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Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet November 24th 2014

Blog Entry One Welcome ... This will be a brief seven (7) day blog documenting my trip to Istanbul during the American Thanksgiving Holiday 2014. As always, I would love for this blog to be interactive, so please comment. That being said ... if you think you have a "turkey in Turkey" joke I have not heard ... trust me ... I have heard it. So the trip over was uneventful. I flew on a recently refurbished United 777 from Chicago to Frankfurt (which compared favorably with the Qatar Airlines 777 I was on about a month ago ... please see www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/Madison-Nepal-Group) and then on a 2.5 hour Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Istanbul. As you know ... I am not a guy who likes to stereotype an entire people ... but the Germans have always ... read more

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul November 23rd 2014

Many have used the colloquialism "East meets West" to describe cities like Hong Kong and Taipei as a marriage of the Orient and the Occident, but while it's cliche to portray anything as such, nothing holds truer to that mantra than Istanbul. Nowhere else on the planet can you find geography, politics, religion, and race from both hemispheres mold into an amalgam that is the metropolis present today. The people here don't appear quite Arabic, but they aren't quite European; the cuisine isn't exactly Middle Eastern, but it's not exactly Western; the places of worship aren't fully Islamic in architecture, but neither are they Christian. Confused yet intrigued at the same time, Kristina and I were excited to explore Tripadvisor's top destination for 2014. Formerly known as Constantinople, this city was the capital of four empires--Roman, ... read more
Spice Market
Hagia Sophia
Turkish Lanterns

Middle East » Turkey » Eastern Anatolia » Van November 13th 2014

The one quadrant of Turkey that I had yet to visit during my previous 4 trips was the southeast region wedged in among Iran, Syria and Iraq and way off most travelers' radars. I started in Van in the far flung reaches close to the Iranian border. It's a great town famous for their imposing castle and unique and delicious breakfasts and utterly bereft of Western tourists, or any for that matter, except for a few intrepid French heading to Iran. Definitely felt like winter was approaching out there not only because of the close to freezing nighttime temperatures but also because it was completely dark by about 4 p.m. Turkey only has one time zone so not only was sunset early but so was sunrise and that first call to prayer around 4 a.m. known ... read more
Breakfast At Sütçü Fevzi With Erol
Van Gölü
Hoşap Kalesi

Middle East » Turkey » Aegean November 12th 2014

Where to start, at the beginning is always a good place, don't you think? We didn't really know what to expect in Turkey, our only reason for going there really was that we had seen different photos that various friends had taken over the years, and everyone had told us that it was a place that we really should visit, so off we went. Our flight to Istanbul left from Stansted, and during check in we were asked " do you have your Turkish Visa"? OMG, I thought, my biggest fear was about to come true. We were not going to be allowed to fly. I always hold my breath until we have the boarding passes in our hands at check in, as I have a fear that one day we will we boldly turn up ... read more
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Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Beşiktaş November 2nd 2014

Preface: I've been wanting to go to Turkey for over a year, and I picked this past vacation to do it. My friend Sloan (a new teacher) and I flew to Turkey for 7 days, starting on October 25th. We spent our first few days in Istanbul and then flew to Cappadocia for 2 days. Then we went back to Istanbul for one more day before coming back to Budapest. Sometimes I've done real entries, sometimes I've done lists. I feel like my trip to Turkey can best be summarized in a series of moments. Make sure you look at the pictures at the bottom of the page too. Pretty psyched about them. -First of all, our flight attendant on our plane to Istanbul looked just like a young Vladimir Putin -That time when our plane ... read more
Rainbow stairs!
Spice Bazaar
Blue Mosque

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet November 1st 2014

One of the most striking monument throughout the centuries, Hagia Sophia, still is in must visit list of every traveler. Hagia Sophia constructed in 6th century. It served as an Orthodox cathedral until 1453 and remained greatest place of worship in Christendom for almost a thousand years. After the conquest of Istanbul, with order of Mehmed the Conqueror, it was converted into mosque four minarets were added that changed the silhouette of historic peninsula. Even there are many mosques around, Sultans preferred Hagia Sophia for friday prays for centuries. In 1935, young, new Turkish regime proclaimed Hagia Sophia as museum regarding to its historical, cultural and architectural importance. During its construction, many building materials were carried to Istanbul from ancient areas all over the Byzantine Empire, mai... read more
Hagia Sophia Hall
Hagia Sophia inside
Hagia Sophia mosaic1

Middle East » Turkey October 29th 2014

Last day of our trip was spent in Gazientep. We took a tour of the Old Town area of Gazientep which is one of the oldest cities in the world -- said to be 5,600 years old. Our hotel is over 300 years old which seems quite young to the Turks. We visited the Whirling Dervish museum, a mosque, an underground cave area that is now a tea café and had a delightful lunch at perhaps the most famous restaurant in the city. We had perhaps the best baklava ever, which is what Gazientep is noted for. We spent lots of time wandering through the many markets in the Bazaar of Old Town. We tasted the wonderful pistachios which are different from ours in that they are fresher and not necessarily roasted. We also tasted Turkish ... read more
Cafe in a cave in Old Town of Gazientep.
Steep, narrow staircase in caves.
Sign hung in courtyard stating the family had made the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul October 29th 2014

When you read about a country in a guide book undoubtedly the national movement of the country comes up. Each modern state has a few dates a year that it dedicates to this nationalism. Normally the "independence day", "constitution day", "republic day", "president's day", "liberation day" etc. Some even have more than one of each type. Hungary for example I believe has three independence days! Which pretty much tells you how good the Hungarian Army was more than anything! I don't really know where I stand on nationalism, I would never think of myself as anything but British and was definitely upset by the concepts of devolution in the UK. But on the other hand this clinging to some sort of geo-political outlined piece of mud seems a little ridiculous. To me it conjures up this ... read more
Union Jack, the right way up I presume
The largest Free Standing Flagpole in the World, no wind
A Flag in Mourning, Kyrgyzstan

Middle East » Turkey October 28th 2014

We traveled to Gazientep today with several stops on the way. To get here, we traveled along a highway which was just within the border from Syria. We passed right by the village of Suruc and our driver told us that yesterday there were 2 mortars that strayed from Kobani (within a mile of Suruc) and did some major damage. He saw it on the news. I wonder if the fighter jets we heard the night before had something to do with that. We also passed right next to a large refugee camp that was in an old school building with high fences. I took a couple pictures as we drove by. The refugees are free to come and go as they please and many try to get work. The Turks don't like it because they ... read more
Syran refugees in Birecik
Mosaic in Gazientep museum
Menard -- Gypsy Girl mosaic

Middle East » Turkey October 27th 2014

AWOL -- we skipped out on today's activities which would have included 8+ hours in a small, cramped van and a long hike straight up a mountain with loose stones. The others aren't back yet but we are positive we made the right decision. The bad part is that we won't have seen Mt. Nemrut and the huge statutes of Hercules, Zeus and others that are built at the top by King Antiochus I -- another UNESCO site that is well known throughout the world. We spent time in the park at the base of Abraham's cliff and cave where he was born. It is Urfa's small version of Central Park. We people watched but I think we were observed even more. Several people stopped to ask where we are from and to practice their English. ... read more




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