If you had asked me if I’d ever travel alone, especially abroad, my answer would have been short and simple “No ways”. I remember when one of my friends went to Zanzibar alone for his Birthday, when I saw his pictures on Instagram my response was “I wish I had even an ounce of your bravery”; little did I know that in less than a year from then I would find myself walking the streets of Istanbul like a local. What a liberating feeling. I got even more confident after meeting two other ladies that were also doing it solo, one from Denmark and one from Kenya.
I must say in Istanbul they have a very healthy transport system though there are some Taxi drivers that are spoiling it for everyone. During my stay I got hustled twice. First was on arrival by the taxi driver of the very first taxi I took from Taksim Square to the Hotel. What he didn’t know is that I had looked at the currencies and had a slight idea of how the conversions should look like, so when he wanted to hustle me 20€ I told him straight that that is not going to happen. This is the same guy that wanted to take a longer route so that he can charge me more but even then I was wide awake, I had checked the kilometres to the hotel and how many minutes it would take me, so using his phone I chose the shorter route than the one he had selected. Second one was the guy taking me to the airport, who wanted 10 TL on top of the amount reflected on the meter. If you’re sleeping, they will eat you alive out there. That is why it is of utmost importance for people to gather as much information as possible about the places they will be visiting before taking that next plane out.
The first two days after my arrival in Istanbul I used the Hop on – Hop off Big Bus which is something I recommend as it gives you a proper induction to the city. I got to see all of the famous attractions in Istanbul such as the Blue Mosque, Taksim Square, Grand Bazaar, Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace and the likes. Istanbul is such a busy city, and with the wide selection of tourists attractions that have a rich history that dates way back, it is the tourist’s haven. I must say when I first got to Istanbul, I was not impressed with the old buildings around the city. I just could not understand it until I got to know the history of the city a little better. Because Istanbul is surrounded by water, the people had to build very high walls keeping their structures away from any form of destruction by the waters.
They say the best way to learn about the culture of a nation is by interacting with the locals. Which is exactly what I did. On day 3, I decided to walk around the city and visit all the interesting places I went past. Because most of the places I wanted to see were in Morden Istanbul, this meant I will have to walk across the Galata Bridge. That was so intriguing for me because I had wanted to talk to the fisherman on the bridge so that’s the first thing I did. I met this lovely Gentleman José who was very friendly and volunteered to take my pictures as I was busy trying to get the best shots with my selfie stick. He told me that the fishing culture is very big in Istanbul, which then explained my next question that was going to be “why is it that people there like having a braai so much”. That kind man even showed me how to fish, unfortunately all my attempts were unsuccessful and I had to leave it for another day. However, from my observation I have concluded that people in Istanbul are generally not a friendly bunch, especially women; infact you almost feel like you are non – existent to them.
The best thing I did for myself was booking the Princess Island Cruise, the weather was nice and warm though it changed drastically on our way back. I met a lot of lovely people on that day excursion, Nelly from Kenya, a solo Traveller like me and Twins from India that were there with their Mother. We shared our travel experiences, the similarities and what sets our countries apart. The atmosphere on the islands is very relaxed and touristy, what I found strange but also appealing was how Turkish citizens also go out in scores every weekend to spend a day at the islands.
After the cruise it was time for me to go back to the hotel and prepare for my departure in the morning. We grabbed some street food and made our way back to the hotel. I enjoyed my stay at Movenpick Golden Horn Hotel in Eyup, the hotel lived up to it’s reputation. What I enjoyed the most is the fact that it was a bit out of town though it killed my pocket when travelling to and from town. The hotel however does offer complementary shuttle to town but sometimes the times did not fit in my schedule but it came in handy when I could use it. It was a very relaxing and rejuvenating holiday, it ticked all the boxes, put more fire to my love for travelling, inflated my confidence and yes, now I can safely say I am a solo traveller. I did it, one more ‘can’t’ turned into a ‘can’.