Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hello from Singapore!

     When I was in Southeast Asia earlier this year, I always wanted to go to Singapore.  As I talked to more and more people, they said it was a beautiful city but not much to do there.  I decided that it was unnecessary for me to spend a lot of time in this country, so I set up my flight to Sydney so that I had an 8 hour layover in Singapore.  I love nature so a place that is famous for being a city just wasn't for me long term.  Luckily, the airport offers a free 2 hour tour.

     Singapore is really beautiful!  I am definitely glad I got to see it this way because I really don't have a desire to go back.  It is a small place, nice for a layover visit and that is it for me.  Amazing architecture and it feels very clean.  Lovely city both in the day light and at night.

     If you ever need to have a layover for a flight, pick Singapore!  The airport is entirely set up for long layovers.  There are places to get massages, snooze lounges, places to shower.  There is a koi pond and butterfly room.  It was truly remarkable, I was shocked by how this airport was laid out.

"I've always enjoyed traveling and having experience with different cultures and different people. But it's also a wonderful thing to be able to benefit and enable research, not only in our country but around the world". -Laurel Clark

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hello from Turkey! Istanbul

     Where do I begin?  What a way to leave Europe!  Istanbul is absolutely amazing!  My time there was phenomenal and I already miss it.  Istanbul is everything everyone has told me and more.  I had always planned to come here on my trip, but there were riots occurring earlier in the year.  Coming here continued to stay in my mind and when it was time to book a flight to Sydney, luck would have it that Istanbul was the cheapest.  I was so happy!

     I flew from Bologna to Istanbul on September 10, 2013.  I arrived in the early afternoon and took the metro to my hotel.  Istanbul is very European and their metro system is just as great as London's and Paris's for example.  Very simple to map out and connect into the main attractions.  The first evening I stayed in the hotel as I was unfamiliar with the city and tired.

     I had 3 full days in Istanbul.  The minute I walked around, I already regretted only giving myself so few days.  There is so much to see!  Istanbul is the 2nd most populated city in the world behind Mexico City.  I definitely plan on coming back and also seeing more of Turkey!

     My first day I took a boat tour on the Bosphorus Strait.  One of the workers was kind enough to invite me to stay in the front of the boat with the Captain.  They let me Captain the boat!  How cool is it to have driven a boat on the Bosphorus Strait, between the continents of Europe and Asia right where the Marmara Sea meets the Black Sea?  Pretty damn cool!  I also had such a great time speaking to these men.  Although we had a language barrier, we were able to communicate quite well.  Luckily another guy came in who was able to translate for us.  I saw pictures of their children, heard about their jobs and travels.  It was really great!  One thing that saddened me though was that the Captain of the boat was never able to travel to America.  He said he has traveled all over the world, but the States has still never approved his Visa.  He said that they treat him like he is some bad guy.  This is a lesson to everyone out there to STOP STEREOTYPING!  Not all Muslims are bad 9/11 terrorists!  Not everyone from the Middle East are horrible people.  There are good and bad people of all races and religions...END OF STORY!  This really broke my heart and I felt like I needed to apologize to him for my country.

 Blue Mosque

 Hagia Sophia


 Turkish food is amazing!

 So is Turkish tea!

 Turks are famous for their carpets.

     After the boat ride, I made a new friend named Ferhat.  He was kind enough to take me around to see some parts of the city I would not have seen on my own as a tourist.  That night we went on a cable car up the mountain to see a panoramic view of the beautiful city.  It was truly amazing!

 Amazing views!

     My second day, I went to the Blue Mosque.  This Mosque is beautiful inside and out.  It was interesting to have to wear a head piece as I haven't done it before.  I don't know how these women wear all these clothes in hot countries.  I was sweating like crazy with the head piece on in a matter of minutes.  After this, Ferhat put me on a free bus tour and I got to see more of the city.  There were some really great views as we drove along.  We also crossed the Bosphorus Bridge and I went from Europe into Asia in a matter of minutes.  It was so great!

 Korean exhibition occurring.

 Entering the Blue Mosque

Bus tour! 


 My favorite corn cooking brothers!

     My last day in Istanbul I went to Topkapi Palace first thing.  It is a beautiful place with a lot of artifacts.  One of my favorite parts was seeing the paintings of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire.  This part of the world is so rich and full of history as well.  Truly amazing!  I went to the Grand Bazaar which was filled with great products of Turkey.  Unfortunately there was too many people and I was being hassled every 5 seconds by men, so I had to make a run for it.  The Turks definitely make a girl feel beautiful, but after a while it just gets old and annoying...  I went to Hagia Sophia and saw a few mausoleums.  After wandering around and seeing more of the city, Ferhat took me for a goodbye dinner before I needed to catch my flight.  It was so great meeting him as I had a local friend and through him I made other friends.  It was a wonderful time and I'm so grateful to you Ferhat!

 Topkapi Palace

 Grand Bazaar

 Hagia Sophia Mausoleum 

Gangnam Style

 Goodbye dinner

Ferhat and I


"If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul". -Alphonse de Lamartine