|Upon arriving in Istanbul the first thing I realized is that the city was much larger than I anticipated. Istanbul is actually the 3rd largest city in the world and the only metropolis that lies in two different continents (Europe and Asia).
After landing I got my visa (15 Euro or 20 US Dollars, Lira is the currency here). Then had to wait in a lengthy line for a passport check. There was a European basketball team in the line next to me and I talked to a couple of the American players, which was pretty cool.
I had to take a subway, then an extremely crowded tram to get to 'The Golden Horn' area where the hostel was. I was dropped off right by the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, two of the most famous buildings in Istanbul. The Antique Hostel was just a two minute walk from there. I immediately hit it off with Onur and 'Gizmo' two of the great employees at Antique.
Antique has an awesome rooftop terrace that looks out over the Marmara Sea. Free internet, a good restaurant, and bar complete the deal on the terrace.
I wanted to explore a bit and got an early welcome into an Istanbul scam. Some guy walked into a restaurant and sat down at my table. He spoke a couple of words of English. When I got up to pay for my meal, the guy took off without paying. As I was walking off the employees told me that I had to pay for my 'friend's' meal. After a somewhat lengthy argument and them getting a 'cop' (really one of their friends), I walked off without paying for my friend's meal. At this point I was quite skeptical of everyone although most locals here have been very nice and accomodating.
My next interaction came with a really nice guy who I had bought a phone card from. He took me down to his family's business (a very nice rug store). I was served tea and water for free. My new friend had his cousin give me what turned out to be about a two hour history of Turkey, the rug business as a whole, and his family's business. It was actually very interesting and NOT a scam.
After returning to the hostel for a couple beers (Efes) and dinner with Simon, a cool South African, I was exhausted and went to bed early.
The next day I explored the city a bit and check out the Grand Bizarre, which was quite overwhelming. Brian arrived later that afternoon (Tuesday) and we got caught up on the past couple of weeks.
Yesterday we went to Topkapi Palace, which simply put was quite amazing. It was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans. There was an arms collection, treasury colletion, among other cool areas to observe. Then there was some items on display that I could not fathom. Moses' staff, John's (the prophet) actual arm in a gold casing, and a molding of the footprint of Muhammed. There was also a single 86 carat diamond, which had originally been found in the garbage then sold for 3 spoons before someone realized it was a diamond back in the 17th century.
Last night we went to a different area of town called Taksim. This area really had the big city feel. There were restaurants and clubs around every corner. After a couple of street beers that we found out we werent supposed to be drinking we went into a live music venue. We happened to sit down next to the lead singer's brother. The music was a bit heavy, but really good. The set was all in Turkish yet didnt really bother me. They were a bit like Rage Against the Machine. After wondering around a bit more we hailed a cab back to the Antique, which could have been used as a scene in the Fast and the Furious.
Today marked the first of Brian and I's scheduled 'business meetings'. We have set to meet every Monday and Thursday morning to formally discuss and look into business ideas we have discussed and get something down on paper.
After the meeting I ran into the owner of the hostel as he was leaving to get a hair cut and shave. Realizing I was overdue for both of the above I decided to tag along. This was a very cool experience. Although I was only getting a little bit cut, Amed was very meticiulous in the cut. That was followed by a thorough hair drying. Then came a 5 minute lathering of shaving cream before I got the old school single blade shave to complete my Turkish makeover.
A funny side note is that Onur calls Brian and I 'the beach boys' because we wear shorts and t-shirts when most everyone else is in pants and long sleeves. It has been in the high 70s during the day though.
Tomorrow Brian and I fly out to Tel Aviv. I just booked us a couple of nights at a cool looking hostel a block from the beach. Will keep you posted on what Israel has to offer.