Istanbul, Here I Come!

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This picture says it all, doesn’t it? Mystery, beauty, ancient civilizations…a meeting of Europe and Asia. (Continental crossings seem to be the theme of this trip.) Oh yes, and don’t forget the hordes of tourists. You may notice a lot of my pictures are angled up at the blue, blue sky. There’s a reason for this beyond aesthetics!

I flew Turkish Airlines from Berlin and was amazed to find that they serve real, even tasty, food. After my koftes and a decent Turkish red, I got to watch about half of The Hobbit (a slightly long choice of movie for a short flight, I know).

I had decided to splurge and go for a hotel-arranged pick-up at the airport, as I had heard that taxis in Istanbul can be a challenge. (I can definitely tell that I’ve been traveling for a while and am ready to take it easy.)

Now, I am trying to be very unstructured during my time in Turkey and not plan everything ahead. After planning for Russia, I didn’t have the time or energy to plan so far out. Unfortunately, this meant some frantic hotel searching in Riga to be able to get a centrally located, clean, relatively affordable hotel the first weekend in Istanbul. I ended up booking one night at the Terrace Guesthouse since it was recommended by Turkeytravelplanner.com and having them book me into a sister hotel two doors down for my first two nights.

So back to the airport transfer. I had to walk by that embarrassing long wall of people holding up placards twice and I still didn’t see my name. I moved to the side to figure out my next step when I was approached by someone who offered to call the hotel for me. I later found out he worked legitimately for the airport, but I didn’t know that at the time so I refused his offer and walked past that board one more time. At last! I found my name, and that same gentleman I had earlier brushed off (in all fairness, when someone approaches me with “didn’t I see you here an hour ago”, I feel they deserve a brush off) went to call my car. The driver dropped me at Terrace Guesthouse (easier than explaining the whole I’m staying two doors down thing to someone who didn’t speak much English), and I was made to feel right at home by the owner. We chatted for a bit and then he took my bag and walked me to the hotel I was staying at my first two nights.

Apparently this hotel switching is pretty common, as the woman in front of me checking in struck up a conversation about it. Apparently she needed to book an extra night because her travel companion had hit travel delays. Their bad luck was my good luck though – since she was solo, we decided to hang out and walk around Istanbul for a bit.

We had fun, trying to get to Galata Bridge but going left instead of right down Divan Yolu. But losing oneself is a great way to explore a city.

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Above: Me in front of the Blue Mosque

Below: A pretty mosque on Divan Yolu

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Blue Mosque illuni

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