There’s one thing you notice almost immediately when you get to Istanbul, Turkey: everyone stares at you. That is, if you’re white, and bonus points if you’re blonde.

I arrived at 10am on a Wednesday, and as I descended onto the city in the Havas bus from the airport, I realized what a massive city I was about to attempt to explore. The cityscape is similar to San Francisco, but older. Wayyyyyyy older, and wayyyy less gentrified.

I was introduced to the biggest mall in Europe which we had to walk through to get from the Metro to Becca’s house and vice versa, and the incredible hills that flanked her apartment. Oh my god, the hills.

Our first location was the spice market, where we braved the crowds to admire all things Turkish and be harassed by shop owners guessing your nationality by yelling at you first in English, then German, then French.

self portrait in the ceiling mirror.

We walked through the city to find the Four Seasons Restaurant, where the girls had made dinner reservations,

stopping to admire the golden light shining up to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, and watch the call for prayer.

After the delicious yet, horrendously expensive dinner sans Crumbers (hi Christa!), we walked through Taxsim Square to meet up at a bar with some friends of Becca’s who are members of a Couch Surfing group.

Once Christa and I tired of telling our story of what we were doing in Istanbul to Turk after Turk who don’t really understand full English while our social butterfly floated around, we decided to climb out a window and hike up a spiral staircase to the roof.

We were met inside the bar by the owners who were none too happy about us climbing out the window. I denied it. They left us alone. We went home and I crashed HARD into the bed for a much needed night of sleep after 30 hours of travel and a full first day in Turkey.