of staying at Cheers Lighthouse! (Usually I avoid meat, but shrimp are one of my favorite foods… its part of being a Florida girl.)

At dinner, we decided that the next morning we would venture over to Karikoy (right across the water from where we were, but not on the Asian side) to check out a tattoo shop called Tattoom Gallery.

As planned, we made the trek to Tattoom Gallery. Adrian, Ethan, Myriam, Karina and I took the metro over. From the stop, we had to go up this steep street with steps. It seemed like it was going on forever. We stopped at a “selfie point” to have a group photo shoot by the Galata Tower, a stronghold of the Ottoman Empire. (Mauricio was quite involved with this photography!)

We spent quite some time at Tattoom Gallery. Adrian, Ethan and I all met with tattoo artists to design something, pay deposits and make appointments to come back the next day. Adrian spent some time playing guitar and singing in the shop. It was a lovely time.

After this consultation, we all had lunch at a great cafe nearby – compliments of Adrian! I had a halloumi salad once again (that cheese is life changing…), then we all had this AMAZING Turkish dessert called kanafeh/konafa. Basically, its string cheese but sweet with little crunchy things on top – served warm. I’ll be craving it for the rest of my life.

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Afterwards, we stopped near Grand Bazaar where Adrian and Ethan each bought something like 3 kilos of this stuff called Turkish Delight. We walked around the area a bit, where Ethan *forced* me to eat some Turkish ice cream that was made prepared via a street show. The guy was quite funny and did lots of cool tricks.

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Eating this ice cream bought Adrian some patience as he went crazy buying all the souvenirs he could get his hands on…

We made our way back to the hostel and had a usual chill session. A few of us hung out on Adrian and Ethan’s balcony for a while. Ethan taught me how to play backgammon… pretty sure I could use a few more lessons though.

The next day, I hung out with Ethan a bit because Adrian’s appointment was much earlier than ours were. I tried to get him to open my camera lens… even still, no luck.

At Tattoom Gallery, I got a tattoo on my thigh of a lotus hamsa/hand of Fatima inside of a diamond shape. The hamsa is a sign of protection, to ward off bad spirits and increase luck. The lotus is a sign of beauty and enlightenment. The diamond shape is a symbol of the four elements as well as a higher nature.

Ethan got a peony in a diamond on his forearm, while Adrian got a scorpion and a rose on his shoulder. Getting tattoos together made us blood brothers for life. (Or as Adrian says, soul sisters. Whichever.)
I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and I could not be happier with my tattoo artist. His name was Atakan Ustol and he reminded me of home.

Mauricio got some work done as well.

When are tattoos were done, we all rushed back to the hostel so that Ethan and Adrian could make it to the airport on time. As we pulled up, the Saudi Boys were preparing to leave as well. We took a few pictures outside of the hostel, and said our goodbyes. I’ll miss these guys so much.

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The hostel was quite quiet after so many people had gone. Karina and Myriam left vert early the next morning, as well. I left that afternoon, but spent a little time having some lunch and chit-chatting with Tony Montana.

Then, I got into a shuttle and headed to the airport. Soon, I was on my way to India!

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