So in my last post I mentioned how I was going to Istanbul with school, well, it was pretty eventful.
After getting up at an ungodly hour, we arrived at the airport full of energy and ready for action.
At security I had to have my whole bag completely emptied and rubbed with a special little drug testing cloth, (I don't blame them, I look like a real dodgy passenger)
One plane flight later we were there, and as a large group of school girls it took us some time to get through customs and to baggage collection. Once we had finally arrived we were all able to pick up our bags apart from one girl. She didn't have HER bag, but had an identical looking bag that belonged to a mystery person with the last name Cho. Luckily the airport staff were able to catch this Cho character, who turned out to be a tiny asian woman. And peace was restored to our travelling party.
We then met our guide (who really, didn't speak english) and were taken to our hotel. Well, taken most of the way to our hotel. The road that the hotel was on was actually blocked off because they were 'resurfacing' it, meaning we had to carry our suitcases down the very steep hill. This wouldn't have been such a problem, but I don't know how the resurfacing was being organised because it pretty much seemed like some randomers had come along and decided it was time to dig up the road. To get down it you had to jump over ditches, walk alongside pipes lying in the road, and be careful not to step on the edges of any pavement that was still around, because it was likely to crumble away. It was pretty funny, even if we did arrive at the hotel quite dusty and confused.
Me and my friends had looked up the hotel rooms before arriving, and it had looked promising, so we were looking forward to our three person room... We were wrong. For some reason, we were the only group to receive a two person room - with an extra armchair bed. My bed during our stay at the Hotel Assos, was an outstretched armchair. And, to add insult to injury (literal injury in the case of my back) we still only received 2 of everything, 2 pairs of slippers, shampoos, cups etc. We did have a Tv though, the choice of channels wasn't very varied and we found ourselves watching the TurkPop! channel for weird amounts of time, meaning I am now familiar with the musical stylings of many turkish musicians, for example, Odan Aydın.
One of the first places we visited was a mosque, when inside the mosques women are expected to cover themselves up appropriately to be respectful. It was pretty exciting to wear a headscarf (don't need much to impress me...) but I soon discovered there's a reason I'm not muslim. I have a pretty wide pale face, and with the scarf draped around my head, I looked like a massive moon emerging from a dark material cave on a girls body. At least I was wearing trousers and didn't have to put on the large
blue velcro skirt they gave to people whose legs were showing.
At the end of our first day we were able to collapse into bed (or armchair) and sleep. Unfortunately this was interrupted by the call to prayer at 6 in the morning. On the one hand it is amazing to experience such a different culture, and I really admire them for being so devoted that they get up to pray that freakin' early. But it literally sounded like the guy had stuck his head into our room to sing to us, I think some people consider it sounding beautiful, but trust me, it doesn't after 15 minutes at 6 in the morning, especially after 5 mornings in a row (you can youtube it if you want to experience a more tuneful version)
Whilst in Istanbul, our school group visited many markets. These were really amazing and not like anything we have in London. But us girls found that one of the most interesting things about them is the stall owners, they can easily see young british tourists who they can very easily rip off, and do everything they can to not pass up the opportunity (don't get me wrong, some of them probably plan to give you a fair deal, but I know for sure I paid weird amounts of money for stuff.) We heard some very interesting chat-up lines such as 'WAIT, come back to me! I love you!' and 'Hey Spice girls!' (In the Spice Bazaar followed by a rendition of a spice girls song). One stall owner said to my friend 'I like your boobs! sorry.' which took her quite by surprise. I actually ended up receiving a lot of love advice from one stall owner, who thought I was miserable because my boyfriend had broken up with me, I tried to tell him that my regular face is just a kinda depressed looking one and no-one had broken up with me, but before I knew it he was shouting 'If he doesn't like you, he doesn't deserve you and you shouldn't like him!' he seemed pretty angry about this whole break-up scenario he had invented.
The most fun we ever had a market was in the Grand Bazaar when we walked past a shop selling handbags and purses. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted an orange purse with silver letters on the front spelling out 'PPADA'
This of course, was very hilarious for us and although we tried to buy it it turned out to be pretty expensive. So instead I asked if I could have a photo of it to remember from, but this quickly turned into a full-on photo shoot, featuring me, my friends, the turkish stall owners and a variety of purses.
One of the most interesting stops on our trip was when our guide told us he was taking us to a 'leather fashion show' we were all very confused as this hadn't been on the itinerary and were not aware of Istanbul being famous for their leather industry. We went along happily anyway, but this leather fashion show turned out to be one of the weirdest things I have ever experienced. When we arrived we were led into a dark, basement-type place, with long black benches and a raised checkerboard 'catwalk' surrounded by mirrors. We were then given the weirdest apple juice I have ever tasted and turkish dubstep began blaring. We were treated to many reversible leather jackets and coats and began to wonder if we were in fact having some curious shared dream/nightmare.
After being led into the shop of leather delights, where we had to make a hasty escape from the sales assistants who kept trying to make my history teacher try on leather jackets. Back on the coach, we all headed to our next stop still feeling extremely confused.
Every restaurant/hotel we visited in Istanbul served us lentil soup as a starter, and meat and rice as a main. But one restaurant in particular was very interesting, this is not because there was a different menu, but because of the other restaurant guests. As we sat down to eat, a very large group of Koreans also entered the resturant. One old Korean man sitting near us seemed very friendly. He asked us if we knew 'Gangnam Style' and started to do the horse-riding move whilst sitting down at his table. Now I don't know what came over me, it could've been the Turkish air messing with my head, being over-tired, or just an attention-whore in general, but when he excitedly asked if any of us could do the dance, I actually got up and danced Gangnam style for the whole restaurant.
This was filmed by many Koreans, so who knows? I could be on Korean Youtube. What we definitely know is I have a problem which means that I regularly have to embarrass myself. The other times I embarrassed myself in front of everyone was when we went bowling and I got a bit over excited after scoring a strike, and didn't realise people were watching me, and also the time we went to the turkish baths.
At the turkish baths, you had the option of simply sitting in the steam room and having a dip in the pool, or for a little more money you could have a body wash and scrub. Being the adventurous and naïve person I am I opted for the full body scrub along with a small number of people. What we didn't realise was to have the body scrub, you were required to take off your bikini top. So readers, a lot of my school friends, possibly my teacher, and some strangers saw my boobs as I was scrubbed by a half-naked turkish woman with scary teeth.
I had a great time in Istanbul, and I recommend you going if you ever have the chance. Hopefully you can have as much fun as I did, without making a fool of yourself.