Originally posted July 24, 2013 by Svetopolis
Weaving in and out of traffic–-20 mph to 60 in two seconds, and then braking and weaving again to avoid hitting a motorcycle or slamming into the back of a truck-–this was our welcome back to Istanbul. As the good American I am, I instinctively reached for my seat belt. There were none in this taxi. My friend and I both looked at each other laughing-–partly out of the excitement of the experience and how crazy this taxi driver was driving, but also from the fear and nerves that Istanbul traffic induced.
Please stop driving like a maniac, sir, I thought. Of course, how do I say that in Turkish?
We both didn’t want to end up in the hospital, again. We had already had one visit today…
We arrived into Istanbul from Safranbolu earlier than we had originally planned. A small medical issue in Sanfranbolu took me to the hospital this morning. The visit wasn’t for anything necessarily life threatening. A weird allergic reaction I had to something… Food, environment, bug bite? Probably, I will never know… The hospital, by the way, was as modern and clean looking as any in the US, but the cost was far from what one would pay even for some co-pays. 110 Turkish lira ($50) for the visit and the meds were less than $5! Insurance companies are ripping us off haha… And doctors, in general, still need to work on bedside manner no matter where in the world… Because of this issue, we thought it would be prudent to get to Istanbul sooner than later. Too bad since we had plans to make it out to the Yenice Forest (which is almost impossible to figure out how to get there by train, in spite of what Lonely Planet says), and I was hoping to make it to the Black Sea town of Amarsa. Oh well, travel plans have been revised…
Safranbolu was an afterthought to our original travels through Turkey. Originally I had hoped to venture as far east as Tbilisi, Georgia. Those plans were vetoed by both of our parents. Then we thought the Sumela Monastery and Trabzon on the Black Sea, but once we started going on busses around Turkey (we’ve spent over 40 hours on them during this trip) and seeing times and distances, we decided on an alternative–Safranbolu.
Safranbolu is an old historic town, famous for its former saffron trade. Part of the town is built up with old, picturesque Ottoman era houses and mansions (they kind of have a Swiss Alps look to them). The town is set in the mountains near the Black Sea and has a lot of outdoor hiking in the area.
Though Safranbolu was a little out of the way and we had to leave early, it was still worth the visit. There were fewer tourists than elsewhere in Turkey. (Tons of East Asian tourists, strangely. Maybe they come for the cheap saffron?) Being off the beaten track and in a more rural area gave the town a bit more “authenticity.” It also made prices cheaper for hotels, food and souvenirs. At the same time, transportation was more difficult to figure out (a police car picked us up on the side of the road and drove us to our hostel), our accommodations were a bit more “rustic” (Turkish toilet that doubled up as a shower) and far less English was spoken (luckily, our Turkish is spot on after 3 weeks here).
- Kaymakamlar Müze Evi (Ottoman era house) tour = 4 tl (weirdest manikin displays)
- Hidirlik Parki = 1 tl (great views)
- A cup of saffron tea = 3 tl (or free at Dr. Mehmet Degerli’s “The Best Quality Saffron in the World” shop)
- A 2 course meal with a bottle of the local bubbly, Baglar Gazoz = 10 tl ($5)
Comment by Svetopolis July 31, 2013 at 10:01
Efe Backpackers Pension: Of all the hostels and hotels we stayed during our Turkey trip. This was our least favorite. The staff was not particularly friendly or helpful. While trying to get reservations, the staff emailed back with confusing messages and price quotes. When we eventually showed up, expecting to be in the dorm, they said that they only had a 2 person private room for that night. The room was clean and the bathroom was nice enough. The next day we moved to the dorm, which was pretty crowded feeling. The bathroom was also not very nice. It was a pit toilet and shower combo. Nevertheless, the hostel is located near the old town’s main taxi and bus stop (near the Turkish bath).
- 20 tl (6 person dorm, per person), 80 tl (2 person too with private bath), breakfast included