This post is written by Katie, about her solo trip to Turkey and Greece.
It’s my first day travelling alone again – it feels both freeing and scary. Part of what I like about travelling alone is the adrenaline rush of exploring alone and being completely responsible for myself.
I woke at 7:30am ahead of my 8am alarm. Most/all of my bunkmates seemed to still be asleep. I got ready, and went to breakfast on the rooftop at 8:15am. I spotted Piyush, so I went and sat with him. The view from the roof top never gets old and never seems to disappoint.
I headed back to my room at 8:45am and grabbed my day pack. Then I headed to Taksim Square to catch the funicular to Kabatas and then the tramvey to Eminönü. Once at Eminönü, I walked to Eminönü Boğaz İskelesi Ferry Dock (The Bosphorus Cruise pier) and waited in a short (5 minute) line to buy my ticket. I bought a 25L long tour round trip ticket, but skipped the 10L audio tour. The guy only gave me 50L back when I gave him a 100 L – I’m not sure if he was trying to rip me off or sell me two tickets. Either way, I complained and got my additional 25L back.
I had read online that you should arrive 60-90 minutes before the 10:35am departure, and that you would have to wait in the sun after buying your ticket. However, after buying my ticket I boarded the ferry. Hence, the value of arriving early was to get a good seat! I boarded the boat at 9:35am and sat in the covered open area on the 2nd story on the left side of the boat facing backwards. There were very few seats in the area by 10am, and they were all gone by 10:15am. If you are travelling as a couple or a larger group and want a good seat, arrive early!
I blogged on my phone as I waited for the 10:35am departure. I enjoyed listening to all the different languages. I know the constant barrage of different languages bothered some of my lab mates, but I tend to enjoy it.
The boat ride was very scenic at first – from spotting the Istanbul Congress Center to the bridges to Rumelihisarı. The latter part of the trip was less impressive, but still captivating. Some people moved about the boat, but I was happy maintaining my good seat.
I exited the ferry at the last stop – Andalou Kavagi – at 12:10pm as scheduled. I had vaguely thought of climbing to the fort, but it did not look that impressive (and my sore legs and hungry stomach did not approve). But I did not want to go to one of the dock side restaurants because I knew it would be too expensive – although most of them had waiters waving and cheering as the boat passes them to land, which was cute and a good strategy.
I had no real plan, so I walked on roads going to the left of the port. I must have adequately grasped looking confident, as no one gave me a second glance, the restaurant owners left me alone, and multiple people seemed to ask me questions in Turkish. Judging by how some of the (many) police look, I think I could indeed strangely pass as a local. The road climbed to the right of the port, but first had military zones on the right (guard dogs, military guards with guns) and then on both sides. This continued for as far as I could see, and made me uncomfortable, so I turned around. It seemed strange how many (local-seeming) people were walking down this road though – where were they going? Did I miss something cool by turning back? (as the ferry was leaving later in the day, I realized I was almost to the point where the road ran right along the water, allowing good views…)
Once back in the city, I wandered down a residential path before hitting what seemed to be the road leading to the fort. I walked away from the fort, instead deciding to find a place with pide for lunch. As I was looking, I saw a sign for 10L gozleme and was sold. Apparently the gozleme came with Turkish tea (strange?). It was not as good as I remembered, but perhaps that is because the filling was just cheese. I am still glad I got it! I also ordered fries, but never received them. Not sure what happened, but the gozleme was filling enough.
After lunch, I checked the boat departure time at the dock (3pm) and was not sure what to do with the remaining 1h40min. I decided to hike up to the Yoros castle. There were signs from the town, and it took me along some town streets, dirt roads, past a donkey and a soccer field, through a cemetery, and to lots of restaurants. The sign said ‘short way to castle’ but it should have said ‘winding path through many restaurants and souvenir shops to castle’. I moved quickly to the actual castle since I had promised myself I should head back by 2pm. The actual castle was closed (and seemed to have been closed for a long time)! The views to the Black Sea were good though.
I hurried back down, but could not resist grabbing a 12L cheese and spinach gozleme from a lady making them on a hot stone near the castle. I took it to go. I also could not resist getting a gift for JT from a shop. I reached the dock at 2:20pm, ate my gozleme in line (again, not so great – the filling was better but the pastry was worse), and they began boarding at 2:30pm. I was one of the first 100 or so to board, so I chose the same seat I had on the way up. This should let me see the sights I did not see on the way up. I became too cold though, and decided to stand by the boarding gates on the first level (mainly on the left side). This was lots of fun!
One thing I noticed that surprised me was the number of jelly fish in the water, visible while docking and at docks. I also saw a few dolphins!
After exiting the boat at Eminönü, I walked across the Galata bridge and boarded the tramvey. I took it to the stop before Kabatas and walked in the water-side parks to Kabatas. The walk was very nice, but also very quick. I love Turkish park culture.
I took the tramvey to Taksim and walked through the park back to my hostel. I felt somewhat sad/guilty to be heading back to the hostel at 6pm, but I wanted to do laundry and get details set for tomorrow.
After doing laundry, I went to the roof top for dinner. I got the 10L chicken fingers and fries, which was a lot of food! I ended up talking to a girl from Brazil who was living in DC and working for a non-profit that selects and trains up and coming public policy leaders in various communities. She was very nice to talk to, and I really enjoyed having dinner with her.
I’m sad to see my time in Istanbul come to an end. There is just something about this city that I really love…
– If I were to visit Andalou Kavagi again on a 3-hour stop, I would walk to the Yoros Castle first. The views from the Castle and surrounding restaurants are nice. By going to the castle first, you can decide whether to eat up at the castle or down in the city, and then spend any remaining time exploring around the city.
– If you have a lot of nights in Istanbul, consider taking a picnic to a water-side park. Many Turkish families do this, and the experience would provide a fun slice of culture.