Hello all!

Sorry I haven’t been on the internet a lot. I’ve been out exploring and hanging with my Turkish friends. I am now safely in London, chillin in a Starbucks near my hostel waiting to check in (I can’t check in until 3pm London time)/ for Brian to arrive. But don’t worry I am enjoying my tea(as much as one can enjoy Starbucks tea) and a piece of carrot cake so life is good.

Th first day in Istanbul I met up with my friend Baran and we went to all the traditional touristy sites on the European side of the river. Because I stayed in Kadikoy(which is on the Asian side) we took a ferry over to the European side which was a lovely view. We passed by a famous landmark called the maiden’s tower where a king locked up his daughter to protect her but she ended up dying here anyways due to a poisonous snake sneaking onto the island via fruit basket. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it even though we passed several times going back and forth from the European to Asian sides of Istanbul.

We went to the Blue Mosque, Haga Sophia, the Toful Palace and of course tasted lots of awesome Turkish food Don’t worry, we took some pictures at these sites which will be up in the pictures section. We also went to the Grand Bazaar so I could get some gifts for people. This is a notorious tourist trap, but Baran haggled the price down for me:)

If you go to Turkey, definitely go with a native because they know all the best places to go! That night, Baran and I met up with our friend Berk and his girlfriend Bengisu. We had a beer and watched a football(soccer, not American football) match and Baran and Berk’s team won so it was a good night. Then we walked along the water’s edge at this little park and watched people set off lanterns into the night sky. It sounds super poetic when I put it like that but it was really lovely and I was lucky to have such good weather(if not a little hot) the whole time.

The next day Baran and I went to Taksim and the Istanbul Modern art museum. The art museum was really cool…figuratively and literally lol. The art was amazing but t had the added bonus of being air conditioned, which I really nice because Istanbul is really hot in the summer. We also got Baklav at one of the most famous places in Istanbul for Baklava and it was delicious. We then got some traditional turksh food for dinner and then went to this little café right near the water and drank tea. It was really nice.

This was kind of an interesting time to come to Turkey because it is Ramadan and Turkey is a mostly Muslim nation so many of the people fast all day. Even though Baran mentioned this , Istanbul is so big that I didn’t really encounter it until I got to Bursa. I left Istanbul Friday and caught a ferry from Kabatas to Burssa. Unfortunately the shuttle ferry from Kadikoy to Kabatas took a break from 10am-5pm so I had to leave super early to cautch my boat at 1pm. But I just drank some chai and watched the boats come in and out of the harbor then read some magazines that I picked up at the airport. (BTW Mom, Dad or Kate I love Scientific American and would love to subscribe to it once I am back in the USA and my birthday is in December just n case you forgot *wink wink nudge mudge*) The ferry ride was pleasant. I luckily am not affected by sea sickness and I mostly just slept on the 2 hour boat ride.
Benay, my friend from Drexel who I stayed with in Bursa, met me at the dock and we went to her old town which dates backs hundreds of years. We sat in a café near the water and drank chai. I have developed an addiction to Turkish tea (Chai) and am lucky that I am heading to London next or I would go through tea withdrawl. I bought some apple tea to bring back from Turkey but forgot to get chai. But it’s no matter because when I get back to the USA I need to find a Turkish market anyways so I can make Dolma, which is the rice inside the grape leaves. Benay’s mom taught me how to make it! But I am skipping ahead.

We went back to Benay’s house and I met her parents, who are super sweet. They didn’t speak too much English, but it was way better than my Turkish which is pretty much nonexistent. BTW Benay and I have decided we are each going to learn half the languages of the world and then travel around the world together. Dragging our boyfriends with us of course;) We hung out at Benay’s house for awhile and we felt bad because we ate dinner around 6pm but her mom was fasting so she had to sit and watch us eat And you can’t even have water or anything to eat or drink during a muslim fast. We ate again at 8pm with her mom and thus began the story of how I gained 5lbs in 3 days lol. I ate so much Turkish food because Benay’s mom and aunts all cooked me food and I felt bad not eating (plus it was delicious). If there is one thing Turkish people know how to do it is cook. Even their tea and coffee seems better. When Benay’s family heard that Dolma is one of my favorite foods they all cooked it for me and wanted to know who’s was the best, but I loved them all.

Later that night we went to the Bursa cit center and wandered around. We got ice cream and visited a mosque during prayers. Then we sat and had Chai before returning home. The next day we went up to the mountain in the center of Bursa with Benay’s boyfriend and had tea and snacks that Benay’s mom packed in a little café overlooking Bursa. It was a beautiful view. Then we went to a mall and got coffee and wandered around for awhile. That night we had dinner with Benay’s aunts and cousins who all cooked for me. We took a walk around Benay’s neighborhood then went to bed. The next day we again went to the mountain with Benay’s parents to have have tea and lunch, but before that we went to this centuries old village nestled in the mountains. to get some fresh produce. It was a lovely walk through the village and I got to see how people used to/still live there.

We then went to this little café where we ate and I drank this traditional yogurt drink which was pretty good. They eat a lot of yogurt in Turkey There was this tree in the center of the café which is super old. I probably will put up some pictures of it in the photo gallery. Some of the pictures were taken with Benay’s camera/phone so it may be a little while before I can get them. Anyways, that night I went to a party held by Benay’s dad’s work, which was kind of weird for me because no one spoke English and it was for the workers of the company, but everyone was nice and apparently I was super popular because I was from the USA and studying in Milan/Madrid. After that Benay’s mom taught me how to make Dolma. I didn’t get to bed until 2am and then had to get up at 7 to catch my ferry to Kabatas at 8:30. I checked into a hotel near the airport for the day and had plans to walk around the city center but ended up washing some clothes in the sink and sleeping instead.

Turkey has been so amazing and I want to thank all my friends here for guiding me around/ letting me stay with their families. You are always welcome to come visit me! I will miss you all already!
Xoxo,
Alyssa

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