If my titles are becoming too much for you guys to handle, let me know and i'll tone it down.
Also, this post is a product of not being able to sleep, so it is written back to back with the one below it. So I suggest reading that first and coming back in order to fully appreciate the quality of what I'm saying here.
I want to write a little bit about my New Years experience in Istanbul before I put it off indefinitely or find something else to write about entirely. I will start with day 1, but I will flow freely from there without adhering to linear time as we know it.
As I have been making progress building the 'Mall of Gabrovo/shopping center/golden monument where human evolution will take a new turn', I had let my outwardly appearance become more rugged. I was sporting scraggly hair and a beard. As the new year approached, I took time off from construction and went to Istanbul, where I had figured it was time for a change - to clean myself up. I went with some peace corps friends (shane, mike, and his brother steve who was visiting from the states). On our first walk around some tourist spots, I saw the man below-right wave to me from the big glass window of his barber shop. I figured it was as good a place as any to get cleaned up, right? And I had never had a straight-razor shave before. Now, I release the photos below in true politician style. To explain my story before other copies (of which there are plenty) leak to the public out of context.
After my shave (which turned into a shave and haircut), the barber kept going. By the end I got a haircut, a shave, a facemask treatment, a neck massage, and a free cup of tea for posterity. I did not ask for these things, but they happened... one by one in rapid succession by a man with a straight razor at my throat. But, as the picture on the right shows, we bonded over the inability to speak each other's language. Meet my friend, the overpriced barber in istanbul. It sure wasn't the $2 haircut i'm used to in Bulgaria, but I must admit I look equally more hot.
After that there's not much more to tell. The 5 remaining days in Istanbul (originally 3 but extended by a lack of trains back until Jan. 3rd) consisted of walking, sightseeing, sitting at cafes, and watching live music.
Here's some travel advice though. If you are in the nightlife area of Istanbul, near Taksim Square, watch out for people who start walking and talking with you. It will be twix the hours of 7pm and 2am, and some man speaking turkish will coolly ask you for directions, or for a light for his cigarette. They will be surprised you speak english (even though they targeted you for that reason alone). They will strike up conversation and talk about where you're from, like they want to be your new best friend, or they want to practice their english, etc. They'll walk with you and then suggest you all go to an awesome bar they know about. ***This is a trap. They are taking you to some place that is probably not legitimate, or otherwise they wouldn't have these people out on the street trolling for customers.
Here are some tricks to get them to leave. 1. Speak some obscure language (Bulgarian works) 2. tell them you're meeting friends at a certain bar you know of, and beg them to come with you 3. as they are chatting up with you, slip in that you are a volunteer teacher and make no money (they start walking faster immediately to try to lose you in the crowd) *yelling after them "hey, why are you walking so fast, I thought we were friends!" is optional. 4. make up lots of personal information about yourself, and then tell them you're going to catch a train, but you hope they have a good night.
The option you decide rests solely on whether you want them to leave as quickly as possible or you want to waste as much of their time as you can. Another fun game is waiting around on that street for a bit until you see them double back, probably to the place they first 'ran into you'... as they are likely going back to snag someone else less suspecting.
Remember, you can't teach street smarts in school.
Straight street, I'm out.