Spring Break 2007 was rapidly approaching and travel ideas were abounding. Everyone clearly wanted to take advantage of the fact that we were already in Italy and talk of Amsterdam, Spanish Beaches and Malta echoed through the ancient halls of our school in Florence. My friend Gabby and I dreamt a slightly different dream. We wanted something exotic, entirely foreign and the spring break of a lifetime. And that is exactly what we got.

Gabby and I looked into places, which don’t really summon mental images for people: Sofia…Russia…Turkey, it doesn’t invoke that classic spring break picture of a balmy beach in Spain or a cobblestone street in Amsterdam, in fact for most Americans I don’t think it conjures and picture at all. We settled on Istanbul, Turkey. We would fly in there, with a return ticket back to Italy, 2 weeks later. And that was the extent of our plans. We knew we wanted to take pictures and hoped to make it down south to the Turkish Rivera is possible.

For weeks we excitedly read travel books and gained some misconceptions and mispronunciations of multiple landmarks. We packed our 50 rolls of film, 4 cameras and still empty imaginations as to where we were flying off to and left Florence in the wee hours of the morning on the first day of our Spring Break. We bussed to the train, trained to another bus in Milan, bussed to the airport, flew to Istanbul and taxied into the city.

Going over the bridge to Istanbul we passed a sign ‘Welcoming us to Europe.’ We arrived at a hostel and were shown to our beds: a bunk surrounded by a giant floor to ceiling curtain –separating the bunk from the 7 other bunks in the room. The hostel was 18 bucks a night, so we couldn’t really complain. We ate a late dinner at the hostel then trekked up the hill next to our hostel to take in the Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque, facing each other. The massive breathtaking structures seemed in an eternal faceoff –competing for attention and ultimate beauty atop the same hill in sight of each other.

That night, and truthfully for the duration of our stay in Istanbul, we both slept on the top bunk. Somehow being together fended off the abstract and unidentifiable terrors, which seem to haunt every hostel.

On no one’s watch in particular we spent a week wandering around Istanbul. We gawked at the ruins and signs of chaos which resides around every corner, we were refreshed by the sight of non-Christian churches and snapped furiously away, documenting our travels and perhaps preserving moments too surreal for on the spot decipherment.

Impulsively one morning on the computer, we purchased two tickets to Antalya, a town in the south of Turkey. Gabby booked us a week’s stay at a pension in Patara, a tiny town on the Turkish Rivera and apparently the birth place of Santa Claus. Our unplanned time in Istanbul had been perfect, we had seen, experienced and learned an immense amount not only about Turks but also about who we were, as Americans.

Before we knew it our time in Istanbul was over. On our flight to the Riviera we tackled our next task: getting from the airport to our Pension, apparently in the middle of nowhere, 4 hours away from the airport. A brain buster indeed; I nixed taking the bus, which our travel guide described as a roller coaster with no actual stops. Someone suggested renting a car and in an instance it was decided. Gabby muttered something about not letting her parents ever find out the details behind this trip and we excitedly waited out the duration of the flight.

For pictures from this adventure check out Istanbul in my photo gallery.

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