First step: find my hostel. I made the mistake of not writing down an address, so this was harder than it sounds. Luckily it was in Sultanahmet, the main tourist district in the city, so after stumbling around in the airport looking for some direction (turns out "tourist information" stands aren't always that helpful...), I eventually found my way downtown on the super clean and efficient (by Soviet standards) public transport.
Second step: see some sights. It's my first time in Istanbul, so might as well go see the big postcard-worthy places, right? Along the way, I found that Turkey isn't actually all that different from Central Asia. Many of the Turkish words were the same as Kazakh/Uzbek/Kyrgyz/Uighur, some of the food was the same, old mosques were everywhere, and a surprising number of people thought that I was Turkish, too. Notably absent were statues of Lenin, Soviet apartment blocks, wide streets and sidewalks, and borsch.
|Blue mosque from behind|
It's a beautiful city, and there were tons of cool sights to see. But, being me, I started to get bored with the touristy things and opted for my favorite pasttime in a new city: Eating everything I see that I haven't had before. First was a kebab/sandwich thing (not pictured), then a pita/pizza thing (also not pictured), then...
|...From those boats on the left|
|Then I went to see some more sights and digest...|
|Looked at the Asian side of the city (didn't go visit, though)|
|Ran into this Japanese dude AGAIN. First was in Khiva over a month ago, then in Aktau two weeks later, and here I almost literally ran into him on a random side street. He had just driven in. Small world.|
|Then I was jet-lagged, so I had another turkish coffee|
|And PLOV!! (they call it pilav... way less grease)|
And some local beer and music (not pictured)
|and street mussels with rice - seems like the equivalent of 50c wings in America|
|then a donor|
|Then more baklava!|
Then I went back to my hostel, ran into another traveler I hadn't seen since Khiva and wasn't expecting to ever see again (also just showed up that night), talked to him way too late, got 4hrs of sleep and woke up the next morning to rush to the airport, but not before eating more...
|And this is what Shawn looks like after two full days of travel across six timezones with a total of 7-8hrs of sleep in two nights|
Then I got to Morocco. More to come on that later!