My first week

Posted on August 6, 2015


It’s been a baptism of fire trying to get into a routine here. Moving and living in a new city is an entirely different beast to exploring one for fun. The last 18 months have prepared me to hit the ground running so while i feel a bit out of sorts, it probably nothing like what some of the other newbies are experiencing. Sightseeing was put on hold for the first five days and practical things have taken priority.

Firstly navigating around the metro system and using the buses. If you want to save time, money and faffing you need one of these – an Istanbulkart. It’s like London’s equivalent to an Oyster card and will save you 50 per cent off standard fares. Trying to buy one in the first place is a ball ache as a lot of the underground stations conveniently sell out of them. Newsagents are your best bet. NO one speakes English unless you live in the tourist bubble where all the main attractions are.  

 Working out the bus routes to and from work in Turkish has been interesting. The DT1 and DT2 go direct to TRT World, to an area called Ulus, but everytime I get to the neighbourhood just outside of work (Ortokoy) I get kicked off the bus. You have to listen to annoucements as route change spontaneously (probably according to traffic which is horrendous at certain times), so you have to disembark or you’ll end up miles away. Still working on this….

I’ve joined a yoga centre. There is no Birkam studio over here sadly, which I am gutted about. But this new place will do for now. Ive been to four classes in my first week, two in Turkish (totally lost) and two in English (not so lost).

The weather is sweltering. 30 degreesat 8am, locals have said this is an unusally hot end to July. Ex pats are frying alive. I did a bit of filming on the roof for 30 mins and I could feel my face turning 3 shades darker. I’m washing clothes far more than I expected. Deciphering the washing machine needed help. I took a photo of the appliance and got one of the lads at work to translate for me.

This weekend I went flat hunting and squeezed in some sightseeing. There is no doubt the momuments are spectacular. Too many tourists at this time of year though. 

The bule mosque is  gorgeous and even more impressive at night. Inside however be warned, there is the overpowering smell of cheesy feet as everyone has to remove their shoes.

Aya Sofya used to be a Cathedral and is now a Mosque post Ottoman rule. It’s interior houses 11th Century mosaics and it incredible.

The Topkapi Palace really blew me away, this place is enormous and I will defintiely go back and spend an entire day there when I have more time.

Dress code is something that I have been playing by ear. I have seen Turkish girls wearing hot pants, mini skirts and off the shoulder numbers. Istanbul is not Turkey. So to some extent you can dress as a westerner in certian neighbourhoods, but obviously when visiting religious or conservative neighbourhoods modesty is required. Basically if you don’t channel “slutty” you should be fine.

Water. This you need lots of. I have been cooking in my apartment and I need to wash fruit and veg before using them. I have been going through 1.5l bottles almost every day. Buying anything requires Turkish. I have opted for the Mr Bean approach in the interim which is sign language. I found a guy local to me and by some miracle managed to pay and get him to deliver 19l of water for around £1.50 (6TL). Locals usually around pay 5TL and ex pats anything from 9TL upwards. 

I am not a moring person and I need coffee. It is the one thing that I absolutely have to have no matter what. Turkish coffee is brewed in water and drunk as is. The coffee I have had at restaurants is fine, but what I bought at the supermarket was revolting. I was held hostage and ended up forkin out a fortune (£6) for Illy coffee which isn’t even that good. Next problem, no French Press or coffee mugs (expresso cups galore) for love nor money. You know times are desperate when you start using coffee filter paper as makeshift tea bags (I did this in Congo so I’m now an expert) and buying footie merchandise. I’ve managed to buy soya milk but forget about anything else that is non dairy.

I have been in desperate need of a haircut and dye. The sun is so strong my hair is going blonde. I really don’t need to channel the Beyonce look so I took the bold move yesterday of going to a salon before my presenting shift (craaazy I know) that spoken no English to get a wash, dye, cut and blow dry. My experience deserves a blog post all of its own….!!

Posted in: Istanbul 2015