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Brad’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 28 Jun 2005

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

MapAfter waiting for almost a month for my Iranian visa, it still hasn`t come through and I`ve decided instead of waiting around in Istanbul, I`m going to take off to Bulgaria for a few days!

My second stint in Istanbul has, I`m sorry to say, not been quite the amazing experience of the first, although I still have a wonderful opinion of the city itself. Having already experienced most of the really awesome things to do in the city, I`ve found myself feeling as if my trip is on hold and I am waiting to move on. I also had a few less than great experiences, including spending two days (no joke) trying to spend a package home, and having someone I trusted turn out (seemingly) to be only interested in parting me from my rather precious money - a great dissapointment. On top of that, last night I was very tired, and I only realised halfway through my meal what I was eating - brain soup! That came as rather a shock and have been feeling faintly sick ever since...

That said, I have had a great time going to the concerts on for the Istanbul International Music Festival. Including the final concert tonight I will have been to five (two for free - I snuck in for the second half!), and seen such awsome artists as The Academy of Ancient Music and The English Concert. It has also been really wonderful seeing Cihan again, he has promised to come to Australia in a few years. I think he`ll be that rare thing - a true friend who will stay in contact long after I leave Turkey.

I still maintain that Istanbul is a thoroughly excellent city, definitely somewhere I could live for a year or so. As the cliche goes, Istanbul is is an amazing mixing of ancient and contemporary, east and west - from ancient Aya Sophia to the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, from some of the most beautiful mosques in the world to the funky nightclubs and galleries on Istiklal Cadessi (my favorite street), Istanbul is an extraordinarily eclectic mix of cultures, histories and peoples. On top of that it has some of the most friendly people I`ve ever met - Like most places in Turkey, not a day goes past where I am not accosted with offers of tea from strangers!

So to recount a few of the events while I`ve been here, the major highlight was seeing Domabaçe Palace. It was the last palace used by the Ottoman sultans and is an unbelievable lavish building, ornamented to extremes. It contains a reception hall to rival a cathedral, complete with columns and the biggest chandelier in Europe, weighing four tons! I also visited the Istanbul Modern Art Museum which was really cool (although I like the galleries on Istiklal Cadessi better) and yesterday took a ferry the whole way up the Bosphorous to the Black Sea.

So tomorrow I am catching the bus to Sophia, the capital of Bulgaria, and depending how long it takes for my visa to get through, I may spend up to a week in Bulgaria (although hopefully not much longer) before coming back to Istanbul (again) to pick up my visa and heading pretty much directly east to Iran.