As soon as I arrived in Istanbul, that very first day, after our tiring 16 hour bus ride from Trabzon, when we got dropped off by a clueless taxi driver at a side street off of İstiklal Avenue and had to walk for another kilometer, and ask a kebab stand owner for directions, I had already fallen in love with this city. Bam! It’s happens so fast. It’s the same feeling I got when visiting my home city again, St. Petersburg and first stepping foot in London. Just like those places, Istanbul immediately felt comfortable and home-like to me. Once again I thought to myself: “Wow, I can really live here.”
First off, I should remind you that Georgia was not on our itinerary for this trip originally. While traveling through Russia, we met a great couple who described their recent trip to Georgia. They were hosted by a family in the mountains outside of town called Kobuleti. After they shared their vivid impressions, we HAD to change our plans and check out the mysterious and intriguing Georgia. We were overcome with excitement after hearing their stories so we changed our itinerary by nixing Bulgaria and adding in Georgia. We traveled to Georgia on a heavy duty ferry boat that mostly transports trucks with imports and livestock along with truck drivers a few passengers like us on the boat. I describe this experience here.
Traveling to Batumi by boat was worth it for the view, if nothing else, that opens up right before your eyes as you approach the port. A truly awe-inspiring view: green mountain peaks, clear blue water, panoramic view of the Batumi skyline and dolphins greeting us:
We originally had not planned on passing through London. Yet, somehow we must have known – we packed our Oyster cards from our last visit.
While in Cancun, Mexico for a wedding last year, we ended up making some great friends who happen to be from London’s East End. We were able to visit them in London shortly after meeting them and had a great time. For this trip one of our friends, Shawn, was kind enough to host us in an open bedroom at his place. Shawn (right) and Tom (left):
In Edinburgh, we stayed with Kenny for three nights. Kenny is an incredibly smart and kind person.
Kenny hosts many surfers (one of which stuck around for 11 months), which speaks to his kindness. Yet he does not clean often and smokes inside, making it hard to fully relax. Overall, we have a great memory and are happy to have taken the risk because we have met another interesting person.
Our hosts in Glasgow were actually in the suburb of the city called East Kilbride. Domokos and his wife recently moved to Scotland for work from their native Hungary. While their flat was modestly-sized, they were very accommodating. We were able to sleep on their couch that folded out into a bed and use their warm shower.
Due to their work schedule and the hour-long train to Central Station for us, we had to leave a bit early in the mornings. We were very glad to meet them and appreciate their friendliness and hospitality.
Óskar was our first host on our round-the-world trip. He is very intelligent, friendly, and fun. We enjoyed conversations over drinks and he shared great tips for our stay in Reykjavik. He was kind enough to let us stay in his spare bedroom on a comfy bed. If you’re planning on visiting Reykjavik, you’d be lucky to stay with Óskar – find him on Couch Surfing under screen name SKARINN.