Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Remember - Istanbul, Turkey

I've now been traveling for a good three decades and have been all around the world. Lately, thinking back a decade or two, the trips that I took on my own, I seem to have forgotten a lot about them. I never kept a journal, nor ever recorded anything. Photographs, with the digital age have been packed and are lying in a pile in the basement.

So, my new series would include looking back at some of the travels from the last decade and a half and simply jotting down what I do remember. It's going to be a mixture of personal thoughts and a bit about the destinations too.

To start off the series, we have Istanbul, Turkey. A college organized spring/fall break trip (can't remember) that I took along with my college friends... and here is what I remember;

I remember the fuss a student made because the plane we were going on was not Lufthansa (as stated in the itinerary) but a code share with a lesser known airline.  

I remember that on the way back, the same student ended up buying a little model airplane of the low-cost airline.

I remember the excitement and also the anxiety as I was traveling with college mates, but we were all new, so no one really knew each other that well (which would change by the end of the trip ;-)

I remember the Goat Heads displayed outside the restaurants. It was my first time ever finding about this delicacy. I did not have the guts to try it then. I don't think I do even today.

I remember the leaking hotel ceiling when we came down for our very first breakfast. Apparently toilet papers are not to be flushed, and since they were, there was major blockage.

I remember being fascinated by a culture that was such a wonderful fusion of both old and new.

I remember for first time being in a country whose culture and traditions and thinking to an extent resembled that of my own (Indian). Later on I found a number of similarities between the Indian and Greek cultures too.

I remember the last minute room changes that took place on the first night, because certain people decided to "hook-up". I also remember that this "relationship" didn't last very long.

I remember waking up to a completely different roommate the next day because apparently more room changes took place once I had passed out.

I remember the little multicolored Turkish tea glasses. I also remember being shouted at and chucked out of a shop in the Grand Bazaar because while bargaining for the glasses we apparently quoted a ridiculously low price.

I remember feeling right at home in the Grand Bazaar. The hustle and bustle of Bazaar is just a facade because in reality it is so well organized. At least compared to some of the markets I have been to in India.

I remember that although the shop owners tried all possible techniques to entice us to buy something, they never harassed and almost always were very friendly.

I remember having one of those panoramic cameras which had a special kind of film and are pretty much obsolete now.

I remember not really feeling cold, having the sun shinning, and snow! Yup! we got snow along with sun.

I remember waking up in the morning to the smell of tires burning. People were burning them to keep warm during the cold morning. 

I remember the historical marvels like the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Hagia Sophia. 

I remember pulling a friend just in time as a car almost ran over her. It was a very anti-climatic saving a damsel in distress situation, something that I had envisioned to be much more dramatic in my dreams.

I remember strengthening my friendship with two people who I have remained friends with ever since. You know who you are, if you read my blog. If not, then I might have to re-think the whole friendship thing ;-)

I remember the one person who borrowed like DM 50,- from me during the trip and it took me a good 6 months to get it back.

I remember my friends get really excited as we drove across to the Asian side of Istanbul. For quite a few of them, this was their very first time in Asia. For me... meh!

I remember meeting and having a laugh with the locals at the nearby (to the hotel) club. I also remember learning how to do the Turkish dance which is done in a line holding hands, and the first and last person holds a handkerchief while dancing.

Lastly, I remember coming back to an almost empty campus (since we still had 3 days of holidays left) and just meeting with friends over some Turkish Tea served in brand new Turkish Tea glasses and gossiping about the previous few days.

That’s about it really. It's definitely more than I had imagined, but hopefully some of my friends who were on the trip read my blog and have a few memories of their own that they might want to add.

A special thanks to Sehar for providing me with photographs (except the very first one). These were taken at a different time and not during the trip.  

If anyone would like to take part in this series, please get in touch via Twitter (@raghavmodi) or email ( with your travel story in a format similar to above.


  1. A few comments on your article...

    We flew from Stuttgart to Istanbul on March 15, 1997. I think we were away for 5 days. The flight was operated by SunExpress, a "joint venture between Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa" (Wikipedia). I don't think we drove across to the Asian side. I know we took a boat one way across -- maybe it was on the way back though?

    Thanks for posting this, my friend!

    1. SunExpress, yup that's it. As for the crossing, I don't remember being on the boat but do remember being in a bus. So it might have been on the way back.

  2. I definitely remember a boat trip. I remember the toilet on the boat was a squat and the deck was wet -- making a challenging situation for some.

    It's funny that you posted this article now. Just Saturday night, at our staff ball, I was telling a friend about this trip and our first night in Istanbul when we went to a bar and all the lights went out. Candles were lit on the tables and each of the tables took turns singing songs. When it got to our table, the only song that we all knew and could think of was a Christmas song (can't remember which one). I don't think the guys in the bar knew that it was out of season though.

    I guess that's the mark of a good trip: nearly 15 years later (about half of our lives later too) we're still talking about that trip.

  3. thanks for sharing
    nice post

  4. Thanks chirag. Will check out your log too

  5. Wow! that's an interesting way to put up a travel account; makes it very crisp.

    1. Thanks... I should some more in the series coming up. Thanks for the comment.