July 30th, 2007

Not Constantinople

I really tried to avoid any trite references in this blog entry. But, I simply couldn't do it. TMBG rocks!

I learned one new thing about Bulgaria on my way out of town. The food sucks. I had been misled by hanging out with a foodie vegetarian. Eating on my own, I learned that preserved meat (e.g., salami) sandwiches are a staple and that they think gyros need french fries.

There was one other disappointing thing about the country. There was a pretty lively sex industry there. I saw one shop called XXXXXL. It was a big and tall shop.

I took the sleeper car from Sofia to Istanbul. This was my first time in a sleeper car. There were six beds in the room and it reminded me of a small hostel. I shared a room with a Syrian doctor working in Serbia who spoke almost no English. The night was not particularly sleep filled. We were rousted up every few hours to deal with some border detail. Being mostly asleep, I hardly remember it, but I do remember that the visa office in Turkey ripped me of for a few dollars.

Istanbul is a city of 10 (wiki) – 16 (lonely planet) million people. It is dripping with history: it was the capital of the Roman empire for a while, it was the heart of the Ottoman empire, and it was even a victim of some of the crusades. Before arriving, I knew almost none of this. Everything that I knew about Istanbul I learned in Rome or from pop music.

The Blue Mosque is one of the most famous mosques in the world and is located here. It had a very different feel than it's equivalents from the Christian religion. The great Christian churches are huge and cold. This mosque was huge, but felt warm and inviting.

I stayed in a hostel in Istanbul. Strangely, 2 other people in my room had been traveling for over a year.