Postcard from Istanbul

June 25, 2012 9 Comments »

Postcard Blue Mosque Istanbul

Moving to a different culture in Istanbul

The landing announcement echoes through the plane triggering the memories of 12 years ago. In 2000 I was arriving from a 17 hour flight with a virgin passport. It was the first time I had left the US – and I was more scared than excited landing in Istanbul.

This time I am arriving from a 3 hour flight with a passport full of 50+ stamps from different countries. The strange thing is that I’m still a little bit more scared than excited as we begin our descent into Istanbul. It was this initial trip that kicked off a life of travel for me now. Maybe I’m afraid of what my present day travels in Turkey will do to me! Never-ever-ever-ever could I have imagined the direction my life went in the last 12 years. But that’s the beauty of travel to me – the unknown, unexpected, and the power to transform the way you think and live.

As I walk around Istanbul the scenes in front of me flicker in my view as if someone cut the film and it’s flopping around on the reel of an old movie projector. I see mussels being sold on the streets and immediately memories come flooding back into my mind of the first time I ate those mussels. I laugh at the memory of having to be convinced and coerced to try them back then. But the important thing is that even though I might have been scared to experience new things in foreign countries back then – I fought though it and tried them. In fact, I tried everything my friend Giancarlo and his friends put in front of me. I went into my first international trip with an open mind, discovering when you leave yourself open and trust in others, beautiful things can happen – you may even change the direction of your life.

A boy in the Beyoglu neighborhood

A boy in the Beyoglu neighborhood

I wish that I could reference all of those old thoughts and reactions from 12 years ago – but back then I didn’t write nor did I take photos. The thoughts and memories have been pushed into archive and I can’t seem to access many of them. So I begin to make new ones – and this time they will be captured into an easily accessible archive.

Why am I here? I have a few different goals for my time in Turkey.

Friends (new and old)

A chance to meet people is always a goal when I travel. My trip started with a weird connection between Spain and Turkey. While waiting in line for a bus from the airport to Istanbul I met a man from Valencia who works in Istanbul quite often. Soon we started talking and he provided me a great introduction into this crossroads of Asia and Europe. I found myself sipping wine on the Bosphorus watching the sun set. I loved that I started my time here getting introduced to it by a Spaniard, where I had just spent my last 2 months!

Charlie and I on our apartment terrace in Istanbul

The next day my friend Charlie arrived from NYC. I love meeting new people as I travel, but I adore it when I can meet my old friends when I travel. You don’t have to start new, they already know you – your life story. There’s an ease and comfort that takes time to build with new people and I never seem to be anywhere long enough to build that. Charlie blew in like a breath of fresh air – but with her came pangs of memories from the past tugging at me to race out and explore. Charlie is here to pick up her all girl Mongol Rally team car and get ready to follow in my footsteps from last year and do the Mongol Rally. As we hang out and talk about her upcoming adventure in Yoda/Jedi like mentoring sessions I have pangs of sadness that I won’t be on it this year. My adventurous side want to race off with her and Pam and do it again…especially since neither of them know how to drive a stick shift and lord knows they will need help with that! The more I talk to her about the rally, the more I miss it – it may just kill me to watch their progress and mishaps on their journey .

Photography and Writing

Carpet of Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is a main tourist attraction and beautiful place to photograph

I came back to Turkey to experience it now as a seasoned traveler ready to photograph this vibrant country. I started with a day tour of Istanbul from Urban Adventures to re-familiarize myself with the city. It was a great overview and now I have a list of places I will go back and photograph. This week I take off to see the rest of the country with Intrepid Travel on their Best of Turkey Small Group Tour for 15 days. I’m excited to be reunited with Intrepid – I’ve always said that some of my best travels and understanding of a countries like Vietnam, Morocco, and Egypt was due to the fact that I was on their tours which are known for digging deep into local culture. I can hardly wait to see, photograph, and write about what cultural experiences I will be able to have throughout Turkey!

Turkey tour map

My route with Intrepid


My taste buds have been enjoying the switch from Spanish food to Turkish mezes and grilled meats. Thanks to my new expat friend Meg who writes for about traveling with babies, she has introduced me to some great restaurants in Istanbul already. I can hardly wait to discover more throughout July!

Turkish delight for sale in Istanbul's spice bazzar

I LOVE Turkish Delight more than words can say!

Travel Through the Past

One of my other goals is to simply tap into some of those old thoughts and feelings I had in my virgin travel moments in Turkey 12 years ago. One that recently came flooding back to me was my first Turkish breakfast – I distinctly remember walking up to the table after sleeping off jet lag (which was also new to me) and seeing a table full of olives, cheese, and bread and I couldn’t even comprehend how people could eat olives and cheese for breakfast. Where were the eggs, cereal, or pancakes? Oh how times have changed – now I look forward to my present day breakfast with my friend Charlie out on our terraces overlooking Istanbul – olives, bread, cheese, and fruit – perfect.

olives and cheese turkish breakfast

Eating olives, cheese, and fruit for breakfast – photo by Charlie Grosso

My stay in Istanbul was made possible by Wimdu. But all opinions expressed here are my own.

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