Monday, 23 February 2015

New Experiences

I really want to share some of the experiences I had while staying there.

First, the houses are not made for cold weather. When in bed, I always felt like there was some window open because it was so loud and felt like the cold was coming in. Also, the air conditioning is fixed outside below the window - it looks really strange

 Another difference was that you can't drink the water from the tap, so you always have to buy it. Therefore you always need a new plastic bottle. Furthermore everywhere you buy anything you get a plastic bag with it. After two days I felt like I had to throw away about 10 plastic bags and 5 bottles and it was really annoying so i started to tell them I don't need a plastic bag - and they were completely confused what I was talking about. So probably the whole "plastic is bad"-concern has not arrived there yet.

When we watched a movie at the cinema, the ticket said it will start at 19:00. For some reason my brother told us to be there early. So we sat there 10 minutes early waiting for the movie to start. In Austria it normally advertising starts 5 minutes early and goes on for 10 minutes and then the movie starts. In Turkey there are some differences. The advertising started at 19:00. On 19:15, the trailers of other movies started, interrupted by some advertisements. And when I was nearly falling asleep somewhere between 19:25 and 19:30 the movie started. It went on for an hour and then suddenly everything went dark. Turned out they always have a 10 minute pause inbetween a movie. Needless to say they filled it up with advertising.

But, while our Metro-Stations are all filled with advertisements, there aren't any at the Metro-Stations in Istanbul. They were all really nicely decorated and some even showed some art.or historical information on the wall.

Also in the cinema, the movie we watched was english, and for some reason most of the time I felt like we were the only ones laughing. I already thought about the possibility that it's not normal to laugh in the cinema but afterwards I found out that they probably just didn't get the jokes as the english was not that easy to understand. And besides sellers and waiters in touristic areas nobody speaks any english. They don't even understand you when you want to ask where to go. Not even most the students are able to speak english.

But they were totally happy if you could speak some turkish words - and were even nicer than before. I must really admit I liked the Turks I met. Some told me to be careful and trust no one and that my brother should always accompany us and watch out and so on but really everyone I met was so nice and friendly and helpful - not only because they wanted to sell me a carpet ("come in! my shop is your shop"). They also have a creative way of approaching. One guy asked whether he sould take a photo of us 4 (two german girls we met at the hostel and us) and then he gave the camera to his friend and just joined the photo. The best story I heard was of the flatmate of my brother who is a Turk. He saw a girl standing outside the flat and thought she is beautiful so he got out and talked to here. She is a Finn and now they are engaged.

What really bugged me was that toilet paper was a rarity in the whole city. Maybe this was so bad for me because the toilet in our hostel was also pretty bad and combined I just didn't want to go on the toilet anymore.

Also, there were just so many people everywhere! When taking the Metro, does not matter which time, it was always so full. We once took the Metrobus, a bus with its own track on the street to go faster, and people could not get into the bus anymore because it already was too full - and it wasn't on rushtime. And when we wanted to a quick side trip into the shopping center, we got stuck inside a procession-like crowd of people all walking into the same direction. I found out they were all heading to the shopping center too - as were the crowds from all the other directions. I am glad I do not live in a megacity. They don't even have that many parks. I have no idea where they go when they want to catch some fresh air.

Another interesting information was about how to know whether people are more conservative or liberal. When a cafe or a restaurant was serving alcohol, it was pretty liberal, because in conservative eyes you are not allowed to drink alcohol in public because it would dishonour you. That does not mean people don't drink alcohol - but they do it at home where nobody can see them. Second, a sign of a liberal shop / cafe was that they were employing women - and I saw nearly no cafe or restaurant employing women. It is a pretty strange thing with women - they do study as much as anyone else, but I have no idea where they are working afterwards, maybe somewhere nobody can see them. On the campus there is even a student home for just female students so they are secure and won't get in touch with the bad world outside. Also, in mosques there are seperate praying areas somewhere in the corner behind a wall for women.

Also, five times a day the muezzin sings or prays - I am not sure about that - and you can hear it everywhere in the city and also everywhere in the country where people live. In Austria they don't even manage to install emergency sirens that are heard by people living in some smaller villages. Maybe we should convert to Islam too so if there would be an emergency we would all be warned.

But not to forget the food. Turks always accompany their food with bread - if there is no bread the meal won't still the hunger. Also, they do strange things like putting fries into sauces. Or giving you yoghurt so you can put it in afterwards. They are even drinking yoghurt (Ayran) everywhere. And in the kebap (they call it pide et döner or something like that) there is no sauce - for some reason they don't put yoghurt in there - but there are pickled gherkins inside. And nearly every dessert is dripping of honey - best of them was the baklava. Also, they have a really really good rice. I have no idea how they make it but I will miss it.

Last Day in Istanbul

I came home yesterday and had no time to post earlier, but I still want to share a little bit about the last day in Istanbul and show you the photos. Also, I really want to share my experiences about the differences between Austria and Turkey and decided to do this in an extra post.

It was the first sunny day, so we seized the chance and took the ferry over the Marmara Sea. It's really great that it is more or less just another means of public transport, so it costs about 70 cents - way cheaper than any ferry in Austria. It gave us another opportunity to look at all the beautiful places we already have been when they were covered in snow. I found out that it was the snowiest winter they had for the last 25 years.

We used our time wisely and went up the Camlica, the biggest mountain on the asian side of Istanbul, about 270 meters high. When going up the streed was more or less a river bed for all the melted snow flowing downhill.

The Camlica was totally worth the hiking. The view was marvellous, we could look all over the city, the Bosporus and the Marmara Sea.

Also, they had really cute cats up there that were looking for attention (and food) - if I would live in Istanbul I would totally come up there every sunny day, enjoying the sun and feeding some cats. Unlike the cats in the inner city, they were really trusting. You will need some help getting up there but it is totally worth it!

We spent the evening in a rice house - a plate of rice and chicken for less than 2 € - I will totally miss the cheap food and the tasty rice!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Bad weather

I must admit we really had bad luck with the weather at our vacation. After the snowstorm started on Tuesday, it continued on Wednesday where even the most of the flights were cancelled, pupils had the day off at school and the ferries did not cross the sea any more.

We spent the day at the Great Basar and afterwards at the Spice Basar for shopping - mostly because they are inside. Cailin, a girl we met at the hostel, accompanied us and we really had a lot of fun at shopping!

It was a lot of fun, we bought the greatest stuff (for example: a lot of turkish towels that are perfect!) and heard the best phrases of the people who wanted to sell their stuff: "can i help you spend your money?" or "are you charlies angels?" I have never seen the movie but obviously it is popular in Istanbul.

After a hard day of slipping through the snowy streets of Istanbul inbetween the basars while it was snowing we decided to spend the evening inside and went to an event of the so called "Sema" of 5 men with white clothes dancing. It was not as we expected because it is a spiritual dance and it is mostly like a spiritual ritual you are allowed to watch.

Yesterday the snowing stopped and we decided to walk down the shopping street of Istanbul, starting at the Taksim Square, so everytime we get cold we can just walk into a store. They told us it would be totally crowded but there was nearly noone there - probably because of all the snow everywhere. By then the snow partly melted and there was not only snow but also water everywhere and since no one of us brought winter resistant shoes it was the third day in a row walking around with wet feet.

But the most interesting part was the street down to the Galata Tower - there were lots of small shops with alternative clothing, bags or other necessary stuff.

We got the advice that there is a hotel next to the tower with a rooftop restaurant with nearly the same sight of the city where we could drink a hot beverage without paying entrance fee so we got up there.

We spent the evening at Stefans flat watching a movie. So today we were pretty much out of ideas for bad weather. We just visited the palace with the harem and went to the movies in the evening (The Imitation Game - very good movie!). The weather report says that tomorrow there won't only be rain, also it should be sunny! I really hope so because I really have no idea what to do on another bad weather day.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Historical moment

When we got out of the hostel today it was sunny and warm, therefore a perfect day to visit the Gülhane Park next to the Topkapi Palace. After we walked about 5 mintes in one direction it started snowing a little - and
 just after a moment we suddenly where in the middle of a snowstorm. 

To hide from it, we fought our way to the Hagia Sofia, a mosque which was once built as a christian monumentum. That was also how it looked. There was no praying area with carpets that you are not allowed to step on with your shoes and no mosaics that are typical for all the mosques I have seen so far.

Still, the Hagia Sofia is one of the most popular mosques in Istanbul. When we got out, the snowstorm was not that bad anymore so we had an historical sight on the blue mosque in snow. We were told that the last 50 years there were only 3 winters where Istanbul had snow - and this time it was already the second snow-time this year.

The blue mosque is called blue mosque because the mosaics are mostly blue (and white and red) and this is pretty special. Also this mosque is really important, I heard there are only 3 mosques all over Turkey who have 6 minarets and only the one in Mekka has 8.

Afterwards, we walked around in the historic center looking for a shelter for the snowstorm and found really interesting places. We even found a stray dog that followed us for a while and stood by us everytime we stopped somewhere. But after some time he left us for some guy that actually had food for it.

Then in the afternoon we went to Europe's biggest shopping center with 6 floors. We also were told that there would be a roller coaster inside but we didn't find it even if we walked through all of the floors. Now my feet hurt really bad.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Impressions of Istanbul

Yesterday we arrived at Istanbul at 6 in the afternoon so all we had time for were some impressions of Istanbul at night. Stefan, by brother, picked us up at the airport and leaded us through the public transport of the city.

We also visited the shared flat Stefan lives and got an insight how people live in Istanbul. Like in every big city, it felt pretty narrow inside.

 Today, in the morning Elli and me visited a mosque near to our hostel.

Afterwards, we went to the Yildiz Tecnical University where Stefan studies and he showed us the campus. We hung out at the 8-bits-café at the mathematics faculty where all his colleagues meet to drink cay. They really enjoyed the chocolate (Mozartkugeln) imported from Austria and even a professor joined us to talk. We didn't get much of the table talks because nearly nobody here is able to speak english but Stefan did his best to translate everything for us.

The campus is really big (like bigger than all the universities in Graz together), to enter it there are even security-checks - and this one was only a smaller part of the whole university. In the evening we met some other friends of Stefan who cooked for us - we really had lots of impressions in less than two days.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Going abroad again!

I decided I to reactivate my blog for my smaller trips this year - therefore I will keep you updated while I am in Istanbul next week and in Hamburg in March and in Katovice in April and in Lisbon in June. So there is pretty much to look forward, at least for me :) Furthermore, I am sure this won't be my only trips this year since I am already planning another bigger one. And same time next year I hopefully am already in Columbia to spend my semester abroad there.

Today I was pretty busy preparing for Istanbul. My brother, whom we are visiting in Istanbul, told me that we have to be cautious what we wear, because our skin should be covered. Since I found out I  don't own shirts that don't show any cleavage I had to buy some I can take with me. This was pretty hard because our fashion is not made for not showing any cleavage. Sure, there were shirts with high neckline, but most of them were either transparent or leave some gaps. There are moments when being a man would be so much easier, and this is one of them. Men could just wear their shirts they always wear and everything would be fine.

Let's see tomorrow what else is different in Istanbul than in Graz!