“From Europe to Asia”: Turkey through the eyes of the 18 year old Kiwi version of Karl Pilkington

And so I arrived in Istanbul, ready for three and a half weeks of backpacking with my 18 year old brother who – to put it gently – was a travel novice. He had arrived the day before me and in a 24 hour period had managed to get himself trapped in a carpet store for an hour, unable to escape the forceful owner. Rather than walking out, he decided to haggle for the fun of it, which ended in the owner screaming at him to “GET OUT!” after Jackson told him he didn’t actually want a carpet when the owner agreed to his low price. Two days later, walking the streets of Sultanahmet, we had to make a run for it when Jackson spotted the carpet man.

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Tourist? Jackson? Never.

During our three nights in Istanbul, we did all the normal touristy things:

– the Blue Mosque at night (nothing like sitting there in wonderment at the achievements of humanity, only to have your companion say “That bird just shat on the mosque. That’s not very respectful. He must not be Muslim.”)

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– the Aga Sofia (generally held to be one of the most magnificent buildings in the world, which Jackson felt “could do with a bit of tidying up”.)

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-the 5 hour ferry crossing of the Bosporus from Europe to Asia (Jackson’s favourite moment was feeding the street cats bread during our stop for lunch)

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Freezing our butts off on the ferry ride

-the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar, both incredible for the colors, noise and sheer size.

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My favourite touristy to do in Istanbul was the Basilica Cistern, an underground testament to good engineering. It is eerily lit and beautiful in a strange, aqueduct kind of way. It was peaceful and a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Sultanahmet, the main touristy area in Istanbul.

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While in the Cistern, we took the time to take this highly sophisticated and not touristy in any way whatsoever photo;

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We enjoyed several sheesha sessions during those first few days in Turkey and were dismayed to later discover that one hour of sheesha is equivalent to smoking 200 cigarettes – although it explained why both of us were having more issues than usual walking up hills.

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While enjoying our time in Istanbul, I begun constructing prospective routes for our month-long trip, quickly turning to despair when I realised just how big Turkey was and how much we would have to miss out on. Never to fear, Jackson the Travel Guru had sage and wise advice: “It’s fine, just go to that one with the shorter bus journey. They’re all the same anyway.”

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I’ve never been a tea drinker but Turkish tea won me over…

The quotable moments continued with my suggestion of a Kurdish family home-stay (sadly cut out due to expense), which was met with;

“Yeah that would be dece. I wonder if they have free internet?”

Followed shortly by;

“Are there any McDonalds in Kurdishland? I need free wifi man.”

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In fact, the first few days in Turkey were an endless joy of provoking Jackson with talk of overnight buses, longdrop toilets and no alcohol and hearing what New Zealand’s answer to Karl Pilkington had to say about it all. His realisation that backpacking isn’t one endless string of boutique hotels and fine dining were a joy to behold.

Stay tuned for the continuing tales of Jackson’s introduction to the backpacker lifestyle…