Istanbul; The gateway to Asia

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When I first came to Istanbul, I was surprised how overwhelming the city was. With a population of 12 million people and all the tourists who where there during the high season it felt like it was a New York of Eastern Europe. I don´t want too sound too cliché, but I must admit that I have fallen a bit in love with Turkey. 

Everything is cheap, people are really friendly and are offering to help (without wanting money afterwards, like in Bulgaria) and there is a lot to see (such as the great mosques, the Turkish dervishes and the catacombs), try (haggling at the spice & silk market, ride the hot air balloon and go up the Galata tower) and taste (Turkish delight, Turkish coffee and real kebab).

The first day I spent walking around looking at the touristy things on the European side, when I heard someone call my name. I then turned around to see a friend who I was studying with a few years ago in Norway and her boyfriend. We were both surprised to see each other in the second biggest city in Europe, and decided to have some beers by the view of the hostel rooftop and go to a couchsurfing party afterwards. There I also met people I had gotten to know in a hostel in Serbia, and I also found someone who was willing to host me the last nights in Istanbul. This guy lived on the Asian side of Istanbul, which was perfect as I then got to take the ferry over, and have someone guiding me through the part of Istanbul which I had not yet seen.
 
I feel like four days was not enough for such a huge city, and wish that I could use my whole three month Turkish visa to stay here in Istanbul.
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Rather bus than train in Eastern Europe!

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I must say that Sofia has been the biggest disappointment of my trip so far. After walking for 4 hours through the city center, I felt like there was not much more to see, so I decided to take the day bus to Istanbul. My reason for going by bus instead of train (which would be free with my interrail ticket) is that the trains here are not even comparable to the trains I am used to in Norway and West-Europe. The night train to Sofia had no lights in the whole train (the conductor had to use his cell phone when he was looking at the tickets), the train was overbooked, so there was noise and people in the coupés and hallways and the bathrooms were flooded with urine, which could be smelt through the whole train.
 
The 10 hour long day bus that I took had the standard of an international long distance flights, where there were two stewardesses who handed out snacks and drinks, there were bathroom breaks every two-three hours, people had their own individual screen with TV, radio, games and music, and the customs took less than half the time of what it did with a train. For me this whole bus trip has been more like a sightseeing trip through nice scenery, where I slept well and I read books while watching MTV the rest of the time.
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A Turkish trailerstop where they keep their chickens in the backyard and grill them in the restaurant in the front. This is also where I met my monkey friend above.



Beerfest in Belgrade

Belgrade train station

When coming to the train station in Belgrade, I felt as I was far out on the country in Russia, with almost nothing close by. After walking around trying to find the city center for a while, I finally found the main street and the big fortress in the city. Eight hours I walked by myself, taking pictures of the scenery and then I thought Belgrade seemed like a pretty boring place to be, so I decided to take the evening train to Sofia instead. When I was back at the train station, and ready to leave I got a text message from couchsurfer I had contacted earlier, who told me to stay in order not to miss the big festival that was going on in the city. I then found a hostel and got a shower and a change of clothes before I went out. About five minutes before that, I came over an article from the same day, where it said that 8 innocent people had been stabbed at the festival, and that the stabber was still on the loose. I did some mathematical calculations, and decided that 8 out of 9 million people is not a lot, so I went and had some of the best fun I have hade on my trip so far. At the huge festial area there were loads of beer tents, with pretty reasonable prices(kr7.86 ()). 
 
After the festival we went to a club on a huge boat at the Danube. In the early morning hours we ended up talking along the river and when I came back to the hostel it was late enough for me to check out, and leave Serbia. 

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Celebrating National Holiday in Budapest

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When arriving by train in Budapest, my friend came to pick me up at the train station. As soon as we had parked the car, we went for some turbo sightseeing through the garden island and the fortress before we went out to a place caller Szimpla. This was a huge two stories high building, which was turned into a really neat bar, with all kinds of rooms with different music and decorations. It was just like an apartment sharing community where you would walk through the kitchens, living and sleeping rooms and it really made me feel like I was at some home party of someone. On the way home that night I noticed how extremely many sex shops there were in Budapest. One could count one on pretty much every second corner, where neon lights would hang out blinking to the people who were passing by.
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When walking out on the streets the next day, one could notice that there was some kind of big event going on. There were flags every street, people were wearing their national outfit, there were military vehicles in the city center, flight shows and people were marching in parades just like we do on our own national independence celebration in Norway. There were also lots of tents with traditional Hungrarian food cooked in pots, probably from the time of the Soviet Union, which were big enough to feed a whole army. The day ended with some amazing fireworks which took place at the fortress and by the Hungrarian parliament. 
Background, Budapest

Back to my Second Home

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Sleeping outdoors and on train stations, and eating canned food and cheeseburgers for days does something to your whole body. The few days that I spent in Austria have been a rehabilitation for my whole body and spirit. The feeling of taking a long warm shower, eat good home cooked meals, cutting my hair, sleeping in a comfortable bed, washing my clothes and starting to do sports was the best treatment I could give myself at that time. During my stay I went mountain biking, played golf, met up with friends and went to a exhibition of modern art called “Höhenrausch 2” ( I also went to Höhenrausch 1 two years ago). Fully charged again, I set the course for Hungary.
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