When I see Istanbul as the destination at my gate in the Munich airport, I can feel my heart pound in my chest and my jet lag disappears momentarily. I sleep through the whole plane ride until we begin to descend and I awake to a landscape dotted with mosques. I reunite with Mustafa in the airport and it’s so good to see a familiar face after days of travel. As we make our way into the heart of the city, our taxi rushes pass the majestic Blue Mosque and this confirms that I am indeed in Istanbul.
We meet with Mustafa’s cousin, Umut, and have a Turkish breakfast with the deep blue Bosphorus providing the background. After sleeping most of the day away, we head out to Takim Square for a “Islak Hamburger,” which directly translates to “wet hamburger” and is a burger made with mystery meat and dipped in a special red sauce. It’s surprisingly edible. Our first stop of the night is a popular hangout place around the Galata Tower, where young people socialize and play music (although it was currently ban by the local police for reasons unknown). Afterward we head down Istiklal Street, one of the main streets in the city that has many late night revelers and end the night at a reggae club complete with Turkish Rastas and a neighborhood blackout which cause an impromptu version of “No Women, No Cry” from the DJ and crowd.