Daily Wanderlust: Molla-Celebi Mosque in Istanbul

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Nic Freeman.

Istanbul’s European Bosphorus shore is so rich with inspiring structures, like the Dolmabahçe Palace and Ortakoy Mosque, that the smaller wonders are sometimes overlooked.

Sitting quietly by the waterside, near the Kabataş funicular and ferry stations, is the delightful Molla-Celebi mosque, also known as Findikli Camii or The Hazelnut (by Brandon). Quaint by Istanbul mosque comparison, Molla-Celebi was built by famous Turkish Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan, in the mid 1500s and remains a popular place of worship today.

The lean minarets and elegant dome of Molla-Celebi are best enjoyed from one of the nearby waterside ice-cream cafes, as the dying sun reflects from the Bosphorus Straight.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Istanbul By Night

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Nic Freeman.

As the sun sets in an amber haze over the horizon of lego-like buildings and mosque minarets, Istanbul transforms into a glowing mesh under the night sky. From one of the many rooftop terraces across the city, you can admire the sparkling beauty of Istanbul’s lights as they reflect off the mighty intercontinental Bosphorus Straight (by brandon). You can ponder how many millions of people are staring at the same starry view from terrace tops and how many people are wandering the neon-lit streets below.

To capture the essence of Istanbul in one night, enjoy the city views while eating mezze and drinking a glass of raki from a terrace bar in the thriving modern district of Beyoğlu.

Istanbul by night - looking over the Bosphorus and Marmara Sea

Istanbul by night – looking over the Bosphorus and Marmara Sea

 

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar

Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar, also known as Mısır Çarşısı, is one of those attractions visitors should put on their itineraries. Built in the 1660’s, the bazaar is one of those places which simply mesmerizes.

It’s crowded. The people inside stroll from each business, stopping to sample the Turkish Delights, to capture the images of the pops of color on display in the form of magenta and gold spices, dried flowers, stacks of homemade soaps, tea leaves and more. They chat with the shop owners and try to get a good deal on their purchases. Often times, the crowd spills to the outside of the bazaar, too, where even more stands await offering juicy figs, hanging displays of various Turkish spices, fresh-caught fish and more.

Getting lost physically in the bazaar isn’t easy (unlike the Grand Bazaar down the road), but it is easy to get swept away in the colors, the atmosphere, and the sweets and spices on display.

I know I did. Twice.

This photo comes from the Spice Bazaar.

(And here’s a post I wrote about Turkish tourist spots for your additional reading pleasure)

 

Destinations Turkey

Escape of the Week: A Turkish Camel

Turkey has some serious bus stops. Like, serious. These huge facilities greet thousands of visitors a day and come complete with restaurants, shops, pay-to-pee squat toilets, and more. They even wash the buses quickly when passengers disembark to stretch their legs.

On the first day of my Fez Bus Tour through Turkey, we stopped between Istanbul and Canakkale to give the bus driver a rest AKA spend money on food and random Turkish trinkets. At this particular bus stop, which was surrounded by endless sunflower fields, there were some animals kept behind awful white bars, on display for everyone.

I loathe animals being treated with anything but love and respect, so was pretty peeved when I saw a camel and an ostrich contained in small spaces. I walked up to the camel and was immediately touched by its friendly demeanor and beauty. I guess after seeing so many people each day, it was pretty domesticated.

Of course, when the camel popped its nose out towards my face, batting it’s long-lashed eyes, I had to snap a picture.

Destinations Turkey

The Jungle Princess joins the Adventure

The first time I met Abby was in Las Vegas about four years ago. She was an editor and I was a publicist, so we had a few lunches and swam in some of the same circles of the Las Vegas social scene.

I never imagined the next time I would see her would be in Istanbul.

But, it was.

She and I had stayed in close contact the past year … sharing our thoughts about travel, our mutual support of the travel blogging world, and had talked about possibly doing a meet-up somewhere in my adventures.

When she found out her time living in Costa Rica was coming to a close, she messaged me asking where I was.

And, then everything came together.

Three weeks later, she was jetting from her pueblo to the bustling city of Istanbul.

The night Abby arrived in Istanbul also happened to be Chris’ last night of his travels.

“We’ve got to celebrate your last night,” I announced to Chris.

So, Claire, Chris and I headed to Sultanahmed to find a shisha bar and get some drinks. Our first stop was The Sultan Hostel, where Claire was staying, for some large Effes, and then on to Top Deck to enjoy some shisha.

I didn’t think we would be out late.

But, we were.

As we sipped on way too sugar-y alcoholic concoctions, the three of us laughed the night away.

“I think Abby’s hotel is nearby …” I said, and then asked Sasha, the owner of the bar, where her hotel was.

“It’s right there,” he said, pointing around the corner. He grabbed me and guided me to the hotel, where I quickly penned a note to Abby, telling her to drop her bags and come and meet me … even if it meant she had to jump from three flights to a cab to a hotel at 1 a.m.

We sat on the outdoor cushions for another hour, each time a cab pulled up I would crane my neck to see if it was Abby arriving.

Then, a white van pulled up on the street and a girl with long, wavy light hair got out, I immediately knew.

Abby!

I jumped the rail and bounded to her.

“Hi!!” I squealed, grabbing her, so happy to see a familiar face and to have a friend from home in Turkey.

We ran to her room, dropped her bags, and then went back to Top Deck for a few more cocktails, closing the place down early in the morning.

For the next few days, Abby and I would grab our laptops, do some writing and then tour the city, hitting the Grand Bazaar and wandering, eating and drinking wine.

I had been in Istanbul nearly two weeks total by the time we headed to Bulgaria … I was ready to go and be somewhere new and to create new (and happy) memories.

We teetered on where we would go after Istanbul, deciding on Sunny Beach, which was rated as one of Bulgaria’s top beach destinations.

At 7 a.m. on a Friday morning, after two days of wandering Istanbul together, we met in the rug shop below Harmony, loaded our belongings into a cab and headed to the bus station (a massive cluster unlike anything I had ever seen before), and boarded a bus to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria.

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A love affair with Air-Con

I lived in the desert for four summers. The sweltering hot, Las Vegas desert.

When people would tell me it was worse on the East Coast, that at least it was not humid, I would always retort: “You may not think it is bad, but try blowing a hair dryer on your face non-stop for a summer. Then, tell me the desert heat is bareable.”

The only way I survived those brutal summers in Las Vegas was with my trusty, beloved air-con. I stayed inside until the sun crept low into the sky (and even then, outside was hothothot). If I had to go outside, it would only be to get me from Point A to Point B. Both of which blasted me with a cool shot of artificially cool air the moment I stepped inside.

Sweet, cool air.

After returning from the cooler Goreme in the Cappidocia region of Turkey, I was blasted with heat. The uncomfortable kind where sweat pours out of the body and pools.

I arrived back to Harmony Hostel (Canan, the girl who runs the hostel had e-mailed me earlier in the week telling me Harmony was my “second home, please come back,” so I did).

Chris, one of favorite Aussies and Romanian travel buddy, greeted me upstairs as soon as I arrived back following a 10 hour bus ride from Cappidocia to Istanbul.

It was so good to see him. A familiar face from the start of my travels.

“Hi,” he said, going to hug me.

I stepped back a bit.

“Chris, I am disgusting,” I said, covered in sweat.

He hugged me anyway.

We caught up that night, over a beer and some lentil soup (why I had hot soup is beyond me), then I retreated to my bed.

Holy shit. There was absolutely no air.

I laid down.

Stifling heat. Dripping sweat. I can’t sleep like this.

The last time I stayed at Harmony, I had a fan blowing in my face, making the summer heat bearable. But this time, no fan. No breeze. Just stale, hostel air creeping into every pore of my body, boiling water within me and oozing it out.

I tossed. I turned. I used the top sheet to wipe off the wet. I woke up at 7 a.m. when the sun came up and the heat, once again, blistered into the room.

I climbed up to the rooftop terrace, hoping to catch a break.

Instead, I was greeted with a big, blue backpack and three messages from Scotty on my Facebook.

Essentially, he was leaving Turkey and heading for greener pastures. He left his pack at my hostel and asked me to keep an eye on it, saying he would be by soon to come and hang out with me.

An hour later, I was greeted to his smiling face and big, blue eyes.

“Hi honey!” We both cooed. Granted, we had just seen each other last night, but we were so groggy, so tired, so achy from the bus ride … it seemed like light years since the evening before.

We sat online for an hour, trying to figure out when he would leave Istanbul and where he would go in the meantime.

“I just want a shower and cool,” I informed him.

“Come with me!” He said, eyes sparkling. “I’m getting a hotel room with air-con and a shower!!”

Sold.

We went and talked to Chris, who was taking it easy that day, and I was lured quickly to his hotel, a tram ride and a walk away.

During that 10 minute walk, carrying his day pack, I broke out once again in dripping sweat.

Gross.

We finally arrived to his room and the first thing we did was turn on the air-con.

“You shower, I am going to sort out my plane ticket out of here,” he instructed.

He didn’t have to tell me twice.

I got in the shower and just let the cold water rush over me, cooling me back to a normal temperature.

Then, Claire met me in the room and we both basked in the cool breeze the air-con was emitting, eventually both passing out for a catnap.

The next night in the hostel wasn’t so bad. I had an entire day to cool down. And then, the following night, Canan informed me I was sleeping in her room — with air-con. And, to make things even better, the next three nights, I was moved to a different room, where I took control of the AC remote and slept cool … sometimes too cool … but blissfully happy in my non-sweaty state.

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All aboard …

It was way too early when I woke up to head to the Fez office to catch my bus.

The sun had just risen and the clock hadn’t even pushed 6:15 a.m. when I strapped and hooked my bag to me and headed down those old cement stairs and through the carpet shop to take the tram to Fez.

I stood alone for a few minutes at the office, bags at my side, listening to an animated conversation taking place at the restaurant next to me where a tall, bleached blonde man and an older man with long, dark hair and a beret sat.

Then, Gus arrived, clad in a red Fez T-shirt, and introduced himself to me as the Fez Tour Guide for our Hop-On, Hop-Off experience. He would be my tour guide. We chatted for a few minutes about where we were from (Kangaroo Island) until the blonde interjected himself into our conversation.

I loved him immediately. Boisterous. Bubbly. Hilarious. Total diva queen.

“I’m Scotty, Queen of the Desert,” he said to me.

Love it.

Apparently, he had a late night out in Taksim the evening before, having just arrived home when I met him.

For the 45 minutes we waited before we boarded the bus, Scotty and I chatted away in the early morning Istanbul sun. And, when it was time to go, he loaded my bag, I handed him my business card, and he told me how to find him on Facebook.

I hoped I would see him again. Maybe even as my tour guide a few days down the line.

Seven of us, plus one teenager and Gus, boarded the bus, headed for Cannakale. After a night there, it was on to Kusadasi, where Gus had mentioned I could possibly work.

It sounded good to me.

When we arrived to Otel Panorama just up a little hill from the bazaar, it seemed OK. The rooms didn’t have AC, some of the sheets were soiled-looking and the showers were gross, but it didn’t bother me too much.

I spoke with Murat, the owner of the hotel briefly about working there and gave him my conditions — I wanted my own room and a day off. He told me he would think about it.

When Gus left the next day, I should have gotten on the bus with him but I wanted to see if I could extend my time in Kusadasi by way of hostel work.

If I knew then what I know now …

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