Istanbul Part 2: Hello Sinan!

So upon arriving back in Istanbul, we headed straight to meet our couchsurfing host Sinan in Taksim Square. We had decided to couchsurf on our second weekend in Istanbul so that maybe we could see a different side of the city, a more social and less tourist-oriented one. He was a little late so Ellie and I snuck into a fancy hotel and waited in the lobby. We finally met up with him and he is a very unique funny guy who had just finished his undergraduate a few days ago.



We dropped our stuff off at his place where we got our own little room and then the three of us headed back to Beyoglu for some dinner. He took us to a place where we could find some decent and cheap veggie food. After a small tour of some of his favorite spots in Beyoglu and sneaking into an apartment building that houses the rich and famous of Turkey, we went back to his neighborhood where there isn’t a whole lot beside people’s homes and grabbed some Efes beers and walked down the street to meet his friends and girlfriend, Helin. Ogz, Adi and Helin were some of the nicest/funniest people and made us feel like we actually had friends in a city where figuring out people’s intentions can be tiring. Helin taught me a lot in my stay about the feminist thought in Turkey, as well as the veil and what it symbolizes to modern Turks. I always thought that those who wore the veil were considered better Muslims and maybe those who didn’t wear the veil wished they were more pious. Helin said that she sees those who wear the veil as less educated, normally with families from the countryside or small towns. I really enjoyed Helin’s company since she was honestly the first young Turkish female to talk to us on the trip thus far. She was so warm and receptive and made you feel like you were instantly her friend.

The next day, we hung around Taksim and Beyoglu and people-watched while drinking Chai lattes for most of the day. We were waiting to hear back from our friend, Ana who was on the cruise with us and who was finally in Turkey at the same time. She had to hang behind her group, who was set to leave in the morning because Iran didn’t approve her visa in a timely fashion and Sinan was nice enough to let her stay with him too. We finally got a hold of her about 45 minutes before we were supposed to go to a boat party with Sinan and she got over to 4. Levent in time to meet us and come along.

The boat party was meant to be a couchsurfing event and Sinan, being the Couchsurfing ambassador of Istanbul was helping organize it. It was also supposed to be a going-away party for this one girl who was big into couchsurfing as well. We arrived very early so we could ride on the boat from its docking point all the way down the Bosphorous to Besiktas where it would pick up the other estimated 200 passengers. Apparently, there was some problems with the occupancy limits on the boat and the amount of people who RSVPed and the going-away girl went into super bitch mode about who were her friends and who wasn’t and who she wanted on the boat and who she didn’t. Her attitude tainted the trip for ½ hour before Ana, Ellie and I got over it and started drinking some wine. About 150 people came aboard the boat at Besiktas, all affiliated to couchsurfing in some way, and we had a lot of fun.

The Boat

Ana and Kelly

Ana and Kelly


Lots of dancing, drinking and revelry ensued until 2 am when I had definitely had enough to drink and enough dancing and the boat pulled into the harbor. We got a cab back to Sinan’s and slept in the next morning.

The next day, Ellie, Ana and I went to Parsifal for veg food and then took a ferry to Kadikoy which is on the Asian side. (see:  We sat outside of a cute bar under a tree canopy, smoking nargileh pipes and talking to Mehmet, a very curious and nice local who wanted to tell us about his dreams of living a life just like the one pictured on The O.C. We tried to discourage this Bukowski loving, gentle human from Orange County and maybe more towards NYC, but alas changing someone’s dreams was not on our Sunday agenda and we met up with Sinan and friends for a walk around Kadikoy. I LOVED Kadikoy compared to the rest of Istanbul. It was like people actually lived in this area and there are parks, restaurants, shops and normal everyday things, as well as the cities only known alternative scene. Kadikoy just felt youthful and fun.

kadiköy at sunset

kadiköy at sunset

We walked along the river, playing on strange exercise equipment that can be found in every Turkish park and having the pleasure of playing a very strange game where you attempt to shoot a balloon off a string with a BB gun and where there no prizes to be won. After a long day of walking around, we went home and fell asleep after packing for the flight to Bodrum the next day. Istanbul was a city that sometimes took more than it gave, but I feel like it’s worth a visit for sure.


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June 2009
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