My first experience with covid Istanbul...

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May 27th 2021
Published: June 13th 2021
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We are back on a plane tomorrow morning, so I thought it's maybe time to log my last blog.

Here I am for 3 days and 2 nights in Istanbul. You cannot go direct between South Africa and Turkey, but you need to stop in a "safer" country for minimum 10 days or risking a 14 days quarantine upon arrival in a government facility at your own cost. Well....Egypt did the deal for over ten days and I was not even asked about my prior traveling movement upon the last 10 days.

I can confirm too that Turkish Airlines (even as a Gold member), is better to avoid right now! Been flying with Qatar lately...great lounge, great decent duty-free in Doha...and Emirates has not resumed to fly to South Africa since 16th January...and it could be a while before they come back!

I've been in Istanbul multiple times. The only place I really wanted to paid a third visit was the Basilica Cistern, but it has been closed to public since November 2020 and I have no idea when this will change. Since my last visit Agia Sofia has been turned from a Museum to a no thanks not for this time, neither the Grand Bazaar....don't want to haggle non-stop...

This time, I would spend most of my time around Nisantasi, Taksim and Zeytinburnu. If you know Istanbul well, you've already figured out, I'm here for some solid shopping therapy. Last indulgence was back in Dubai in January when it comes to shopping. Note that South Africa is perfect for wine, food, sport goods....but you can kind of forget to try to dress up around here!

So I had my idea of a little shopping list...for myself and for my wife! Trust me, I can shop into any dress/shoe or whatever lady shop better than most of the better sex! My first leg of this trip was done with two of 14kgs with all the diving gears, and my little 8kgs backpack with computer/camera equipment. Don't ask, that's 22kg carry-on...without a blink of an eye from the staff! So yes, first mission was to get another bag for the 20 extra kilos I would take back home 2 nights later!

The country had been on a hard lock-down till just after Ramadan on the 17th May. Good, I'm in only on the 25th, so everything had the time to re-open...or nearly! Restaurants are still only open for take-away and delivery. I'm lucky that hotel restaurants are still open for in-house guests. My decent hotel in Taksim has a more than cute restaurant on the top-floor. So it will be breakfast at 10am and dinner early with a top view and few glasses of wine. I did attempt the first day to have "lunch" into a food court. Trust me, it's not my idea to have my lunch standing with not even a decent place to hold the food. Done one day, the next two, no thanks, I'll just have a superb breakfast and drinks on the go...

So shopping done, I nearly found everything I was looking for! No more shopping for a trip is another of those "remote" ones. I must admit I have been pretty impressed with the area of Nisantasi. I will visit again. Feet did hurt at the end of each day, I have no idea how many kilometers I did, but it was a lot!

We are entering the third wave here in South Africa. They have so far been able to vaccinate 3% of the population. Yes, that's on the 13th June! At home, most of my friends who are 60 and above have been able to get their first jab. But I'm a little too young, so it could take months before I can get a shot here. Tanya has had her two Sputniks last month in Russia. So I can confirm, she now sees the moon closer. I guess getting a vaccine dose...or two for me may just be the opportunity to jump a border...or two very soon...

More special pictures for the next blog...till there...stay safe and enjoy life!

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