Kyla and Nick Around the World travel blog

Whirling Dervishes or Mevlana

More whirling - at the train station of the historic Orient Express...

Guess who bought scarves at the Grand Bazaar? We called ourselves the...

Demonstration we accidently came upon along Taskim "Crush the hands of those...

Pre-lunch photo op at Elif's favorite place to eat

Elif and a wonderful assortment of Turkish lunch treats she specially ordered...

Elif and Kyla at the Galata Tower

Galata bridge, Turkish pride, elder fishermen and mosque - so Istanbul

Us at band camp - make that our hostel for 3 nights...

The Blue Mosque - almost as pretty outside as inside

Final night out with Melissa and Erika at a great place off...

More photos and stories from Istanbul. We were so sad to say goodbye we came back for another 10 hours a few days later (keep reading our entries and it will become clear).

Okey not OK - Nick writing

After exploring the city for four days, and having gone out on the town with our hosts, Kyla and I were feeling pretty Istan-savy. We decided that, with our new-found familiarity with the city, we would take Erica and Melissa out to a cool, funky café area we had visited after the football game with Tugrul and Ozge's friends. We hopped on the tram, and jumped off at the right exit to go and play some Okey (the tile game we played in Antalya and Selcuk - like a cross between Gin and dominoes).

In front of us were dozens of cafés, each with couches and beanbags, waterpipes, tea and coffee, and games. We selected one, only to be told they didn't have Okey. No problem, the waiter said, they have it next door. He walked us over to a café that had about 10 tables of people playing Okey and cards. We were shown a table, and ordered drinks - tea for me, and salep for the girls (a tasty, warm, milky beverage with orchid essence). As we set up the tiles, the waiter came over with our drinks (which were sat on their own little drink stands, so as not to interfere with the game), along with two plates of nuts. Fantastic, we thought, we're set for the night. And they are bringing us free snackies too!

Game followed game, salep followed salep. One of the waiters came over and gave Melissa hints on her Okey playing strategy (and finally just started moving tiles around on her board for her). When it was time to go, we asked for the bill, and got ready to pay. The bill came, and our mouths dropped. 50 Lira. About 45 dollars CDN. The drinks were expensive, but we understood, 'cause squeezing those orchids for their essence was hard and delicate work. The 10 Lira for the Okey set was puzzling, because we'd never payed for it before at any other bar or café, but we came to accept that, as many of the people there were only playing Okey, and not drinking. But the 10 Lira for the two small plates of nuts really drove us crazy. We didn't ask for them, only two people (Kyla and Melissa) nibbled on them, and they were basically plates of crunchy death for me. And we had to pay for them. Wow, we all thought (and said loudly, later), we totally got taken because we were tourists. They played us very well for 50 Lira. We headed back to the tram, steamed about the experience enough to yell "Okey was not OK!" to each other.

On further analysis, and after talking with our Istanbul friends, we weren't given the stupid tourist treatment at all. 10 L for renting the table and Okey set was fine, and they would have just waved away the nuts, knowing in Istanbul that nothing is free.

And that was what caught us all - so far in Turkey for the four of us, everything had been so smooth and hospitable in the smaller towns and centres. Nuts were free; desserts were brought without asking; and bar owners were more than happy to run across the street to grab you a game of Okey to play while you drank, for free. Istanbul was just different - another country, as many of our Turkish friends said.

The Hostel Doors of Perception - Nick writing

We stayed at a great hostel with Erica and Melissa, the Hotel Metropolis, just south of Sultanahmet. Well, great for many reasons, not-so-great for a few nights based on the other guests. As you can see in one of the photos, we had a small room with two bunk beds. There were two other rooms the same size in our little hallway, and we all shared a shower and a toilet. In one of the other rooms was the most annoying group of girls in the world. Ever. Possibly their first time away from home, definitely their first time in a hostel, and maybe even the first time alcohol had passed their lips.

They slammed doors. Constantly.

It felt like they had been raised without language, in a nursery with only doors, and could only communicate by slamming them. A bit like Nell, but only louder. (This "Nell" movie reference brought to you by the Nick Jodi Foster Fan Club - not that I've actually seen Nell, which I've heard is a pretty boring movie.)

There wasn't a door they didn't want to slam. Loudly. At three o'clock in the morning. We tested the doors, and none of them needed to be slammed. They just had no clue at all that slamming the doors would bother anyone else. Or standing in the hallway at three o'clock in the morning, talking about their plans for the next day, and recounting their drunken evening. At different times both Melissa and I lost it, ripping open our door to shout out "Please keep the noise down!". Possibly with profanity, but hopefully not.

And the next day, the slamming would start up again.

But the hostel was great; free breakfast (that we didn't know about the first day), free internet, and best of all - they let us use the showers for free after our night in the Edirne train station. So a big shout out to the Metropolis Hostel, and a big general shout at the stupid room of girls.

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