And so, our journey begins.
After what felt like years of waiting (in reality about a year) and boring everyone we know with our excitement for this trip, we finally set off on what we hoped would be an epic journey around the world in about 18 months. Yes, we will be homeless and on the road for the length of two whole pregnancies. And hopefully no, we won’t have to experience a pregnancy during this trip.
In our minds, that means deserts (or desserts for Shama), mountains, nomadic people (anyone with a donkey and tent), lots of horse meat and kebabs… and a lack of toilet paper. And we’re trying to do this all on a budget of about £60 per day for all hotels/hostels, food, experiences and travel, so we won’t exactly be eating lobster every day. But we do intend to spend the money saved by staying in cheap accommodation on as many dishes as possible in each country – no point going this far from home to eat sandwiches in a hostel dorm is there?!
After a free flight (courtesy of Avios points), we landed in a city we already knew well and one we consider one of our world favourites, Istanbul. Knowing all about priorities we headed straight down to the backstreets off Istiklal Cadesi (Turkey’s answer to Oxford street) to squeeze in two huge plates of different dishes at a lokanta (Turkish canteen) which are dotted all around the city. It’s easy to think Turkey is all about kebabs, but look a little further and you can discover amazingly delicious vegetable dishes, elaborate stuffed creations and lots of freshly baked bread as the country is like one huge farmland. For about £3 we scoffed big plates piled high with Karnıyarık (a big aubergine stuffed with onions & mince meat, sarma (rice and mince meat wrapped in vine leaves – the Turkish ‘dolma’), Kuru Fasulye (a hearty white bean, lamb, tomato & red pepper stew), pilav (buttery rice) and Taze Fasulye (green beans cooked in olive oil and a tomato sauce, served lukewarm)… all washed down with a glass of refreshing Ayran, a cold salty yoghurt drink ideal for quenching thirst we’d developed since landing in 38 degree heat.
At this point I began considering how wise it had been to have only packed medium size t-shirts.
After the feast the previous night, we did the sensible thing and got our daily exercise in by walking the 2 minutes to the lift which magically transported us to the rooftop of our bargain hotel (By Murat Galata Tower, £20 a night if you’re wondering). Seeing as we’d done all this exercise and seemed to be in a land of food on a rooftop, we proceeded to make the most of the free Turkish breakfast on offer, whilst enjoying a view of the Bosphorus River, the old city (where all the iconic mosques are) and modern Istanbul. If you’re a brunch type of person, you need to visit Turkey to experience their famous Kavahlti breakfasts – a giant spread of eggs, thick refreshing yoghurt, platters of cheese, olives, juicy fat tomatoes (that just don’t taste like the sad Tesco ones back home), freshly baked breads, natural local honeys and jams, beef sausages and salamis (none of our pig friends here) and of course, savoury, slightly bitter çay (tea), that seems to the the national fuel of Turkey.
Our first ‘real’ day in Istanbul is a bit of a blur, only partly caused by the sudden 170% increase in daily calorie intake. We’d been here before and had a flight to catch that afternoon (“erm, wasn’t the the whole trip supposed to be one overland journey?!”) so skipped the main sites and killed time by wandering around the streets, wondering how Turkish people weren’t hugely obese, eating dondurma (a very elastic ice cream made by mixing ice cream with mastic gum to stop it from melting – genius) and drinking gallons of çay at little roadside cafes which were nothing more than a few tiny stools (think primary school) dropped from the sky in the middle of busy dusty roads. At times it felt like Shama was the only woman out and about, it seems like Turkish men spend the day drinking sugary tea (made by the women) and smoking. The only women we saw seemed to be at the market buying food or looking after young kids, with the rest (we’re guessing) at home busy cooking.
We have finally arrived in what is definitely a man’s world and whilst I could easily get used to being a Turkish man and sit around drinking tea all day, unfortunately Pamukkale is waiting for us!