Friday, 22 August 2014

Turkish Delight: Friday

Gezi Park,Istanbul

Taksim Square, Istanbul
Ceramics Bazaar

Some weirdly named spices

Blue Mosque: Alternate View
In the mosque's courtyard during rain

Rain, Sea, Rainbow, Balloons, Macaroons and Me

Exquisite color of the sky during dusk

Galata Tower: From across the bridge
New Mosque at Eminonu.

Galata Tower, from below

(I traveled to Turkey for vacation during first half of July,2014. Following is an account of my experiences in Istanbul. This is the fourth installment of the series, involving an quick trip to Taksim, meeting new people and an unsuccessful trip to Galata Tower. I hope you enjoy it)

Friday/Cuma, 4th July 2014.
“Each and every human being is a work in progress that is slowly but inexorably moving towards perfection. We are each an unfinished work of art both waiting and striving to be completed.” Elif Shafak

I started Friday in frenzy. Having gotten myself booked on a flight to Cappadokia, I was supposed to buy a ticket till 11 am on Friday. The closest sales office was near Taksim and I had failed to locate the office last night. I was determined not to miss this wonderful opportunity. The weather was overcast and made the historical skyline look even prettier. Following the routine breakfast, I left the Otel to take a tram towards Taksim. I had used a map from foursquare to locate the office previously. This time, I took the exact address from Turkish airline's website and checked it on Google maps. I reached my destination well in time and got my return ticket. A wave of calm and accomplishment swept over me. I was finally relieved. I strolled across the square to enter Gezi Park and stayed there for a while.

Ever since the Gezi Park protests, I've felt spiritually close to that place. The events at Gezi, initially with an environmentalist agenda, snowballed into a protest movement that affected the Turkish society as a whole. AK Party’s Islamist government overreacted to the protests by using indiscriminate force, and the viral videos of police brutality affected the optics. Turkey, with its tremendous economic growth under the AK party regime and tourist-friendly policies, presented a unique model as a modern Islamic country for much of the last decade. Gezi Park changed the perception that everything was alright under the surface. The protests united people from various strata of society and stood as a symbol of cosmopolitan awakening in face of an increasingly repressive regime. Taksim square, with the Monument of Republic and Ataturk Cultural centre in background, became the symbol of resistance of urban middle classes against forced gentrification of their city. One of the aspects that I discovered and which fascinated me was the role played by Ultra-fans of different football clubs in Istanbul(more on Turkish football in later), especially the bravery shown by members of Beşiktaş club’s ultras known as Çarşı.

Gezi Park is not as majestic or historic as the monuments in Sultanahmet, but it is a modern shrine to that resistance. I took the tram back to Sultanahmet and spent some time hanging out with my friend Doğukan.I joked that If he ever went to the US, he’ll most definitely be nicknamed “Doug”. During our walk around the hippodrome, I was introduced to Nazlıcan. We went together to the volunteer centre where the youngsters had lunch and I got some Ayran.Ayran is Turkey’s national drink and is a mixture of yogurt mixed with water and salt, shaken together. We have a similar drink in Pakistan known as “Lassi” and it is served in both salted and sweet flavors, although it is not AS popular as it is in Turkiye.

Doğukan led me back to B gate of Blue Mosque via the ceramics bazaar(Arasta Bazaar).I spotted some oddly named spices there and the smell of spices there reminded me of Old bazaar in my hometown. During the walk back, I spotted graffiti in support of East Turkestan movement in China. It felt out of place, until a friend later explained that Turkish government supports East Turkestan Islamic Movement as part of its foreign policy. The movement strives for greater autonomy of Uyghur Muslims living in Xinjiang province of China. The weather was absolutely pleasant and sat at one of the wooden benches in front of B gate. Soon there was a whole gang of volunteers there chatting with a south Korean tourist (Yeonghwan Kim) .While we were sitting there, a group of north African girls approached us and asked about the "black market" of Istanbul! We suppressed our giggles and told them that they were probably looking for a “flea market”. The volunteers informed them that all tourist areas are relatively expensive in Istanbul and they had little options to shop cheap. We were later joined by a British lady and even more volunteers. 

We talked about south Korea and the subjects that each of us was studying (or pursuing to study at a university). All three girls (Beyzanur, Nazlican and Sinem) wanted to be doctors. Upon enquiry, I was told that the reasons for this choice included the prospect of a good, wealthy life, influence of TV show 'Doctors'(Turkish version of Grey's anatomy) and choice made by parents. Later on, I found many girls who wanted to become psychologists. They gave the reason that it involved less work than becoming a doctor and the profession was quite popular. 

While we were sitting outside the mosque, it started raining heavily. Before that, we were surprised to hear the imam conclude his Juma sermon in English!! I was sitting there waiting for a friend of mine who was supposed to visit me. I met a British-Pakistani there who was visiting Turkey to obtain a hair transplant. He regaled me with his life-story, how he used to run a business in Leeds and lost his savings in the stock market crash, his move to Hull and the hooliganism he faced at his takeaway place initially. Meanwhile, we spotted two Pakistani families coming out of the mosque after Juma Prayers, recognizable due to Shalwar Kamiz, the traditional dress in Pakistan. One of the families had immigrated from my hometown to Denmark and the other family was based in London. 
The rain got so ferocious that we had to move inside the mosque. It was full of other tourists who had sought shelter in the covered area of the mosque. I met Kaan under these circumstances. He works as freelance photojournalist and we discussed political situation in Turkey, socialism and anarchism (inside the courtyard of Blue Mosque :P).

I caught up with my friend whom I had met the last time I was in Turkey. He hails from Iran but has spent the last five years in Istanbul, getting two masters degrees in International Relations. We sat at a café near the Hippodrome and discussed about the time we had last year and the intervening period since then. We had Turkish tea/kehva while he informed me that he worked part-time as a tour guide to support his stay in the city. He promised to get me booked in a cheaper hotel with similar amenities as soon as I vacated my previous one. We discussed Iran-US relations, situation in Gaza and American Universities. He was kind enough to escort me to the nearest Koska shop, from where I could get the best Baklava in town. It was raining and we didn’t have an umbrella, so he departed afterwards and I walked back towards my hotel.

After taking some rest, I grabbed coffee and macaroons from the nearby McCafe and walked to my favorite place near the seaside. There were balloons, rainbow, slight drizzle and an absolutely beautiful view of the city from afar. I tried to let the feeling sink in for a while and then took a walk towards Galata Bridge. I had previously visited the Galata area but had not visited the top of Galata Tower, I decided to reach the place and take a look at the city during the wonderful dusk shades. I was not fortunate enough and reached there an hour too late. The tower was closed for visitors after 8 p.m., a fact that I was previously unaware of. I roamed around Isteklal street and visited Carl Junior’s near Taksim square. It was almost empty except for me and an Arab woman with her young daughter. Brazil was playing Colombia that night in Quarterfinals and I kept checking the scores on my mobile. Everyone was glued to the TVs in cafés and restaurants across the neighborhood. I was supporting the underdogs(Colombia) but they lost the match eventually. It was another fun-filled day spent in a city that I began to love even more. 

(To be continued)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Turkish Delight: Sightseeing

View from Kennedy Street,the coast of Sea of Marmara

Theodosius Obelisk and the Yilani Column

Konstantinus Obelisk and Yilani Column

The Hippodrome. These tables and chairs have been installed here by local government.People bring their food and do Iftaar here.
Tram crossing the Sultanahmet area. On its way to Kabatas
Nurosmaniye Mosque, First Look
Inside Nurosmaniye Msoque
Nurosmaniye Mosque. Exterior
Breakfast View: Exhibit A

Breakfast View: Number 2

Breakfast View: No. 3
Blue Mosque: From the Courtyard

Fountain inside Hagia Sophia Premises

Inside the Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia: Another View
(I traveled to Turkey for vacation during first half of July,2014. Following is an account of my experiences en route to Istanbul and onwards. This is the third installment of the series, including sightseeing done during my second day in Istanbul. I hope you enjoy it)

Thursday, 3rd July, 2014

I was informed the day before, that breakfast would be served from 7-10 am on the top floor. My room was present on 2nd floor and the “top” floor was the fourth floor. So I took the stairs and reached the designated area. As soon as I reached the place, I was spellbound by the view of Bosphorus and the ships from that vantage point. It was such a perfect backdrop for breakfast that I forgot all about the breakfast itself. Took a few pictures of the surroundings and Blue Mosque, which was hardly 500 meters away from there. That view alone was worth the expensive hotel bill. Turkish breakfast typically includes three necessary ingredients: Olives, Honey and Cheese. I picked three different types of cheese, black and green olives and small packs of honey, which I ate with toasts. There was option for coffee but not tea (the kind that we have in Pakistan, black tea with milk).

After the healthy breakfast, I had two major objectives for the day apart from sightseeing. I had brought along some clothes for my nephew and sister who live in Germany, and I was supposed to send those items to Germany via courier. The other major task was to find an iPad-to-Camera connector, as I could not shift any photos from my camera to the device without it. I had bought a knocked-down version of the connector from Lahore but it failed to work when I tried it in Istanbul. Aside from these tasks, I wanted to sightsee as much as possible. On the previous visit, I had tagged along with friends who were loathe to visit any place that had an entrance fee, which restricted our options very much. I had seen two documentaries (The Ottomans and Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities) in the intervening year, after which I cursed myself that I had been in such a magnificent place and had squandered the chance to visit it just to save a few pennies.

I left the hotel to find a suitable electronics shop in Sultanahmet or Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarşı) area. During the morning shower, I had noticed weird texture on my nose and I realized that it was sunburn because the Ultraviolent (UV) index in Istanbul can cause sunburns. Passing through the Old Bazaar (Asirlik Tatlar ve Sanatlar), my first stop was a chemist shop, from where I got a sunscreen. Afterwards, I wandered around the place, stumbling upon a cemetery where tomb of Sultan Mahmud II was present. I found that most of the graves were built in a particular style that was uniquely Turkish, and one doesn’t see such graves in the subcontinent. During this walk, I reached the magnificent Nuruosmaniye Mosque (Nuruosmaniye Camii). It was commissioned from the order of Sultan Mahmut I beginning in 1748 and completed by his brother and successor Sultan Osman III in 1755. After doing a photo shoot of the interior and exterior of the mosque, I went back to Sultanahmet. Volunteers (or ‘Ask Me’ Volunteers as they call themselves) had started to descend upon the area, gathering in the Hippodrome area and the green belt between Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

I decided to visit Blue Mosque and venture inside its main hall. On my last visit, I had managed to come here twice, but had not gone inside, due to stupid reasons. This was my chance to rectify that, so I went in. The mosque was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. It is one of the most memorable parts of Istanbul’s historic skyline. It was majestic, beautiful and haunting. There were dozens of tourists, as amazed as I was, from the experience of being inside that wonderful place. I spent almost twenty minutes inside the main hall and emerged from front gate (Gate A) of the mosque. There was some kind of ceremony going on there, with a lot of volunteers present. I walked towards the ceremony to find that Mayor of Fatih Municipality, Mustafa Demir had arrived at the ceremony and some local official was giving a long speech. I spotted my friend Doğukan sitting near the Mayor, so I approached him and sought his help in finding the nearest DHL office. He directed me towards the road next to Basilica Cistern. It took less than ten minutes to reach the DHL centre and send the clothes to my sister. It later transpired that I had made a blunder in that regard. I had sent the items using “DHL Express” which is a faster but expensive way to send items, and that I had declared the cost of items to be too high, which resulted in my sister having to pay some Euros as insurance!! In my defence, it was only my second day in Turkey and I had yet to master the language, and it was my first experience with sending anything to a different country from Turkey.

Hagia Sophia was my next destination. There was a long queue for visitors and it cost 30 Turkish Lira to enter the place. Hagia Sophia (from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία), is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi). From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum in 1935, under the Kemalist government. I had read about its history but my interest in the place was piqued by the documentaries that I had seen and the fact that I had learnt a few basic things about Greek Orthodox church from my lovely Greek friend. She lamented that “It used to be decorated with gold, diamonds etc. and amazing pieces of art” but it had been “Ottomanized” under the Muslim rulers. It is still considered the holiest site for Greek Orthodox christians.It was named after St. Sophia, patron saint of Byzantium/Istanbul. I discovered that only the “Muslim” part of the church was open to general visitors (but I secretly longed to meet the Greek Orthodox priests or members of the church). The first thing to capture my attention upon entering the building was a gold-plated fountain (Sadirvan) in the courtyard. It was built in 1740AD.

The interior portion was baroque, and a weird mix of Christian symbols and Arabic/Islamic calligraphy. I walked to the upper portion of the building for some photography. I was feeling hungry so I ventured out to find something to eat. I wanted to eat something from the Turkish cuisine, but vegetarian in nature. I walked along the tram line from Sultanahmet, crossed the Çemberlitaş station, Beyazıt station and finally decided to sit down at “Izmir Restaurant”. I wanted to taste Turkish Pizza (called Pide), so I ordered a margarita pizza. The server brought few pieces of bread and a mixture of crushed-tomato-and-onion paste. I was flabbergasted for a while, thinking that they had misunderstood my order. I had finished three pieces of bread when the REAL pizza appeared: P. It dawned on me that I had mistook the appetizer for the meal, and had killed at least half of my hunger already. In addition, the pizza was exactly like the ones that I’ve had in Pakistan, so I was slightly disappointed. The meal was not too bad, so at least I had a full meal after all the walks since morning.
On my way back, I enquired about the phone connector from a few shops and it transpired that I had to go to Apple Store Zorlu Centre in Beşiktaş if I wanted the accessory. I had acquired a map of the tram from a volunteer and the tourist information centre in Sultanahmet guided me about which trams to take. I was supposed to change three trains to reach Zorlu Centre. I was desperate enough to get that connector so I decided to give it a go. Took the tram from Sultanahmet, disembarked at Kabataş, and took the Füniküler to Taksim and then the train to Gayreteppe. It involved changing trains, walking (in my case, running) on the escalators and walkways and finding enough room to stand in the trains. It was time for offices to close, so the trains were full of people. After Gayreteppe, one has to walk almost 1.5 Kilometers to reach Zorlu Centre, which is a very modern mall. I had previous experience of Apple Stores in the US so I expected similar customer service. I didn’t have to wait for a store employee to find the connector for me, but during the billing process, his iPhone got stuck! On top of this, he didn’t even know English too well. It was not a disaster in anyway, but I realized that even Apple Stores worked in Turkish ways :P. On the return trip, I lost my way(because the “M” for Metro trains and Metro Buses looks so similar), but eventually reached Sultanahmet without much trouble.

In the hippodrome area, I noticed a specialized Childcare room for all the families that had camped there for Iftaar time. I realized that Turkish government cares for its citizens much more than our government does for us, as I have never seen such facilities at any public place in Pakistan. I also found a father-son duo playing football who included me in their game for a few touches. My new friend from Mexico had told me about Cappadocia so upon reaching the hotel, I looked at ticket prices offered by Turkish Airlines from Istanbul. I was delighted to hear that I could get a discount price return ticket to Cappadocia in 200 Liras. I submit my details online and the ticket was reserved. The only catch was that I was supposed to get the ticket within the next 12 hours. My options were, either go to the airport or find their nearest office. With help of the internet, I found that Turkish Airlines had an office near Taksim. I left the hotel immediately and took the tram to Karakoy, and boarded the Tunel train. I found my Mexican friend in the Tunel and we talked about my ‘adventures’ of the day. She had to meet one of her friends at Fatburger,so I proceeded on my own and walked through Isteklal Street to Taksim. Google Maps and other maps mentioned the location of the Airline office near Divan Hotel. I walked on the Cumhuriyet Caddesi for half an hour, without finding the place. By 10 pm, I was extremely exhausted by the search so I took the train back to my hotel. It was a long, but enriching day.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Turkish Delight: Love At Second Sight

Istanbul: First Look

The Flight Route
My First Meal in Istanbul, with the Volunteers

The Milion Stone

Distances of different world capitals from Milion Stone

Me, Hamid Jalilee, Fatma, Dougkan, Ahmet, Beyzanur

Sea of Marmara

Shake Shack!

'Hala' in Isteklal

(I traveled to Turkey for vacation during first half of July,2014. Following is an account of my experiences en route to Istanbul and onwards. This is the second installment of the series, focusing on the departure from Lahore Airport and First day in Istanbul. I hope you enjoy it.)

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

I reached Lahore Airport well in time before the flight. I had never been too late to catch a flight or a bus because of my fathers’ insistence to be extra-careful in these matters. My flight was supposed to fly at 5.30 am and I had arrived at the airport at 2:00 am, with a couple hours of sleep. I am not a nigh-person by any stretch of imagination and do not like anything more than a good nights’ sleep, so this was one of those nights when I sacrificed my sleep for “a greater cause” (:P). I took a seat at the waiting area, alongside two Turkish men. One of my high-school friends was studying in Ankara on a scholarship and he had sent me a small guide-book outlining basic phrases in Türkçe. Based on my previous experience in Turkey, I had decided to learn the basics of language. I had tried to memorize some of the important phrases given in that book, and had relied on Google Translate for pronunciation.

We waited till 3:00 am for the check-in counter to start functioning. There were two flights (one of Emirates, the other of Etihad) ready to leave before us and their passengers had spent hours while checking-in. As soon as one of the flashboards showed the number of our flight, the two Turkish men leapt towards the counter and positioned themselves at the front of the line. I walked behind them and found a place in the same line. There was an additional queue for business class passengers. The clock kept ticking while we stood there. 15 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes. The line stood still; there was no one at the check-in counter to help us! A tall Turkish guy in the business class queue got impatient. Initially, he asked politely for the “manager” of the area. There was no reply. We were informed that it was time for ‘Suhoor’ and thus the staff were busy in that. Later, we got news that staff was busy in Fajr Prayers. This was too much to take for the tall Turkish guy, who started shouting at the manager and anyone who cared to listen. He pointed to the Turkish guys standing in my line that no Pakistani was protesting, and everyone was just standing there, in no hurry.   

After 45 minutes of standing in the queue, the staff miraculously appeared. Another issue surfaced this time. Apparently, a tax had been imposed in the latest budget and everyone who got their tickets after 30th June, 2014 had to pay an extra Rs.1200 ($12) at the counter! This was unprecedented and most passengers balked at this idiotic gesture. Some people did not have enough cash on them, some were only carrying US Dollars and the check-in counter staff did not have any currency other than Pakistani Rupees. Even Credit/Debit Card facility was not available and they only accepted cash. It caused a minor kerfuffle but eventually, the line started moving. On my turn, I asked the check-in guy to assign me a window-seat, which he did.  After almost 70 minutes standing in that line, I was able to get past the Check-in and in the Departure Lounge. It was there that I first used my newly-acquired Türkçe skills and asked one of the two Turkish men that I had seen, if he knew English (İngilizce biliyor musun). To which he replied, “Yes”. I told him about the gate number where we were supposed to gather, as he was sitting at the wrong gate previously.

The Flight left Lahore at 5:35 am and I sat comfortably in my window seat, gazing at the beautiful sunrise over Lahore. I slept for sometime and woke up when our plane had crossed Afghanistan. We crossed Baku and entered Turkey soon afterwards. We could not land at Istanbul airport at once and had to wait for a few minutes due to some technical issues. Meanwhile, the pilot gave us an excellent overview of Istanbul, the vastness of which amazed me(I later discovered that Istanbul’s total surface area is FOUR times as big as that of New York City!). The last time I had landed at Ataturk Havalimani(Airport), there were long lines at the Passport control points, but this time was different. There were hardly any people and it took me less than five minutes to get my passport stamped till the baggage collection section.

More than half of the passengers on our plane were in Istanbul for Transit and were moving on to further destinations, because of which the rest of us had to wait for another 30 minutes till our luggage arrived. During that period, I got to talking with a fellow Pakistani who was going to Italy after spending 3 days in Istanbul. It was his first time in Turkey so I gave him some pointers about the situation. As soon as my bag arrived, I took it and ran towards the exit doors. My first task was to get some Turkish Liras and then to get an Avea SIM card. I got the US Dollars changed and got a new SIM. I discovered at the kiosk that a mobile phone in which a Turkish SIM has been previously used, can’t be used again in Turkey. It was weird to know, but fortunately I had a spare phone so I got the SIM card for that. I asked the salesperson internet package, which he informed me about. He also instructed me to turn the phone to “Airplane Mode” and only use the phone after two hours.

I moved out of the airport and took a Taksi to Sultanahmet. Using, I had booked myself in for five nights at Saba Hotel near Sultanahmet/Blue Mosque. I had spent two days in that area last year so I knew the place a bit. The weather was nicer than in Lahore and I kept the window open throughout the ride. I told the driver in Türkçe about the hotel and showed him the email from the hotel that I had printed out. He called someone and asked them about exact location of the place. As we got near Sultanahmet, he informed me that due to traffic issues, he won’t be able to drop me in front on the Otel but near it. I was okay with it as I don’t mind walking. As it turned out, he had dropped me off on the backside of Sultanahmet and I had to drag my bag through the cobblestoned streets till I reached the mosque. I was relieved to see it because I knew my hotel would be somewhere nearby. I walked slowly in the hippodrome area and tried to see any hotels around the area. I reached Gate C of the mosque and was standing aimlessly when three teenagers wearing blue shirts approached me. They asked if I needed any help, in English. I was relieved to hear someone speaking English and told them that I definitively required help and that I was Lost! I showed them the email from the Hotel, which had mentioned their address and a small-ish Google map was also given.  

Despite the instructions given in the email and Google search by those teenagers, we were not able to figure out my destination. A slightly older girl in a red shirt came over and asked us about the issue. She saw the email and after some discussion with the teenagers, was unable to locate the place either. She said that she will help me find it and starting walking towards Hagia Sophia. One of the volunteers asked if I would like to have lunch with them. I accepted their offer delightedly, and walked with them to their office on the other side of the Mosque. I discovered that the teenagers were volunteers, working for Fatih Municipality(which contained numerous tourist attractions), guiding tourists in English, without charging anything. They were aged 15-25 and most of them were either in high schools or in initial years of university. During my last visit, I had not seen the volunteers as their tenure ended in September and I had visited in the second week of September. I enjoyed lunch at the office, while talking to many volunteers. Most of them had never met a Pakistani before, so it was my duty to leave a good impression upon them. After we finished the meal, one of the volunteers(Doğukan) escorted me to the area behind the mosque. He explained the history of the Hippodrome and the cages where Lions were kept. During our walk, we asked someone for directions to Saba Hotel and were finally guided in the right direction.  

We crossed the Marmara University Presidency and I found the sign of my hotel in the adjoining street. I stopped Doğukan in his tracks, asked him to get back to where he was deputed and promised to come back and hang out with him as soon as I checked in to the hotel. The lady at the hotel reception was very nice and friendly and she guided me to my room. When I paid the bill using a Credit card, it dawned upon me that I had accidentally booked a really expensive hotel. The friendly lady informed me that Wi-Fi service was only available in the Lobby, which was a big let-down.

After Checking into my room, placing my luggage and changing my shirt, I headed to the Hippodrome where I joined Doğukan and Fatma Betül. They took me on a little tour of the Hippodrome, starting from German Fountain to the Egyptian Obelisk and Roman Obelisk and then to the Milion Stone. We later sat down on one of the many benches placed in the Hippodrome and talked about history and each other. During that time, I restarted my mobile and it started working. It was a relief to finally have 3G service. After almost an hour of this chit-chat, we were joined by a guy sitting on a bench nearby. He was Mr. Hamid Jalilee from Iran, a businessman learning Türkçe in Istabul. We talked about common words in Persian, Türkçe and Urdu(Pakistan’s national language, which is a mix of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit). We also taunted the Turkish teenagers about the poorly cooked rice, found in Turkey. During our chat, we were joined by Ahmet Kaya and Beyzanur. We talked and talked and talked for almost three hours, and I left the area around 6 p.m., having sat there since 1 p.m. I learnt plenty of words and names that day, which helped me during the rest of my stay.

It was tiring(as I hadn't had much sleep in the preceding 24-30 hours) but it was sooper fun. I left for my hotel, which was hardly five minutes away from the Hippodrome and took some rest. One of my Pakistani friends is studying in Australia. One of her classmates was doing an internship in Istanbul and was staying in Sultanahmet. I caught up with her after some rest at the Hotel. We walked towards the Marine Drive, and sat alongside the Sea of Marmara. She had graduated with a degree in Psychology and was pursuing a Masters Degree in “Role of Gender in Development”, a subject close to my heart. We talked and walked alongside Keneddy Cadessi(Road) towards Galata Bridge and took the Tunel to Isteklal Cadessi. I was terribly hungry so I got some fries and a shake from Shake Shack which lies right next to the Tunel station. Last time, I had walked across Isteklal twice without visiting Shake Shack even once, and upon my return had heard rave reviews about its burgers and fries. My new friend gave me an Istanbulkart which was a blessing. We walked across Isteklal, enjoying the live music and at one place, a group dance(I was later told that it was called ‘Hala’, a traditional Anatolian Dance). We took the Funicular from Taksim to Kabatas and from there we took the tram to Sultanahmet. I reached my Hotel around 11.30 pm and was really exhausted so slept immediately. It was a wonderful first day in Istanbul.

(To be continued)