Istanbul, Turkey was totally different then anything that I have ever experienced. To start off with, I can’t even begin to understand the language. So far on my trip the most obscure language that I have encountered is Portuguese and that one doesn’t really count because I just spoke in Spanish the whole time. Other then that I’ve had to deal with French, German, Spanish and of course English. In the Netherlands they speak Dutch but pretty much every single person in that country also speaks perfect English! Probably with better grammar then even I do. Come on America we need to work on our language programs in public schools! Anyways on top of that I have never been to a country that is primarily Muslim before, and it was a really neat experience, especially since it is Ramadan. When I first got there it was it was around 11pm and everyone was still eating dinner! I guess when the sun doesn’t go down until 10 and you can’t eat when the sun is shining that doesn’t give you a whole lot of options, but the thing that really got me was the all the young Turkish guys staring at my legs. I was wearing jean shorts and my huge metal knee brace and my backpack. They didn’t seem to notice the huge backpack but my knee brace seemed to interest them beyond anything I have ever seen….and I have gotten pretty used to people staring at it at this point. With in 5 minutes one of the guys had asked me if I had a boyfriend and if he could friend me on Facebook. I instantly decided the next day that I should probably wear a dress instead of my shorts. The next day I decided to walk around and head to the Grand Bazar. I got to the Hippodrome and about 15 minutes later another young guy started talking to me. Turned out his family sells rugs. He started walking with me showing me around the city and I eventually decided to go see his family’s rug store. They took me up stairs and he introduced me to his uncle. It was a really neat experience because it happened just like you hear about, they served me Turkish tea and explained the history and techniques of the hand made rugs! In the end I bought a small one for my room at home…I mean after all that how could I not! So unfortunately now I get to lug a rug around with me until I get to Germany when I can mail it home via Fed Ex! I trust the regular mail only so much….i just found out the Moroccan tea set that I bought in Granada only partly made it home in one piece, and some clothes that I shipped home earlier on the trip (Including my favorite sorority sweatshirt) never made it home. Anyways I eventually made it to the Grand Bazar and I wasn’t ready for that experience. Men were yelling at me from everywhere asking me to buy their stuff! And unfortunately they were hitting one me too. I found a group of South American exchange student girls and decided to walk around with them for the rest of the time, to limit the amount of men yelling at me to come over. After that I went into an underground cave that was be excavated. It was the ruins of the old roman palaces! Later that night my cousin Rachel Bromer and her boyfriend Jon Schmitt showed up at the hostel! We had a great time catching up on each others lives and then the next day had a full day of sight seeing! We first went back to the Grand Bazar so that I could do the shopping that I had actually wanted to do the day before and it turns out that Jon is really good a bargaining! I got a scarf to wear in the mosques, a pair of wrap around pants (that are the most comfortable things ever) and a pair of earrings. Jon used to be in the Peace Corp and he was stationed in Bulgaria. So when we bargained for the earrings we decided to do the entire thing in Bulgarian and pretend we didn’t speak English to get the price lower. The entire day people had been asking if we were Spanish, Italian, or Eastern European so we figured we could pull it off. Unfortunately the man at the counter spoke Bulgarian pretty well…so all of a sudden it became hard for me to tell Jon whether I was ok with the price with out giving away that we spoke English. Finally the man pulled out a calculator and we punched in numbers until we came to an agreement! All in all I’m pretty sure we got the earrings for a much lower price then if we had been “Americans”. Later that day we visited Aya Sofya, which was totally amazing. I put my thumb in the sacred hole on the wall and it came out damp so hopefully ill find out that all my illness are healed…for some reason I have a feeling I’m still gonna need knee surgery though. We went to dinner that night at a place that had bean bag chairs for chairs…we stayed for three hours eating amazing food and smoking Hookah. The next day we visited the Topkapi Palace which was the home of the sultans and even went into the Harem which was amazing. Then we went to the Blue Mosque to see the call to prayer and then after lunch went inside to actually see the Blue Mosque. Now that was an amazing experience. You had to cover up but I decided to go all the way and cover my hair out of respect and I’m really glad I did. We then walked down to the Spice market and saw people bargaining for real for tea, spices, chicken, cheese and anything else you can eat! You probably could have filled up on the free tid bits of food they gave away! After that we walked across the bridge over the waterway that separates Europe from Asia. I can now say that I have stood in Asia! We had another great night of food and hookah while lying on pillows and this restaurant kept coming by and giving us free shots! I burned my tongue trying to drink a flaming Turkish shot. I probably should have refused to drink it knowing it was so hot but it would have been rude to refuse it. Sadly I had to leave this morning but I am off to go sail the coast of turkey on a sailboat for a week…so I am sure I will be having a blast! I won’t have internet for awhile but I will post when I get back!