Me & Russell really like cats, I did have to convert Russell but our lovely Cat Marilyn made the job an easy one. However, we no longer own Marilyn as our next door neighbour stole her by luring her into her house with sausages & chicken.
When we came to Istanbul we expected to be here a week. 20 days later I am writing this in Taksim, Istanbul while we wait to go to the airport to fly to India. It's safe to say we have been here a lot longer than we ever wanted. However, we are both really glad as we could have easily have left Istanbul underwhelmed.
We have just returned from the lovely embassy with our passports stamped & ready for our flight to Delhi in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Estimate amount of time spent obtaining the visa is a shocking thirteen hours. On Tuesday we were wondering what to do with the day. Cat suggested that we pay the embassy a visit :)
Istanbul's Galata bridge has spanned the Golden Horn since the sixth century AD. What we cross today is the 5th Galata Bridge. The latest version was built in the 1990's. It connects the old city with the more Western districts to the north.
A Journey between Occident & Orient Istanbul is a transcontinental city. The city straddles Europe & Asia separated by the Bosphorus strait. After our breakfast, we took an inexpensive commuter boat ride from Eminonu port on the European side & landed in Asia within 30 minutes. On arrival you would expect a "Welcome To Asia" sign. But you receive nothing of the sort. The Asian side of Istanbul was very much like the European side. Same street food vendors, same shops, bars & restaurants. The only difference I noticed was that it was a little cheaper. A Simit (think Turkish bagel) costs 1TL (30p) on the European side & is half that price on the Asian side.
We had our appointment at the embassy on Friday 20th September. Catherine's application was accepted & we await the return of her passport. I wasn't so lucky. There was a tiny mistake with my application. I returned to the embassy this morning the mistake corrected & the application was accepted. The nice lady at the embassy agreed that I could pick the passport up at the same time as Cat & not have to wait the standard 4 working days. We fly to India in 7 days :D Oh, the tiny mistake. We forgot to add my middle name to the application. We were kicking ourselves but still a little relieved that that was the only issue with the applications.
8 days ago we travelled from Bulgaria to Turkey by coach. We found information on line saying that the travel time could be 7, 8 or maybe 14 hours depending on the border crossings & traffic. For this reason we didn't book any accommodation but did note down the address for a hostel which had competitive rates, ace location & great reviews. It also had a 30 bed dorm room. Which we would later count & come to the magic number of 34 beds. It took 2 coaches, 2 tube rides & ages walking around with crap directions to come to a total travel time of 13 hours. If we exclude the waiting times for buses & the time it took to get to our hostel so just the Bulgaria to Turkey bit, I would estimate a 9 hour journey.
"A tourist visa may be issued for three to six months. The duration of the visa is at the sole discretion of the Issuing Authority. All visa fees once paid are non-refundable irrespective of the outcome of the application and duration granted. The validity of the visa begins from the date of issue by the High Commission of India and not from the date of travel" - Official Indian Visa Information website
As a kid I went on 3 summer holidays to Bulgaria, 2 of these were to Sunny Beach. I wasn't too keen on the idea of going back, it was ok but not what we're looking for on this trip. However, after looking online for ages it was the only place on the way to Istanbul that was a viable option. Mainly due to accommodation. In Sunny Beach we got a nice hotel with a pool right in the centre for £7.50 pppn. When we were in Sofia I mentioned Sunny Beach to 1 of the hostel staff and she said "don't go there, it's horrible" so it's fair to say we weren't expecting much.
Skopje is Macedonia's capital city, pronounced Skop-yay. It has an identity crisis for sure. It has double decker red buses like London, an arch just like the Arc De Triomphe in Paris & crazy huge statues with dancing waters like Vegas. I LOVED it.
Ohrid was like...(over the top voice) soo a mazing! Bitola not so much. Wasn't overly impressed at first. But that soon changed. We even found some night life. The first bit of real night life since Croatia.
What Russell didn't mention in the previous post was that we had been getting really tired of travelling every few days, lugging round the backpacks searching for hostels with crappy directions. We had wanted to find somewhere to stay put and relax for ages, we did think maybe Montenegro could be that place but Montenegro use the euro so it can be expensive, there's nothing relaxing about worrying about what you're buying and how much the hostel costs.
Although Montenegro was lovely and I'm sure the rest of the country would have been gorgeous we had just had enough of being in expensive countries. It's really annoying paying £1.50 for a small bottle of water.
When booking Lake Ohrid we decided this is the place to rest so we booked 5 nights - boy we were so glad we did!
After Kotor we decided to visit Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. Macedonia was never on the list, we knew nothing about it and we couldn't have even said where it was. While we were away we saw a tweet by Adventurous Kate saying how cheap Macedonia is so that roused our interest. We consulted a map and saw that it is completely on the way to Bulgaria so we decided we would put Macedonia on the list. When we arrived in Kotor the guy on reception at the hostel asked where we were going next and we said Macedonia, he recommended Lake Ohrid and Cat had Lake Ohrid in her phone as someone had previously recommended it (she can't remember who though). Taking people's recommendations has worked really well so far so the decision was pretty much made.