Blogs from Turkey, Middle East


Middle East » Turkey » Aegean » Cesme August 16th 2019

Back in Çeşme, the immigration process was slightly swifter and facilities much better. We found our new hotel, a Boutique (Butik) hotel in the back streets of the main shopping street. The charming couple that run the hotel were very keen to teach us some Turkish and found the language translation apps very useful in welcoming their guests. We had dinner in the main area of town, and a quick wander around. The next day we took a taxi to the nearby village of Alaçatı. Alaçatı is a picturesque village (that now seems to exist solely for tourism) about 9km away from Çeşme. Think white-washed houses with vivid blue doors and window sills, blooming pink Bougainville flowers and ample opportunities to take that perfect photo. It was a lovely walk around town – a little busy ... read more
Bougainville of Alaçatı
Çesme castle

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Bursa August 11th 2019

We left our beloved Istanbul and took the ferry across the Sea of Marmara to Bursa. In just under two hours we were at the Mudanya port, about 30km from Bursa. We couldn't work out the buses so we took a taxi to our boutique hotel. I had been to Bursa in 2006 with Intrepid on my first trip to Turkey - from what I remember Bursa is a historical city that was on the silk road. Today, Bursa is famous for its silk. Seljuk-style mosques and the famous Iskender Kebap (which many restaurants renamed it the Bursa Iskender). When I planned our trip, I neglected to check the public holidays – Kurban Bayramı (eid-al-adha in the Arabic speaking world) fell on the day we were due to leave Bursa for Çeşme. Usually, there is a ... read more
Covered gold Bazzar
Ulu Cami
Ulu Cami

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul August 9th 2019

We arrived into the new Istanbul Airport (one word HUGE) late Monday evening from Seoul. We were swiftly picked up by our pre-arranged pick up service by a nice young man in flash BMW and taken to our hotel in the old city. We love staying around the Sirkeci/Fatih area of Istanbul – close enough the Sultanahmet and all of the old city attractions, and only a short walk over the Galata bridge to the shopping/hip district of Beyoğlu. My 6th visit to Turkey, and Bill's 5th. This city will never grow old for us – indeed this country sparks something special for us. Early the next morning (which is a great time as not too many people are out) we walked up the winding street dodging trams and cars to Sultanahmet. As we've done the ... read more
Istiklal Caddesi
Süleymaniye Mosque

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet June 6th 2019

Somehow, these emails were not sent, and were actually "lost" until I retrieved them here at home. I apologize for sending them all at once. As I may have mentioned, Istanbul is a great city, perhaps a top ten in my personal book of cities. I hope to return some day and see more of this wonderful country. They are most welcoming, love Americans, and have a strong infrastructure to support all types of tourism. And of course, my favorites, among many favorites, was the Grand Bazaar, a total feast for the senses. Only in Istanbul II have been waiting for many years to visit. The visit is upon me. What to see and do? How about these for a start? I want to try the famous street food, particularly the Döner kabab, which is famous ... read more

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet June 2nd 2019

I just read where kidnapping is now on the State Department's risk indicators for travelers to some countries I am visiting or visited in the past. From Fodor's: On April 9, the U.S. State Department announced that it’s added kidnapping to the risk indicators on its travel advisories. Countries where U.S. citizens face the potential risk of being kidnapped or taken hostage will now be marked with a “K” on their respective travel advisory page, alongside previous indicators like crime, terrorism, and natural disasters. The new indicator has been applied to the 35 following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia/... read more
The ransom note
Even in San Francisco!

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet May 28th 2019

The Hagia Sophia, built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral in 537 CE, was a mosque under Ottoman rule after 1453. It became a museum after the founding of modern Turkey in 1935. Prior to the completion of the Seville Cathedral in 1520, Hagia Sophia was the largest church in the world for about 900 years. It attracts over 3 million tourists a year. It has been standing for over 1400 years. It was converted to a museum by the first President of Turkey, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk. Totally amazing is the fact that the church has been destroyed twice by riots. First built in Constantinople in 360 CE and dedicated by the Roman Emperor Constantius II (son of Constantine, the founder of Constantinople), the initial, wood-constructed Hagia Sophia burned during a series of riots in 404 CE. ... read more
Beautiful on the inside
An architectural wonder
I made my wish at the weeping pillar

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet May 24th 2019

The Blue Mosque is blue because of the hand painted, blue tiles (over 20,000) on the interior walls. Built in 1606 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmet I, this Ottoman mosque contains his tomb, a madrasa (educational institution), and a hospice. Still used as a mosque, the Sultanahmet Camii (Turkish for Blue Mosque) is a popular tourist attraction here in Istanbul. But it is closed in ninety minute segments during the five daily prayers for worshippers. Mid morning is the best time to arrive. One noticeable difference from the Hagia Sophia is the four "elephant foot' pillars. It has a central dome, flanked by four semi-domes, making it nearly square in shape. The mosque was designed as an imperial show of strength to complement the Hagia Sophia across Sultanahmet Square. It also has six minarets, ... read more
Blue Mosque
Beautiful blue tiles
View of the Blue Mosque

Middle East » Turkey » Mediterranean » Patara May 23rd 2019

I can only think of one word, a chemical element, P, number 15, Phosphorus, never found as a free element on earth. But Bosporus, the strategic waterway, is the strait between the Black Sea and Sea of Marmara. With the Dardanelles, it separates Europe form Asia. Or should I say, it connects Asia and Europe? It is only 19 miles long, and from 2.3 miles wide at the west, and only 2450 feet at its narrowest. The current here flows from north to south, but with a strong subsurface undercurrent, making navigation difficult for beginners. The strait is busy with oil tankers, and commercial ships (over 48,000 annually), along with local fishing and sightseeing boats. One hundred and forty ships take the 90 minute voyage daily. In addition, the Bosphorus has two tunnels that run underneath: ... read more
Great views
Bosporus is here!
 a bridge

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Kadıköy May 22nd 2019

I have mixed thoughts about visiting Turkey. Not just the current political turmoil, but their past history with the genocide of the Armenians. We grew up with so many Armenian families and friends in the area. They are among my best friends. And the greater Fresno area is home to a large number of Armenian Americans. But I have been anxious to visit, despite all of the issues, even the danger. Last year, as you may remember, I had one of the last visas issued to an American, and was told by the State Department NOT to go! This time, unless another war breaks out, or open hostility to tourists, namely Americans, becomes unbearable, I am going. I plan to pick and choose my spots, and most likely avoid tour groups, which seem to be an ... read more
7 hills
The sultan

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