Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Istanbul - Big Danger!

Ebe and I were more than siked as we boarded one of the shittiest trains we've ever seen to Istanbul. The train was cramped, crowded, and unfortunately for us, we had two old Romanian broads in our cabin with us who decided to make it their own.

We eventually made it into another couchette (a cabin with 6 sleepers) with some Kiwi friends of ours, and thought the rest of the night would be nice and relaxing. After a stop in Bulgaria where a loud cackling woman from Cyprus joined our cabin, we were informed that we had to wait in the middle of nowhere for five hours until another train joined up with us from Serbia.

So instead of getting in to Istanbul today at 8:00 AM, we rolled into town at 1:00 PM and super tired. Unable to sleep during the night, I struck up a conversation with a Turkish man and his wife, who explained to me that "Istanbul, big danger." They then charaded out the gestures of drugs and pick pocketing... thanks for the advice!

And once we were in the city, a phrase we heard too much in the beautiful streets of Istanbul was "Spend money here please?" White people walking around must look like huge dollar signs to most vendors. Luckily it just makes Ebe and I feel popular. It's when they don't talk to us that we get down and depressed.

Unfortunately they do hawk out some nice things and we've taken the bait a few times... but for a much lower price! It's hard to believe how much lower we've bought some things with a little "haglin." It's the first place we've actually gotten mementos due to the price and the fact that everything is so frickin cool (look out for our mini-rug which will really tie the room together) and fez!

Much like Bucharest, Istanbul also has domestic animals gone wild... kittie cats! That's right folks, you can't walk around a corner here without seeing an adorable little kitty witty.... or one that's on it's last legs with mange.

Which brings us to our last topic... food (some guy joked with us that we could catch a cat to eat)! We've been eating tons of good stuff so far in Turkey, but alas no turkey. But to hell with turkey, because they have much better things to eat, such as: fresh fish sandwiches, misir (BBQ corn), kebabs, olives, feta, baklava, Turkish delight, and tons of other stuff we don't even know the name of. Hopefully our next destination treats us so well.

UPDATE from the future (May 17th, 2012)

We loved Istanbul. A lot. I was honored to write a guest post on Perking the Pansies about our experience in Turkey, but there is nothing like a picture.

Train to Istanbul

travel to Istanbul
Sleeping Car on the train
Visa to Turkey!
Istanbul pretzel vender

Mosque in Istanbul

Grand Bizarre spice

Istanbul Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

old Turkish woman
bird seed vender Istanbul

Istanbul pigeon

Apple tea in Istanbul

cat on the beach

We can be a bit squeamish about fish, but how could we not buy a fish sandwich with them catching the fish, grilling, and selling right on the water?

We got sick the next day. Although it was probably from water we drank in Romania...probably. We became best friends with the fancy toilet in the hostel.

And every other toilet in the city. It wasn't pretty.

Istanbul squat toilet.
Turkey requires military service from its citizens and as we embarked for the coast, several Turks were on their way to train. We felt extraordinarily lucky to be able to observe their celebrations in sending off their friends and family.

Turkish celebrations
Turkish celebrations

It was amazing. We loved it. Ian - when are we going back?

Full set of Istanbul photos and the trip hit list.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sighisoara - The birthplace of Dracula

Romanian train stop
Despite the terrible train ride, Romania has been amazing & we will be back. An unexpected and not entirely pleased delay of an overnight in Bucharest has turned out to be a lot of fun & we met a few people that will ride the same 20-hour train with us to Istanbul today. Yes- 20 hour. I guess we really do want to go to Istanbul. 

The hostel here has kittens that have been so much fun. Ian accuses me of being crazy cat lady, & I try to keep the cooing down, but everyone is playing with them.

Also, pics are coming up. Slowly and haltingly, pics of Sighsoara have started to appear. more to come as time & internet access allows.


Sighisoara was ramshackle, beautiful, rustic, exhilarating, and one of the most aline places I've ever been. On our whirlwind month trip between a year living in Berlin and returning home to Seattle, We didn't have the time to give it it's due here, but it deserves it.

Billed as the birthplace of Vlad Țepeș, also referred to as Vlad the Impaler or even more commonly as Dracula, this place is wonderfully remote. A tourist attraction for vampire seekers, the place is beautiful in it's on right and it's citizens just move around the hordes of visitors like bats in the night sky. 

Eastern Europe HostelAs we found with many off-the-path destinations and hostel living, you can make fast friends. We loved Nathan's Hostel & it's friendly manager Lummi and e were quickly surrounded by a group of random travelers. Ola, an Aussie on the road for years, an Austrian adventurer, and even a truck driver from London who summered in this strange city. Nathan's has a website, but it appears to be down. Anyone know if it's still around?

In the meantime - I'll leave you with some of my favorite pictures....

Eastern European Church

Romanian beer

street Romania

Eastern European castle

Romanian dancing

Easter European stop

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Same Bad Trip"

....says French youth on train from hell. Before boarding the train, many were told, "no reservations necessary." Upon arrival of the train, Romanians and Hungarians alike fought to gain entry first onto the train. One scared American couple were quoted as saying, "these bastards are crazy, let's go over to that one!" Alas, no relief was to be found.

After being shoved out of one compartment that was reserved, the afore mentioned couple took refuge in two seemingly open seats. They soon found out that one seat was reserved by a kind Romanian woman; however, due to her niceness, she allowed them to stay. It wasn't to last long. Crazed French rollerblading youth soon bordered the car, singing out of date American pop music and drinking beer and vodka, and started terrorizing the peace loving inhabitants of the train.

At this point, said train was completely full, and Romanian woman requested seat back. American girl sat with American boy and other nice on one seat, thanks to another nice Romanian woman scooting over. American boy was very uncomfortable. After being told by a French youth, "speak English. Same bad trip." No shit thought American couple, or no merd.

This was basically a short news clip of the train we took from Budapest to Sighisoara, except with less sleep, more angry ticket and border police, and one ridiculously hot porn star Romanian border guard... yikes! Reservations... ha, methinks yes next time.

More stops on the TRIP.....

Friday, August 22, 2008

To elaborate on yesterday....Budapest

What I mean by,

was that his planning for the day left us hiking up to the top of a Budapest's hilltop Citadel with no food and wandering the streets aimlessly for hours! Not the best of ways to stay friends with your girlfriend. Luckily, we re-grouped, went to a grocery store, bought a jar of pickles, apple juice, and some rolls and feasted. Why those things? We were hungry and hunger thinks all food is beautiful.

Hungarian Pickles

Budapest has been interesting. We thought we were really going to like it and it was still going to be pretty cheap & it has hit more on the OK meter. Maybe it's not Budapest- it's us. Whatever the case, we have enjoyed the architecture and strangeness, but haven't loved everything geared toward English speakers & touristy being so pricey and not being able to speak any Hungarian. We try, but it is much more difficult after being able to get around in German.

top of hill Budapest Hungary
This is how I was feeling about Ian before we ate
Budapest fortress
No food or water at this point - I wanted that cannon to go off

After our emergency grocery meal, I was feeling a lot more charitable about the city.

Finally - some goulash!

Europe Street Performers

Tonight we are off to Shigisoara, Romania where Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) grew up. We should be able to get into some small town nature and relax. Ahhhhhhh. Sounds great.

As we board the night train (which turned out to be the trip from hell, almost as bad as the 26 train to Istanbul) we will take care to cover our necks, put on the garlic necklace, and watch for bats as we enter Transylvania.


At the time we were a bit confused why the city didn't strike us. Looking back, it seems clear that a lack of planning and failure to take care of basic needs like food and water left us out of sorts. We arrived late after a perfect visit to Vienna, a city we had visited before and German speaking. To make matters worse, we had nothing reserved (only a tenuous couchsurfing option that didn't work out) and it was a national holiday. This was a crash course in what not to do, and for the rest of the trip we actually did much better.

Luckily, we got the got the chance to visit the city again with my parents and it was wondrous.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Hey everybody! ''Hello Dr. Nick...'' wait a sec, this isn't The Simpsons. Ebe and I both made it safe and sound to Vienna (or Vianer as the Viennese say it), and we are really enjoying our stay here. We got in around 8PM last night and headed over to a couple's house, who hosted us through CouchSurfing. Right when we walked in the door they had pasta ready for us, along with some tasty ice-cream afterward, and some good conversation.

The next day, after a good night's rest on Stephan and Heike's fold out couch, we hit Vienna with the force of a full blown hurricane ripping through Florida's trailer parks. Ebe finally had a dream come true, as we were able to visit the Spanish Riding School and see a morning workout. Unfortunately there were no airs above the ground, but it was still great to see such amazing horses and riders.

We'll be heading to Budapest later this evening, and we look forward to exploring all its nooks and crannies. We've gotten some great advice from our friends in Berlin, and we're looking forward to putting it into good use and seeing Budapest as the Kaisers we are!

Vienna highlights:


Vienna Rathaus


snow winter Vienna
Schönbrunn Coffee House

Schönbrunn snow

smiting statue

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008