I flew Turkish Airlines during for my trip to Madrid and Barcelona and on my leg back, I have an 8-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey. I was a bit nervous to leave the airport because of timing but I figured if I were conservative I could spend 4.5 hours and get back in time for my flight home. Lucky for me, the entire layover worked out perfectly! My friend and I took the train directly from the airport to the Sultanahmet train stop next to the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Dikilitaş Anıtları 2.
We stopped into some shops and quickly realized that the hustle game is strong. One guy asked us to see his shop and we kept saying no and that we were on our way to the Grand Bazaar. Then he said, “It’s on the way, I’ll show you.” So we followed him into his shop inside a mall, down the stairs and into a rug store with three other men in the room greeting us. One of the men looked like the boss and got up from his sofa to take my hand, kiss it and ask me to sit. We continued to say that we didn’t want to buy anything, that we didn’t have enough money but he insisted that it was only 650 Turkish Lira ($186) and we kept trying to tell him we didn’t have money or space. We moved towards the door and he eventually conceded and let us go free. Phew. Dodged a bullet.
I’ll be honest, between the extremely crowded train and hustling through the Grand Bazaar, I felt a little uncomfortable in Istanbul. The city had a lot going on which was tiring after an adventurous week in Europe, and on top of that, my friend and I were complete spectacles. While roaming the grounds of the mosque and museums, people continuously asked us to take pictures with them. It happened so much that we could barely walk 10 steps without the question. It started out amusing (I snapchatted a good 20 interactions to keep record on my story) but became overwhelming. We made our way back to the airport with no problem as the city continued living, hustling and bustling all around us.
Where should I go next? Perhaps Morocco.
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