Hey, everybody. I’m just back from Istanbul. It was my second trip. There is no terror in Turkey more terrifying than two American women walking the streets alone and having fun.
I arrived on Saturday afternoon. Jennifer was delayed. I spent the afternoon and evening wandering around — mostly being a tourist and eating. I took a lot of photos of cats. I don’t know. I was tired.
Sunday was a good day. I walked around the outdoor markets near Mısır Çarşısı and stayed awake by taking a Bosporus river cruise. There’s an open-air boat that takes you around for $4 — no stops. Jennifer finally arrived without luggage, and we made our way through the Sultanahmet neighborhood. My great mistake was wearing my blonde hair long and greasy, which is apparently how tiny Turkish men like it.
(If they were under 5’3″ and standing in front of a restaurant, they wanted a piece of my action.)
Monday was also pretty fun. I woke up and went to a Turkish bath, where a Bulgarian woman scrubbed me raw. Then Jennifer and I wandered through the crowded streets of the neighborhood behind Istanbul University, and I had a level 2 panic attack. The roads were crowded, I was hot, and I couldn’t see anything. When I feel restricted, I start to panic. Anyone who’s ever traveled with me has endured this nonsense, which is why I prefer to spend 99% of my time alone. Jennifer loves me, though, and endured my idiosyncracies.
I pulled it together, and we walked across the Galata Bridge and up to the Galata Tower for lunch. Then we visited Istiklal Street to see where the bomb went off, last month. There were no signs of a terrorist attack. No vigils. No balloons. No teddy bears. We ended up at Taksim Square, which is sketchy, and took a taxi back to the hotel. Our taxi driver tried to rip us off. He escaped with a total of $14 US. This is why America wins, by the way. If you’re going to cheat people, think bigger.
Tuesday was our final day in Istanbul. After Jen had wrapped up her conference, we went to the Aya Sofia (also known as Hagia Sophia). Then we wandered around the Eminönü district of Istanbul where I tried to haggle with a merchant and failed. Then went to Gülhane Park and saw a lovely tulip festival. We decided to take an Uber to Yıldız Park but only got as far as Dolmabahce Palace before we had to get out and walk. Istanbul traffic sucks, but we learned that you can order Uber Boat. We’re doing that, next time!
Tuesday evening was lovely, as well. We had dinner at Lokanta Maya with a family member of mine who is studying in Istanbul. The food was awesome. Then Jennifer and I had some drinks in Karaköy because we are adults on vacation in a Muslim country, and that seemed right. A perfect way to end the evening, right?
I owed Jennifer a night on the town for enduring my panic attack, so I volunteered to walk back to our hotel (her preference) instead of taking another Uber (my preference). Our hotel was forty-five minutes away from Karaköy, and it was cold outside, but I wanted to give my boo a good experience.
As we were walking back, some tiny Turkish dude followed us in his car. We waved him off. But up ahead on the narrow streets of Sultanahmet, we turned the corner, and he was standing there waiting for us.
I screamed, “Never.”
Jennifer said something to scare him off — although I don’t remember what. Then she began a long and winding critique of his personal brand and positioning statement. Does that work with other women? What’s his success rate? What did he think he would accomplish? Where would we go? Does he like cats?
She rolls with this stuff. Way better than I do. Jennifer sees the humanity in people, and she laughs at the absurdity of crazy situations. I’m wound tight. I can understand why some countries limit gun ownership. Had I been carrying a Kalashnikov, or even a stick, these men would be dead.
So I would rate this entire trip as one of our more exciting excursions. We ate like champs, and the best thing I had is a tie: it was either the hot goat cheese with caramelized onions or garlic butter button mushrooms. We also ate our weight in cheese. Our hotel was great, the excursions were fun, and we made many lasting memories.
But it still felt incredible to get home.