Friday, November 7, 2008

Slovakia, Turkey, and Serbia... Oh My

I'm in a good mood so I'm not going to say anything bad about Turkey. I'm also not going to gush on about it either.

Istanbul was a neat place to be as a Westerner. It's architecture and character are so far removed from what I am used to, it was definitely worth the trip. I do enjoy being placed in situations that are completely unfamiliar to me (it's why I chose Budapest after all) but it was a surreal experience being a white American female with blond hair and blue eyes. With no exaggeration, every person I went past stared at me. The only blonds I saw were bottle blond-Turkish women and they were rare.

Mosques were everywhere, and yes I did hear the prayer 5 times every day. I went into a few of them, the Blue Mosque included, and as a female I had to wear a headscarf before I could enter. The architecture was astounding. The patterns on the walls was so intricate I just sat there staring until my companions wanted to leave.

While we were there it rained the hardest it has ever rained in Istanbul, according to our host. There were rivers flowing in the streets. On the second day we were there we went back to Taksim to see Haji Sofia. I didn't want to go inside because it cost about $15 so Zoey, Arpad and I went to a coffee shop. We chatted and Zoey got Turkish coffee. We had never had it before so we didn't know that there are grounds in the bottom of the cup. Arpad told us that it's an old wives tale to eat the grounds and it makes you feel better if your sick. I tried them and they were pretty fine.. not bad taste-wise either.

Then we were on to Belgrade. Our train from Istanbul was supposed to take 22 hours, it took 34. There are supposed to be two trains from Sofia, Bulgaria to Belgrade, Serbia. No, no they combine both trains so instead of leaving at noon we left at 10pm. They wouldn't let us off the train either so we spent 10 hours in a train depot in Bulgaria. We got a great view of an abandoned building, some tenements, and what looked like a nuclear power plant.

This is one of the first impressions of Belgrade. The building used to be a military headquarters and was subsequently bombed by NATO. Beograd is so cool. I loved this city but it made me miss Budapest. I'm happy to be home now. It's weird that I consider Budapest home but it is and it was certainly a relief to come into the train station at Keleti and my walk home at 5am. It's started to get foggy in the city. When I wake up in the morning and the fog is so thick that I can't see the city from my city I get a little sad because it makes me realize how little time I have left.

Traveling also made me realize how little I know my own city so I have dedicated this weekend to being a tourist in a city that I have lived in for over 2 months now.

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