Nick Papantonis

Multimedia Journalist


               I didn’t intend to travel this weekend until I got sick earlier in the month, which caused me to miss my trip to Berlin. I came with the idea of visiting as many different countries as possible, and I couldn’t bring myself to accept the thought of one less than before. I was fortunate to find a set of cheap Turkish Airlines tickets to Venice on a last-minute notice.

               I always imagined returning later in life to do an Italy trip- starting in Venice and working my way down the coast. However, with all the attention on recent environmental news, I wanted to “see” Venice for myself in case anything happened to the city- just being cautious! Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see everything this time around, I designed a quick “hit-and-run” trip lasting a total of 36 hours in the city.

               Getting to Venice is surprisingly easy. After the flight, the best way to get to your hotel is by water bus, as there are no roads. Following the signs to the docks, I found myself on a 90-minute boat ride around the lagoon, which would have been pleasant had it been daylight. Since the city is so small, it was about five minutes from the dock to the hotel.

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               One of the many strangely weird things about Istanbul are (some of) the elevators.

               How can an elevator be weird, you ask? You push the button, the elevator doors close, and it goes up/down, picking up people along the way, right? Well, in Turkey, elevators- if the building has them (most new buildings do, especially those with more than four floors)- don’t exactly act that way.

               In the US, elevators work entirely based on the direction they are traveling in. If the elevator is going up, it will continue to go up until it reaches the highest possible floor it needs to go to, to drop someone off or pick someone up. In Istanbul, for all of the elevators I have had the pleasure of riding on, the direction is only a part of the consideration. Here, the order in which the buttons were pushed matters. If you push down, and someone two floors up also pushes down after you, the elevator will stop to pick you up, and then continue upwards to pick up the other person.

               This means that you select a floor below, the elevator arrow indicates it will descent, and then all of a sudden your stomach sinks to your knees as the lift rises. It was quite confusing at first but you get used to it after a while.

               Unfortunately, my Monday morning class is in Galata, which has nine floors and two tiny elevators, and getting up or down can be quite the rollercoaster sometimes.

Ortakoy street food

               I mentioned it earlier in the semester, but one of the most magical things (to a college student) in Istanbul is the abundance of cheap, delicious street food. Some of it could kill you (don’t eat the mussels), but for the most part it’s safe and a fantastic pick-me-up that can be found on literally every corner.

               By accident or on purpose, every neighborhood in Istanbul has unique types of street food. While something like simit can be found everywhere, fresh squeezed juice stands are particularly abundant in Kadiköy. Beşiktaş has a higher-than-average amount of honey balls. Turkish Delight- or really tourist’s delight- can be found in Sultanahmet among all the other touristy things. As for our neighborhood (Ortaköy), two particularly tasty treats are centered here: kumpir and waffles.

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The President made me late

               When Erdogan is in Istanbul, it’s a nightmare for anyone trying to commute between the two neighborhoods. Not only are there lots of police, but his motorcade (as well as any visitors) shuts down the road, forcing traffic to the side as they fight their way to their destinations. For us students, that means the fastest way to class is on foot- which you might not realize before setting out on your journey. So the excuse “The President made me late to class” is a valid one.

               I will admit that the motorcades are pretty cool and worth the hassle. Additionally, you know whether or not he’s here in advance because security gets really tight around the entrance to his palace and traffic slows to a crawl. Therefore, as long as you pay attention and know what to look for, it’s very difficult to be taken by surprise.

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Getting sick

               So the day after my last post, I contracted one of the most unpleasant non-life threatening diseases I have dealt with in my 21-year life: the stomach flu. It’s a combination of every other disease in one and incapacitates you for at least a week. But it did get me thinking about an important topic: what it’s like to get sick here.

               Illness while abroad isn’t rare. Almost everyone contracts something related to the change in diet, climate, or jet lag. Longer-term sickness however, can be especially unpleasant, because anything familiar is not readily available to you. You could be lucky and be in a 5-star resort somewhere similar to the United States. Or, you could be in a hut in the middle of the jungle. When you travel, you roll the dice.

               Turkey is a relatively easy place to get sick in, mainly because of their widespread pharmacy system. Like their US counterparts, they stock all kinds of prescription and over-the-counter drugs for all symptoms and ailments. However, they also all have a licensed physician that’s able to diagnose you on-scene. For those of us who don’t speak Turkish, it’s some miming and pointing, but it’s a fairly easy and accurate process.

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