Category Archives: Interrailing

Interrailing 2016: UK to Sweden

Summer 2017, Brexit meant Brexit and after months of long and hard campaigning I had enough of the rolling news feed. I looked for travel opportunities, packed a bag, booked a one way flight out of the UK.

My first destination, Sweden. I was invited as an international delegate to LUF Kongress, the biannual meeting of Liberala ungdomsförbundet, the youth wing of the Swedish Liberal People’s Party.

I got lost almost straight away trying to find the way from Stockholm Arlanda to Uppsala, in a typical Huw-fashion i wandered up and down asking various individuals before caving in and resorting to Google it on my phone with roaming fees.

By Midday I arrived at Uppsala and had booked into my room, now it was time to explore. Uppsala is Sweden’s answer to Oxbridge, the ancient capital of Sweden, it is host to large castles and a huge academic community. I marvelled at the rhunic script, having covered it briefly in Old English classes but in no depth. I was later truly linguistically outdone by most of the Swedish people I met who told me with pride not only had they studied Runic script, but they could also speak Old English, which I most certainly could not.

The Kongress was interesting, it was all conducted in Swedish, a language that I couldn’t speak a word of, however the Norwegian delegates took it as their duty to live translate most of the Kongress to me, with the occasional “nope, this guy’s accident it way too thick, who knows what he could be saying”. The Kongress policy itself was of little interest however the pomp and ceremony of Swedish youth politics was impressive. In Sweden youth political parties get paid a huge amount of money from central government to help encourage democracy – not only was the packed Kongress held in a large high school but there was also a formal dinner with the most exquisite food and old fashioned drinking chants, all expenses paid. Better than the formal dinner, I also had swedish meatballs with gravy, lingonberry sauce, and mashed potato for lunches every day. Living the Ikea dream life.

After Kongress ended I left Uppsala for the astonishingly expensive Stockholm. I was in Old City Stockholm which was so pretty but so expensive i could do so little. I was bored and poor so I used Tinder to find myself a tourguide. he took me around Stockholm and we went on a tram to Skansen, an open air theme park “museum”, designed to preserve the old Sweden that existed before industrialisation.

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I toured it seeing the old houses and some really cute Reindeer, chatting to Ezra, my guide, about Saomi rights for a while. There we watched Allsång, an endearing and wholesome live weekly sing along. It was a really cute mash of songs of praise and eurovision. I had no idea what they were singing but I had a brilliant night and gained so much love for the cheese.

Canals, Herbs, Poems, and Bikes. 2nd – 4th September Amsterdam

2nd September 2014

Amsterdam here we go. I spent most of the train journey reading poetry for my homework. Maya Angelou is amazing, ‘Still I Rise’ is just a wonderful wonderful poem. That and Poem Rocket, a poem by Allen Ginsberg written in Amsterdam during the moon landing under the influence of LSD, canabis, and copious amounts of alcohol at the Café American. It took me 4 times reading it until I realised the subtext of the poem was him jerking off, ending with a climax. Also, here’s a reality check. Mary Shelley’s first draft of Frankenstein was written when she was 17.

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UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970:  Photo of Maya Angelou  Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
CIRCA 1970: Photo of Maya Angelou Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
When I arrived at Amsterdam it was so overwhelming. As soon as we got off the train we were met with fanatical christians, asking us to find God before it’s too late… we decided it was already /way/ to late.
Amsterdam greeted us with a certain… herbal aroma, Leaking from all sides.
I managed to book a hostel RIGHT in the red light district near the “Green Day Coffee House” and the Condomerie. I literally tried booking a hostel as far away from the red light district as possible and managed to book it in the very middle of it. I couldn’t help but notice that Istanbul had a lot more visibly lgbt people than amsterdam, which was odd. We ended the evening at a coffee house. Scott tried buying ‘dem herbs’ without ID. So intelligent that one. I basically just coughed the entire night. I was not made for ‘teenage rebellion’.
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2015-09-03 12.55.47 So Short.
3rd September 2014
We finally left the red light district, how refreshing. The more I left the stench and dirt of the red light district the more I liked the city and the more I could focus on the CANALS and the bicycles everywhere! Literally everywhere. It was like a cycling Utopia.
The Rijksmuseum was everything a museum should be. It was funny and encouraged you to think indecently rather than just pretend to like everything. We stayed there until 5 and decided to come back the next day.The evening was more of the same, mostly reflecting back on the rest of the holiday.
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4th September 2014
Today is my last day interrailing. School tomorrow. We went back to the Rijksmuseum and I had this truffle oil and pork sandwich from “Cora” on Prinsenracht and it tasted like the love of the gods. Wow. so so so good. A buzz to my mouth.
I particularly liked the impressionists in the Rijksmuseum.
We went to the Anne Frank house of course wan enormously upsetting. I imagined each place where the Franks and Van Daans were and was so upset. Seeing her prison in person was so very upsetting. We had a last supper in a restaurant under a cherry blossom tree. Shame about the food but otherwise it was an actually lovely day.
I’m going to miss travelling. One more year of education to go. Easyjet to Bristol here I come.

Bauhaus Berlin 30th August – 2nd September 2015

Okay, so we spent most of Krakow drinking and sleeping so there's pretty much nothing to tell.
Opps.
30th August 2014

We had a small mishap with train tickets, in that I booked the train for midnight the day before, rather than midnight on the correct day. Ergo, we missed our train by 24 hours. Luckily, we checked our tickets in the morning so I realised. We spent the day in transit from ticket office to train to ticket office. Eventually  we ran onto a really plush intercity rain and the train conductor gave us FIRST CLASS SEATS because all the others were taken. WIN. Most definite win.

31st August 2014

we woke up early and walked through the Tiergarden to Templehöfen in order to go to our hostel, The Grand Hostel. We ran into an american friend, Mora, who’d stayed with us in Prague. We all then went to bauhaus Archiv. We stopped by Starbucks in Potsdammer Platz and they Barrista made a mistake and gave me an extra drink as an apology. DOUBLE WIN.15120784217_58afc3c782_o15307308445_d57376e783_o

I didn’t know about the bauhaus movement before going, it was really interesting. Another example of pop art of sorts, however this art went with the rule that necessity is the move of invention.

We walked to the Museum Island, however most of the museums are closed for refurbishment.

1st September 2014

Checkpoint Charlie and Mauer Museum today, I’ve already been but it was fun to narrate everything to Scott. We went to the jewish museum, sombre but interesting.

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It’s much quieter here than Prague.
Amsterdam tomorrow, my final stop.

Pretending to be cultured in Prague 25th to 27th August 2014

25th August 2014

Dazed, and confused, Scott and I remembered that 6 am is not a nice time to be awake. We did a Zombielike crawl to our hostel ‘Art Hole’ – who must have some self awareness that their name sounds ridiculously like arsehole – where we were given a bed and dozed. As the name suggests, the hostel was very arty. so pretty. the hostel guide was also rather gorgeous and gave us a tour. We washed our clothes for the first time in the holiday, oh how excited we were. The first two, and last two of the floors of the building were the hostel. Strangely the middle floor was the congolese embassy to the Czech Republic, as you do.

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At midday we awoke and had lunch is the Czech’s answer to Prêt a Manger and walked to Old Town Square where we listened to street performers for a while. I noticed the Alfons Mucha Art Museum, which looked fab so we gave it a go.

There were three exhibitions, Salvador Dali, Alfons Mucha, and Andy Warhol.
Dali was fucked up, but in the best of ways. I rather liked his work inspired by greek mythology; and just surrealism as a whole. You can really analyse it, or over analyse it… Dali supported General Franco. I’m sure Dali knew far more about Spanish politics than me but i still think I’m qualified enough that that was a bit of a dick move. I loved how we viewed time, and how we was influenced by scientific advancement. In his life he mastered a range of media: Lithography, Ceramics, Canvas Painting, Sketches, Sculptures, and most impressively architecture.

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Andy Warhol, I’m still not sure on. Or just pop culture in general. I haven’t quite sussed him.

His work is enjoyable sure, awfully controversial. I don’t understand the meaning, the meaning is probably that there is no meaning. Warhol’s art is superficial and kitch and rather narcissistic. It’s arrogant and filled with pride. But he made art popular for the masses so why not. I like warhol’s sarky attitude, I can relate. He was willing to be bold, he was willing quite literally to suck a cock and force the public to watch… Some part of me was somewhat impressed. His art is puckered lips, throbbing dicks in underwear, bananas-cum-penis. And more of which he sold this on CDs to teenagers.

Warhol was a pornographer, sometimes. He was a revolutionary, in filming “The Blowjob”… Also I think that’s the first time I’ve seen a couple facilitate each other in a museum.

Warhol is a mass produced consumeristic piece of shit. And that’s why I kinda of like him.

Warhol led to technological and sexual revolution, a bit at least.

Didn’t think much of Mucha…

We signed ourselves up for a pub crawl with the hostel, and it was brilliant. 1 Beerhouse, 1 Artsybar, 1 nightclubby bar, then a huge nightclub, bigger than any i’ve ever visited before full of EDM. A group of us tried absinthe. the barman didn’t serve it properly so we ended up drinking it straight FUCK.

FUCK FUCK so strong. So liquoricey FIRE BREATh. For a few seconds I’m sure I became a dragon.

I abandoned Scott and accompanied two americans to a pizza place for food.
Overall I befriended 3 americans, 1 french canadian, 2 australian, 4 brazillians, and 4 french people, and another brit. So many languages, but English is lingua franca so we were able to be lazy. (and be lectured for being lazy by them all)

26th August 2014

Today we got up at 12 and had lunch in this mediaeval tavern. Goulash and Ale, with neofolk playing in the background. Prague’s architecture is amazing, no one building is quite the same, so many colours and such intricate façades. Not many new buildings, I’m guessing it’s UNESCO protected or something? We went on a walking tour and there was a museum in the jewish quarter dedicated to drawings by children in the local concentration camp. The large majority of these children who shared their hopes and dreams were slaughtered.

In the evening I cooked a £2 stirfry. Then we went off to see swan lake in the opera house.

#Culture innit. Sorry, I had a bit of a moment. We went clubbing till 3am afterwards. Also I went to KFC.

Note: Czech KFC is SOOOO salty.

27th August 2014

It’s our last day here in Prague, too soon, we would spend so much longer if we didn’t have an interrail pass.

Prague Castle is enormous. And so beautiful, the most stunning stain glass windows I’ve ever seen.

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We said our sad farewells to our friends in the hostel who added us on Facebook then left.

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Our train was nice, to Krakow.

Get your game on George Ezra, 21st – 24th August, 2014

21st August, 2014

Budapest is much more like a city in the UK than I would’ve thought. Tesco’s, M&S, Harvey Davies. The architecture is a strange mix of Habsburg, Soviet, and very very occasionally ottoman. In the evening, Scott and I went to this Burger Bar, Jacks, which sell The Best Burgers that have ever entered my mouth. We had a few beers and a mojito in Elizabeth Park, then finally went to sleep IN A BED.

22nd August, 2014

Today, Scott and I went to the Hungarian National Museum, where I read about the 1958 Hungarian Uprising for my coursework. Annoyingly very little of the museum texts were translated into english. Looking at the guestbook, it was apparent that my thoughts were not that of a minority.

“More English Please!”

Read one suggestion from a Brazilian tourist.
The museum had a beautiful painted ceiling.

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The people of Budapest seem so friendly, some people walked up to us in the streets because we looked lost and gave us directions. All without the Bulgarian method of charging you £20 for the privilege. 

We took the open top bus tour for a few hours to get to see Budapest, personally my favourite sight is Adam Clark’s Chain Bridge, Europe’s first suspension bridge which is somewhat like a green version of San Francisco’s golden gates.

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We stayed in Margit Island for a while, which is one big park with many sports facilities and fountains, situated on the Danube. By one fountain, which was timed to Radesky’s March, I ate a massive wurst the size of my head then we marvelled at the pigeons, and at some little brat trying to menace them.

We took the metro back to the hostel, which was so cool and soviet looking.

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We ate at the hard rock cafe, which was a first ~ it looked really cool, but mannnn so expensive.

23rd August, 2014

Today was pretty chilled out. We hopped on another bus tour and check out the train station before going to Hero’s Square (essentially a massive Trafalgar Square) for a while. We took a bus to Pest, and walked up yellow hill seeing the city as a whole. We went to Jacks again then had some drinks in Elisabeth Park.

24th August, 2014

Our final day in Budapest, We went to The House of Terror – which held the Hungarian Nazi Party and then later the KGB. `We sort of realised the horrors that Hungarian people have gone through for the last 100 years. The subterranean parts of the House of Terror were the worst. I’d hate to think of the horrors and torture that it had seen. Goulash for lunch… none of the staff spoke english so only after a while did I realise that I was eating raw chicken… hopefully didn’t get food poisoning.

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Something amazing also happened.  There I was minding my own business in the SPAR outside the train station, contemplating buying some Haribos, when I saw a hand reach out for the same packet. I looked up, the owner of the hand looked up. I stared at them thinking ‘wait something’s strange’, as did she. 5 Seconds later.
“How, what” A wild Aisling Mackeyboardsmash appeared. After 5 minutes the absolute amazement stopped, and Scott and I gave Aisling an awful tour of Budapest, then we had drinks in Elizabeth Square and gave her all of our maps.

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As soon as we saw her we left her again, with Budapest.

Another night train for us, this one was modern though, we had both wine AND a corkscrew, we watched Perks Of Being A Wallflower then happily went to sleep. At 6am the next day, Prague would greet us good morning.

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The Three Day Escape from Istanbul – Interailling – 18th – 21st August 2014

18-19th August 2014

Rail replacement busses are miserable at the best of times. Rail replacement busses that take you from Asia Minor into Southern Europe are just awful. No more comfy British Airways flight for you, Huw. The journey had an okay start. Of the 30 travellers, there 7 were anglophones. I got speaking to one of them who had amazing tales to tell. He had just been in Iran. Apparently British people are allowed in Iran (if your parents work for BP and have enough money to successfully bribe both the Iranian government, and the chaperone who’s meant to follow you). After a while I was filled with some jealousy and decided to stop speaking to this fellow traveller like the good human I am.

There were two border checks… I thought waiting to pay the toll at the Severn bridge was bad. Passports are downright tedious. There was also a two hour gap when we weren’t entirely sure whether we’d get our passports back at all. It was also amusing to see literally EVERY SINGLE person in the coach pass around my passport attempting to pronounce my name. After a while a french dude announced “This just isn’t a name, there aren’t enough letters” at this point I realised that the passport was mine.  I fell asleep, and at some point it started raining. I knew this because at some other point the trap door ceiling of the coach decided to fly off, resulting in the rest of the journey being one long hyperthermic shower for us.

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Fourteen hours later, we began to realise that Europe was rather a big place. We arrived at Sofia to find that the next train to Belgrade, our initial destination was at 20:30. Unfortunately this would mean that we had to cancel our hostel for that night. Walking out of the railway station, two ‘information guides’ wouldn’t stop helping us and apparently did not understand the word “No”. They then charged us 20 lira for the pleasure of having them follow us. For both me, and my travelling partner, Scott. We spent 6 hours waiting in Sofia. I should probably point out by now it was the 20th August 2014 we got on the train at 8pm, some german dudes gave us some of their beer, we bought some wine for the journey, then realised that we failed to bring a cork-screw.

I'm dead, but at least there's Owen Jones in Bulgaria.
I’m dead, but at least there’s Owen Jones in Bulgaria.

The night train was a huge mid-soviet german contraption, massive industrial engines, with harry potter like wooden corridors and faulty windows that tended not to work without a giant thump. All of these factors could have been forgiven if it weren’t for this.

The train conductor took our train ticket and train reservations which were bought and should have covered the full journey of the train. He then shouted “money” and cornered me, my travelling partner didn’t have any money, (something he has since apologised for after I broke down in tears in the cabin), he (the conductor) then threatened me and effectively mugged me, he took 20 lira, 10 whatever-money-they-use-in-Bulgaria, and £20. I was very upset.

I stink. I really really stink. when we open the windows, we see the amazing plains, so much flat land, which is completely  extraordinary for someone who lives in the green hills of Somerset. When I opened the window it was full of the putrid smell of rotten sunflower fields.

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It’s the 21st of August 2014. I’ve still not gotten over the fact that I was basically mugged whilst so many people were right next to me and did nothing “Fick Englender” one fine german traveller said, I daren’t point out that I identify British, not English.

We made a new friend on the train. A train spotter. Why do I always befriend the trainspotters?

He spoke for two hours straight about the trans Siberian express, which to be fair is really interesting, but TWO HOURS.

At 6am we arrived at Belgrade, and RAN onto the train just in time, luckily this train didn’t need reservations for Inter-rail pass holders. This train was new, it didn’t stink. I started reading “Perfume” by Patrick Süskind when the journey from Istanbul began. By the time we arrived at Budapest (3 pm) I had not only finished it, but also 2 academic textbooks on the life of Khrushchev. I can only imagine that I smell like Grenouille describes the tanneries of 18th century Paris.

The only things that have kept me sane are Scott, whom at the time I treated like shit due to tiredness, and my iPod touch, whose charge never seemed to end. (Much like the journey itself)

The only important thing is that this three day long journey from Istanbul to Budapest is over.

If anyone complains about a six hour journey, BE THANKFUL IT WASN’T A FUCKING THREE DAY LONG JOURNEY

Ladies and Gentleman, if I learnt one thing it is this: Europe is big.*
Oh, and that without going all UKIP-y. I fucking hate Bulgaria, Bulgarians why did you take so much of my money?!?*

Istanbul Interrailing, 16th-19th August 2014

16th August 2014

A 4 AM start is never a good start a day… however, maybe today was the exception. Myself and my friend Scott, got showered and changed and skipped through Heathrow security for what would be our first unchaperoned adventures abroad. IMG_1065

At 12:20 PM our British Airways flight landed in the seemingly distant Atatürk Airport, Istanbul. (It’s sad to think that some citizens of the UK can now be arrested on terrorist charges for making that same flight now) We took the Havanas bus to Taksim Square… finding ourselves greeted by 31 Degrees Celcius of Anatolian-effulgence.

After wandering aimlessly for an hour we found ourselves outside our hostel ‘The Chambers of The Boheme’, which was certainly bohemian, and very much in the middle of the gay district.

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To say “we found ourselves outside our hostel” is slightly false, perhaps it would be more accurate to day the hostel owner, Ahmed, found us. The sprightly fellow, a former King’s Road, New Holborn Sandwich Shop Owner, sat us down and gave us a complimentary apple tea. (which by the way is fantastic) Ahmed gave us an itinerary for the day and a list of Do’s and Don’ts for tourists in the city:

Don’t eat street food

Don’t carry your passports around

Don’t use Taxis

Do Walk

Do Relax

Don’t set your self epic tasks, you english will collapse.

Istanbul is great, in the proper sense of the word. So vast, enormous infrastructure programs, large roads, very impressive. The buildings are an odd mix of plush new luxury flat blocks built right next to dilapidated piles of rubble. The social inequalities in the deep city seem rather blatant. Scott and I played chess in the evening. Note to self: never play chess against Scott, he always wins.

17th August 2014

Today, we had an 11am start and walked to the old city, Fatih, home to the great Mosques, Hagia Sofia, and the Sultan’s Palace. Wow. Just wow. Go there. Go there. Go there. The Sultan’s palace is well worth the gander, we chilled by the coast watching the busy confluence of the Golden Horn and Bosphorus rivers. Atatürk, Turkey’s first leader, was everywhere, unavoidable. Statues, Graffitis, Names, Paintings. They loved him, and he, to change his name through parliament to mean “the great turk” clearly loved himself. He was the great moderniser of Turkey, however his illiberal use of repression to enforce secularism has left the legacy of a slight revival of islamic conservatism nowadays. Before going to Turkey I watched a series of documentaries on Turkey called “The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors” – I would highly recommend giving it a watch. 15120755869_55da75e028_o15307173102_17277ede25_o15120713477_c99781bebb_o

The calls to prayer are rather foreign, but at the same time having a comforting feel. It reminds me in a strange way of Portishead’s Severn-sirens that are tested on the third hour of the third day of each month to guard us from chemical leaks. In the same way, the prayer calls protect each muslim by ensuring they remember their prayers.

Talking of Portishead, there are posters for the band everywhere here… you can’t fricken leave them. 15304114791_4dec80de8c_o

I had calamari and a kebab for lunch, oh how healthy… We were shunned and told not to go to the blue mosque because we were rather stupidly wearing shorts. HOWEVER, We’ve been told since that if we just put duct tape to cover our knees then we’d have been allowed in. It’s strange to thing that knees are the scared thing… Mmm gotta love them knees. Perhaps Imams have knee-fetishes? – that probably most definitely blasphemy.

The Hagia Sofia is AMAZING. Cathedral cum Mosque cum Museum, it’s certainly changed with its leader’s ideologies over time. plated with the most beautiful of byzantine mosaics , with christian idols, and arabic calligraphy symbolising muslim figures. £12, it was well worth the visit.

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We wandered through turkish markets… I didn’t feel the need to buy anything though, I never really do. Other than books…

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Come nightfall we bought Hookah in a bar. No, not a prostitute as I first worriedly thought as Scott suggested it,but rather an apple and mint flavoured Mu’assel pipe. At first, I coughed and didn’t really enjoy it then after a while I found it rather enjoyable. Much nicer than smoking anything else I’ve ever smoked. Much nicer on the lungs and throat.

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After learning an entire THREE words of the turkish language I tried to put my skills to practical use and attempted to say thank you to the waiter, “teşekkür” (thank goodness one of Ataturks reforms was the transliteration of the whole Turkish language from ottoman caligraphic script to a latinate alphabet) Unfortunately the act was a complete failure, the waiter left and came back with “two kolas” Fab day, bring on tomorrow.

18th August 2014

Today was our penultimate day in Istanbul, what a fantastic city it is. So vibrant and exciting for a 18 year old with little travelling experience. We walked along the south-east side of Istanbul’s Beyoglu district, then walked to the Grand Bazaar in Sultanahmed. Determined this time to actually but something I brought my mum this beautiful silk scarf that she’ll probably never wear but it looks pretty nevertheless. The markets are making, so many street vendors and people carrying huge loads of products. In the evening we went for a boat tour of the Bosphorus, which was just amazing. So big, everything so beautiful.

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19th August 2014

Today was the final day in Istanbul. It’s a truly beautiful city with such friendly people. Scott and I went to the Hamman after being recommended going by so many people. The Hamam was the top bathhouse in the world according to the Guardian, and cost €30 each. I was very apprehensive. Bathhouses are such a foreign concept to me… I would even be hesitant to go to Bath Spa. A fat nearly naked turkish man then led me, with much body contact to the room, with a brush, a towel (strictly towels on (although one tourist seemed to ignore this policy when he thought he was the only one still there)). It was amazing, after being steamed, cooled, rinsed, and exfoliated, I was perhaps the cleanest I’ve ever been in my life… although with very starchy hair. CAGALOGLUhamami-003

We went to this cool café in Sultanahmet, and spoke to a Lebanese lady who told us that she came to Istanbul to see Arsenal play and then to see Portishead perform live. Did you not know that Istanbul is apparently the beacon on British Culture… apparently so.

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We also watched the whirling dervishes, who were quite… mundane; conservative islam’s answer to a Drag show and were given free Qur’an guides. We then got on a rail replacement coach (Istanbul’s link to europe by rail is closed for some foreseeable time whilst it gets modernised) and left Istanbul to continue what had thus far been an amazing journey.