Month: July 2012

Safranbolu photos, Turkey photos, Turkey pictures, Safranbolu

Safranbolu: Once upon a time in Turkey.

In the wee hours of the morning, I manoeuvre my way through the cobbled streets and ancient stonewalls of Safranbolu, a small town in the western Karadeniz region of Turkey. I had been reluctant to leave Istanbul, probably the first big city I’ve fallen so in love with, but as I step back in time into a 300 year old Ottoman house perched on a slope, I’m glad I came! Genghis, my host, greets me with a warm smile and bits of English, and shows me to my quaint room in the part of the house now converted into a pansiyon (pension aka guest house).

How I Afford My Travels, and How You Can Too.

Most people will be alarmed at how my bank account balance fluctuates every month. It holds the biggest clue to how I afford my travels; I choose to take risks. I am 24, and choose not to be disillusioned by the ‘need’ to save every penny for something better and bigger in the future. I choose not be dismayed by thoughts of a very rainy day either. I choose to take it as it comes (and to take it when it doesn’t come), the money that is. I choose to live in my today, instead of dreaming about what may be in the future. That might sound foolish to some, at best naive, but through these five mantras that have afforded me 99% of my travels, I shall strive to prove otherwise. 1. Money won’t save itself. As much as I wish I had a secret magic formula for each time people asked me how I find the money to travel so much, I don’t. Not even a grand inheritance. And no, no rich uncle to sponsor my …

Living Like a Local in Istanbul.

Since I moved back to India exactly 11 months ago, a lot has changed in the way I travel. Shoestring budgets no longer decide where I choose to stay, unlike in my student days, and reviews of other people no longer heavily influence my choice of accommodation, unlike in my corporate days. In the last 11 months, I have learnt to swim to the depths of google and take leaps of faith with accommodation options that have struck a chord, review or no review, cheapest option or not. For the most part, I have been pleasantly surprised, sometimes even overwhelmed, with the discoveries of home stays, farm huts and forest camps that are littered in secluded places throughout India, and India Untravelled was born out of these discoveries. My choices have facilitated interaction with native families and communities, helped me travel a bit more responsibly, and let me live like the locals of a place, even if for just a few days.

So Long, Turkey.

Dear Turkey, I am at your Ataturk International Airport as I write this, waiting to board my Turkish Airlines flight back to India. You have welcomed me with arms wide open, charmed me with your beauty, and overwhelmed me with the kindness of your people. In the last 20 days, I have picked up pieces of your language, learned to maneuver your territory, indulged my taste buds in your food, and in a moment I didn’t anticipate, I have come to know you as my home in another part of the world. I quickly built my first impressions of you when I got here, and if there is one thing I would change of them, it is that you are more beautiful and your people more hospitable than I could have imagined.

On Losing My Turkish Hamam Virginity.

She leads me by my hand up the stairs, grabbing a towel on the way and muttering something in Turkish to another woman in the room. In a small glass cubicle, handing me the towel, she says in her first English words to me, ‘take off everything and wear this.’ I look at her a little puzzled as she shuts the transparent door and waits outside. I’m at a Hamam aka the much famed Turkish Bath, and no amount of googling could make this situation feel less awkward. For the uninitiated, a Hamam is a sort of traditional group spa from the Ottoman era, complete with steam bath & massage, typically with separate chambers for men & women. I contemplate for a few seconds, and recalling the advise I’ve read online, I decide to go topless below the towel but keep my underpants on. I step out the cubicle and follow my lady through passages with gradually increasing levels of steam, and enter a massive area with high marble ceilings where four women are chatting in Turkish, naked except underwears, some being lathered & massaged, others …

Dealing With Travel-Wary Indian Parents.

Of the dozen emails I receive each week from fellow travel enthusiasts aspiring to build a life around travel, a pertinent question seems to revolve around convincing parents to accept traveling as a hobby, as a way of experiencing the world, and gradually as a way of life. Particularly in our Indian upbringing, travel is often looked upon as just a holiday to visit relatives or places of worship, making it a notch harder to change perspectives, and the challenge even more thrilling. Hailing from a small mountain town, I’ve fought many a battle to convince the ‘adults’ in my family to let me go travelling, solo or otherwise, and sometimes to have them give up on me so I could just do as I please. I’ve been quite a rebel from the start, so I must admit that my methods have been ruthlessly aggressive sometimes. Based on my own experiences, Indian parents are most likely to oppose a life of travelling because of concerns for safety, money, career, and “it not being the societal thing to do”, in that order. These are my ways (most tried & tested, some …