05/14/2010 - 05/17/2010 45 °F
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!