Have you ever followed your instinct to a far away land? I did when I came to live in Turkey for a little while, some time ago.
And I am going to tell you all about it in this blog.
Little did I know about this fascinating country when I first arrived. Almost nothing. I had all the time in the world and I wanted the city to surprise me.
Well the weather there did surprise me…
I expected cold weather, because I had checked that before going. But I did not expect to almost freeze! It seemed we were going to be swept away soon by the wind and waves. The frozen city was implacable and my clothes, the same that I wear for a winter in Madrid; were not enough.
It was a relief the custom they have to offer warm turkish tea everywhere, even in shops or the subway. With this weather, hot tea is a blessing and shopping inside a bazaar too.
People offer you a warm welcome when travelling to Turkey. They usually smile and try to help you if you get lost, and they try to be friendly always. They can offer an umbrella if it’s raining, they usually smile and try to communicate with foreigners even the ones that don’t speak enlish. But, I have to say that in de bazaar they speak a lot of languages.
The truth is that Facebook was very useful for finding an apartment, and even to meet other students from my university, through Facebook groups. In a week I had a beautiful flat with two roommates of my age who would eventually become good friends; and party and cultural plans with other students from various parts of the globe. Not a week had passed, and there I was at my first Bosphorus boat party.
A little advice. These parties are best if you do not end up making snowmen on the deck or cruising an icy Bosphorus under a snowstorm.
As for the city, it was under a permanent layer of black clouds, snow and ice. That’s why my first discovery was the Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar. And some really lovely coffees …
I discovered the winter drinks like the salep and the Turkish delights in cafes full of old charm; with chimneys and chandeliers and some with terraces on the roof where they give you a blanket to survive the cold while you contemplated the city under the snow.
Istanbul has a new part of skyscrapers that reflect sunlight and skim the clouds. But what I was interested in were its antique shops, its labyrinthine bazaars and its charming cafes. It has a nostalgic and evocative air, and I knew that I still had a lot of time to discover everything little by little.
I took advantage of those weeks of winter cold to visit places like the aquarium in Istanbul, the largest in Europe. And it’s a good way to spend a winter afternoon.
As a good student of arts, I went there notebook in hand to draw the shapes and colors of the most fascinating tropical fish.
Of the incredible sunsets over the Bosphorus or the beautiful walks on foot through the city center I did not know anything, for now … For me the city was still a maze to be discovered.
Well, these were my first impressions upon arriving in Turkey for the winter-spring semester.
I will tell you more about my experience! Later, I plan to make an alternative guide for Istanbul later.