Istanbul

“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”
Alphonse de Lamartine

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Over the past few days one question kept popping into my head: “Why is it so hard for me to write about my short trip to Istanbul?”
I guess the answer to this is easier than I thought; because it was just that: a short trip.

I’ve tried writing about this countless times and I have a couple of unfinished drafts saved. I had some ideas on how to approach this trip but in the end I found that nothing felt right.
I might go back to those posts later but for now, here’s a short glimpse into two days in Istanbul (not Constantinople).

While I’ve been able to see most of the major sights and get a great first impression of the cities atmosphere, I feel like I couldn’t quite get the essence of this city.
Did we try to do too much in a short time? Maybe. However, we also managed to sit for a while and drink tea while overlooking the Bosphorus. We ate mussels with rice from a street vendor, we had baklava and a lot of other typically turkish, or eastern european dishes. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I cannot recommend Istanbul for a city trip enough.
It’s a pleasant and fascinating mix of Asian chaos and European structure.
We’ve been ripped off, but we’ve also experienced immense kindness by the locals. We ate great traditional food as well as things we didn’t quite enjoy. We sipped on tea, coffee and freshly pressed juice. We sat in the sun and we got rained on. It’s amazing how much you can do, how much can happen in just two short days!

One of the main things that stood out for me on this trip was that I entered it with an incredibly open attitude towards food. I said “YES!” to everything.
This lead to so many fun situations – and while some of the things might not have been something I’d have ordered at home, or even in Istanbul had I gone there with a different mentality, I ended up enjoying it a lot. Sometimes because it was truly spectacular but sometimes just because the act of trying something new, of tasting something different was just so much fun!
I have yet to find the time to sort through the pictures I took with my Canon, until then, I’ll leave these here.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen them all before, I apologise.

(I also apologise in advance for my tile obsession. Istanbul’s tile game is strong and I cannot get enough of them!)

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Be Brave

I’m in no way an expert, but these are some things I’ve learnt through the years, so bear with me and excuse my rambles.

Know what you want out of your travels.
Do you want to see a city? Do you want to check out every museum there is? That’s cool. Do you want to lie on a beach and jump into the sea whenever you feel like it? That’s cool too. Are you an avid mountaineer? Awesome. Just know beforehand and don’t be disappointed when you might not be able to pack all of the things you want to do into one single trip.

Choose your travel partners wisely.
Traveling can be a real trial of friendship. Choose your partners carefully. Do they want the same things out of the trip as you? What kind of attitude do they have towards other countries and cultures?
If you think that you are too different from each other you might not be happy during your travels if you constantly have to cut back on what you want out of it.
If there are only minor differences, don’t let them deter you. Compromise on some things and you might be surprised to where this will lead you. This leads to my next point:

Embrace the unexpected.
Be spontaneous. Be daring. When can you if not now? Where if not here? Go out and try to see where your limits are. How far can you go? What can you endure and what not?
It’s exhilarating. Scary, yes, but it makes you feel alive.
It’s important to make plans. However, it’s equally important to be flexible enough to let the plans you made go and make new ones at the drop of a hat.

Take care of yourself.
In more than one way. Be careful with your money and who you trust. Get to know your surroundings and get a feel for what is safe to do and what not.
But also, take care of yourself on another level. Say you meet people along the road, you quickly befriend them but then realise you can’t see eye to eye on some things anymore, don’t be afraid to go your own way. In the end you shouldn’t hold back on what you truly want just because of others.
You need to be at peace with your decisions and experiences. If they’re being rude, if their  attitude towards other cultures doesn’t match your own, tell them. If nothing changes, go your own way.

Pack, cut in half, pack again.
So far I’ve never, ever worn all of the clothes I packed for a trip. I always came back home with a couple of still perfectly folded T-shirts or pants which I just never even took out of my suitcase or backpack.
You don’t need much on travels. And you know…. people know how to wash clothes in other countries as well….

Get to know the country you travel to.
What is the religion? How’s the weather? What is the political situation? Learn everything you can before you go there and then learn even more once you’re there. Be open and not afraid to be proven wrong. Being surprised is a wonderful thing.

Talk talk talk.
To natives, to other travelers, to the cook of the roadside restaurant. It doesn’t really matter. Ask questions. Never stop asking even what you might consider to be a stupid question because you will get a whole new experience out of it.
Still, be gentle and aware of cultural differences. Don’t come on too strong and respect the opinions of others.
Try to learn at least a few words and standard phrases in the local language. This will open you doors you’d never expected. People will view you differently. Even small words like “Hello“, “Please“ and “Thank you“ will make a huge difference.
Know when to accept, but also when to challenge and question.

Be patient.
Know that you’re not at home. Things will take time, things will most likely not go as planned but you will get to where you want to be eventually. Don’t stress. There’s no point in complaining that a bus is late or a merchant ripped you off. These things happen. Learn from them, embrace them,

Be open.
Try new things. Eat something you never have before. Reinvent yourself. This is your chance. Take it.

Talking helps

I know I’m not always the most communicative person, especially when meeting new people or talking to people I don’t know that well – but how can you get to know them better? You talk to them. It also opens doors to new, unique experiences.

This morning we went to Downtown Dar es Salaam to go to the supermarket but made a quick stop at a church. We only meant to have a quick look inside, but got talking to a guy who offered to take us up to the tower.
Breathtaking. View.

While we ended up not being too happy with our guide for various reasons, it was a great opportunity and I’m so glad we let ourself being drawn into a conversation with him.

A similar story happened tonight. We went to get dinner at the small street restaurant we eat at almost every day. When we paid we complimented him on the chapatis and he proudly told us that he made them himself.
Then my friend boldly asked if he could teach us how to make them. Now we’re having an appointment with him tomorrow afternoon to learn how to make them.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

So much goodness.

World: Togo – All Around

Some more pictures I took while in Togo.

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[Above: Through the window. | Below: Togo-Gin, anyone?]

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[Above: At school.| Below: Lunch ingredients.]

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[Above: At the market. | Below: coast.]

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[Above: Dinner in Kpalimé. | Below: Holding the hairdresser’s daughter.]

412 Kopie

[More Togo-travel posts: The People | Life in the village | Activities | ReflectionMore photos here.]