A Travellerspoint blog

Birthday and the Beginnings of Budapest

rain 45 °F

Hi everyone!

I feel like it's been a year since my last entry. My days are so packed with activities that it's hard to imagine that I've only been abroad for 5 days. Well, since my last entry, I've turned 20, used a public toilet where I had to PAY to use a hole in the ground, stepped foot in Asia, went to a Turkish dance club, visited a palace, sampled Turkish candy that tasted (and felt) like a used car tire, and flew over the Black Sea to arrive in Budapest.

Whew! Talk about exhausting! Last night I slept in our new apartment in Budapest for like 8 hours and I still feel like I've just run a marathon!

Ok.. I'll begin at the beginning I guess. On Friday, we completed another walking tour of sites like the Topkapi Palace, which is where the Sultan, his wives, and his 300-500 concubines lived (lucky guy, eh?). Well actually, they lived in the Harem inside the Palace, which is a separate building with many room and courtyards. It's amazing to me that it was built thousands of years ago and it is still beautifully preserved. I got some great shots of Istanbul from a balcony we wandered across during the tour. From there, we walked over to the archeological museum and saw some lovely rooms of death. Well, a bunch of sarcophagi anyway. My favorite part of the entire museum were the mosaic windows that were scattered about one building of the museum. I think those were the only things I took pictures of! After the museum we rested in an adorable little park with a fountain and lots of trees. It was nice to just sit and relax for awhile before meandering back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. It was quite an event. It took almost an hour and a half for our food to come, and it was kind of upsetting, but after resolving the issue with our waiter and the owner of the restaurant (who spoke no English), we paid for what food was not raw and/or cold and went on our way to our favorite hookah bar.

The next morning we got up early and ate another wonderful breakfast on the roof of the hotel across the street, and then walked across the city to the Bosphorus River, where we boarded a public ferry to take us up the river to the Black Sea. (Quick correction here, before now, if I mention seeing the Black sea in my blog, I was mistaken. From our breakfast place we were looking out over the Marmara Sea, not the Black Sea). Istanbul is split in half by the Bosphorus River; therefore, half of the city is in Europe (this is where our hotel was) and the other half is in Asia. The cruise was about an hour and half each way, with a few stops in between. At the last stop on the way to Asia, we all got off and climed a huge hill/mountain to see an ancient castle (only a small part of it remains) and take pictures of the beautiful view of the Black Sea and the Bosphorus River, all of which I took pictures of and will be posting shortly. Once we got our fill of history, we trekked back down the hill/mountain and spotted a small park along the way where we played like children on the swings, teeter-totters, and hammocks. Needless to say, it was a nice break from our hike. There was a small town at the bottom of the hill where our boat was docked, waiting for us to board, but we had a few hours to kill before it left, so we wandered around the town and bought food. My favorite were these small fried dough bits, similar to donut holes, but after being fried they were dipped in what I think was corn syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon. They were superb!

Now, in most places in Europe, you must pay before entering the bathroom, and there is no guarentee of toilet paper or even a working toilet. Throwing caution to the wind, Jenny and I walked into a "bayan" (women's restroom) in the middle of this town and paid our .75 lira fee to go in. What we found when we entered was a small hole in the corner of the stall with little grooves on either side where you were supposed to place your feet and squat. Let me just tell you that I have never felt more appreciation for the free flushing toilets of America. After that little escapade, one which I am not looking forward to repeating in the near (or any) future, we headed back to the boat and sailed downt the Bosphorus back to downtown Istanbul. We walked back to our hotel (about a 30 minute walk) and prepared to go out to a Turkish dance club, which was incredibly fun and made for the best birthday ever (though it was EXTREMEMLY expensive)! :)

The next day was our last day in Turkey, and my roommate and I spent most of it sleeping off our exertions from the day before. We packed up and headed out around noon, and got on our Hungarian flight at 3:30. The time in Hungary is one hour earlier than Turkey, so I am now six hours ahead of those of you in the Eastern time zone. Our apartment here is amazing. It has a small kitchen with a fridge, microwave (which I think is broken), oven, a brave little toaster and a coffee maker. It's only one bedroom, but there is a pull out couch in the living room that seems pretty comfortable, but Jenny was nice enough to let me take the bedroom.. at least for now. :) We settled in for about and hour, and then headed out with our professor, BJ, to find the nearest ATM and grocery store. The currency in Hungary is the forint, and one US dollar is about 220 forints. So, I felt pretty sweet taking out 50,000 forints and waving them around like I was rollin' in dough.

After getting a few essential groceries like bread, cheese, and what I think is turkey (sorry Jordan, I never did get turkey in Turkey, but it tastes great in Hungary), we went back to the room and made ourselves a lovely meal from leftover chips from my trans-atlantic flight and turkey sandwiches.

This morning, we woke up a little later than normal and had some time to chill in our room before getting ready and heading to our first day of classes. My only class today is finance, and it starts at two and goes until five. I'm not really looking forward to it, but oh well!!

Well, it's time for me to head to class. I send you all my love!

Dana

Posted by drhoades 04:10 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Merhaba from Istanbul!

sunny 80 °F

Merhaba, as I recently learned, is Turkish for hello. There's your lesson for the day. :)

Hello everyone,

I arrived in Istanbul yesterday around 2 in the afternoon, and it has been an amazing adventure so far. Once we arrived at the hotel, my new roommate, Jenny, and I threw our stuff down (which she had very little of because the airline lost the luggage of 5 students on the trip, but don't worry they got most of it back today in case you were concerned) and hit the town. Our hotel, Hotel Hippodrome, which is very clean and cute, is situated in a hillside "neighborhood" called Sultanahmet. The roads are all cobblestone and tiny cafes and convenience stores line the streets. Cars whip by as if there are no traffic laws (actually, I'm fairly sure there aren't) and the buildings are practically on top of eachother.

At first it was kind of stressful. All of the shop and restaurant owners stand outside and talk to EVERY person passing by into eating at their restaurant. After an hour or so, I got accustomed to it and realized that just about everyone speaks a little English, so it's really easy to get around and buy things. In Turkey, the currency is a lira, and 1 lira is about $.65 in USD. So, after grabbing some lira from an ATM we came across, Jenny and I walked around this beautiful little park that rests between the Blue Mosque (I have pictures of this I will post) and the Hagia Sophia, both of which we visited today.

We grabbed lunch at a small restaurant that you can see from our hotel, and we ate outside on a cushioned bench under a colorful awning and watched street vendors and "taksi's" manuver around the tourists walking down the streets. We are definitely in the tourist district; every person I walk past speaks a different language. The entire city is a clash of cultures, and that is what makes the city so beautiful.

After lunch, we explored all around, and you can see what I saw from the pictures I will post as soon as I finish this article. We came back to the hotel, freshened up, and met up with the rest of our group (there are 10 of us total) and ate a late dinner at another streetside cafe. So far, I have eaten Turkish food at every meal, and I haven't tried anything I didn't like. Last night I had baklava for the first time, and I strongly encourage you to try it! It's a delicious Turkish dessert that constists of flaky breading and I think corn syrup.. there's other ingredients as well, but I couldn't tell you what they were. When we had gorged oursevles on overpriced Turkish cuizine, we headed about a block down the street and I experienced hookah for the first time. It was a really fun bonding experience--I already love the people I am with, and I look forward to getting to know them better.

This morning we woke up bright and early at 7:30 and met for breakfast at our "sister hotel" across the street at 8. The contentintal breakfast is served in a rooftop restaurant with an incredible view of some of Istanbul, the Black Sea, and mountains. I got a couple of pictures of that, too. We took a Rick Steve's book on Istanbul that my professor just loves, and completed a walking tour of the tourist part of the city. We visited the Hagia Sophia (pronounced hi-ya sofia), the Blue Mosque (which is incredibly famous; look it up), the Basilica Cistern (awesome underground cistern that used to hold some 27,000 gallons of fresh water for Constantinople), and the Hippodrome, which is where chariot races were held back in the day. That was probably the most boring of the sites: nothing remains; a paved road now covers the track and it's essentially just a park now. We ate lunch at another overpriced, Rick Steves recommended, Turkish cafeteria, where I ate "Vegetables and Meat in Paper." It was actually pretty good. Then we walked a few more blocks to the Grand Bazaar, which I only took two pictures of, but I will try to go back and get more because I have never experienced shopping quite like this anywhere else in the world. It's a giant building that is decorated in the Turkish tradition with brightly colored, patterened ceilings and arching doorways. Another student, Rachel, and I wandered around for about a half hour before we were completely lost and suffering from sensory overload. The men who own the shops stand outside in the halls and make comments in English to you and try to entice you into their shops. Every other store/stand consists of intricate lamps and orbs or jewelry cases that are lit like the sun. Everyone is hustling and pushing past you and all mumbling in a thousand different languages. Though we did not make any purchases, it was probably one of my favorite parts of the day.

So now I've brought you up to speed on my trip thus far, and I'm sure I've also bored you quite a bit because it's such a long post. In the future I'll try to save you some time and be more concise. :)

I miss you all so much, and I can't wait to share more stories about my adventures with you. Be on the look out for more entries and pictures in the next few days. I'm going to try and keep up as much as possible.

Love,

Dana

Posted by drhoades 06:05 Archived in Turkey Tagged tourist_sites Comments (6)

At JFK awaiting my trans-Atlantic flight..

sunny 52 °F

Today is the big day. I woke up at 2:30 this morning to catch my first flight from Columbus to La Guarida in New York at 6. Needless to say, it's only 10 am and I'm already exhausted. I can't wait to just get on my flight and fall asleep.

I was really nervous when I got to the airport in Columbus. Excited and nervous. My mom and I started crying when we got to security and they had to leave, but then, once I got up to the security point where they check your I.D.'s she told me I had the wrong terminal. So I had to turn around and say my goodbyes all over again, which was sad and pathetic. I miss everyone already; it's hard not to think about it when there is nothing going on. I'm sure once I get to Istanbul and start all these new adventures I won't feel as bad.

I've only had a few minor hiccups so far, nothing that should cause anyone to worry. I am safe and happy! :) My main concern at the moment is curing my boredom. Six hours in the airport by myself doesn't exactly make for an exciting time. Maybe I'll wander over to Burger King and eat some saltines with ketchup and mustard on them. (For those who get that reference). I am looking forward to talking with everyone about Europe once I get over there. I love you all very much and I miss you already!

Love,

Dana

Posted by drhoades 03:17 Archived in USA Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Getting ready.. 5 days and counting down!

sunny

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to write a quick post and break in the new site. I hope it's easy to navigate and everything. I tried to find a simple one for all of my technically-challenged friends and family. :)

My excitement is growing rapidly. I can't believe my trip is finally here! It's a little stressful, running around getting everything ready to go, but overall it hasn't been too bad.

I hope everyone is well, and I hope you all plan on be on Skype ALL of the time so we can keep in touch. I'll write again from Istanbul!

Love,

Dana

Posted by drhoades 17:09 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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