Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nostagia isn't what it used to be

We were going back to Turkey- but this time with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law- and were trying very hard to create a trip that would show them the best of why we chose to move there and stay (in spite of the "work" part...)

T and I left Corfu on the early morning flight, in order to make our connections.  This involved, of course, a significant amount of waiting around while in the Athens airport.

The good news: there is an excellent bookstore in the airport.  The bad news: if you buy heavy books at the start of your trip, you have to drag them around for the whole trip.

T bought the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson.
Total number of pages in trilogy: 1949.  Still it gave us something to do while waiting.

Finally we arrived in Istanbul.  Our first impression was not the typical chaos we remembered but the generic chaos that goes with most arrivals in "any" airport.  Everything looked new.  Passport control was fairly organized.  Rather than a small table off to the side, there was now a "visa" window just next to passport control.  Quick and easy visa purchase and then on to the relatively short wait at passport control for the arrival stamp.

Luggage was actually waiting at carousel.  (unlucky with choice of luggage cart as it had the same problem so many grocery carts seem to have wherein one wheel operates in an alternate universe.  Problem solved while T went to change money, I found a replacement cart.)

On exiting we were confronted with around 90 placards with all names but our own.  It took several tries over a period of about 15 minutes, but we finally connected with our free shuttle to our hotel.

First impressions of Istanbul were that it was VERY much changed.  The airport and the highway to the city were much better organized.  We passed several HUGE shopping malls and literally, an entire new city of tower apartment blocks.  The current population (13,120,596 in 2010) seems to be into shopping!

Then suddenly we came around a corner of the Kennedy Caddesi and there was the Bosphorus!

Of course there were hundreds of cargo ships moving slowly in the distance.  The Bosphorus is like a giant airport for ships picking up and delivering cargo. Turkey is one of the few countries that remains self sufficient and can feed itself.

Among the products produced (though one would think from the local street touts that it's mostly carpets, leather jackets and tourist plates...) the manufacture of textiles is Turkey's largest industry (Domestic cotton and wool provide much of the raw material for the industry) Also produced for export, sugar, flour, processed meat and milk, and fruits and vegetables as well as iron and steel, boron products, caustic soda, chlorine, industrial chemicals, sodium phosphates and automobile parts.

That certainly fills a lot of container ships.

As we continued along we saw the ancient walls of the city, fortified by all and sundry... for more than two thousand years.  The original Byzantium was founded in 667 BC by colonists from Megara, and obviously considerably built on for the next two thousand years!

I was fascinated to discover from my good friend Wikipedia that :
"the peninsula was settled thousands of years earlier than previously thought. Thracian tribes established two settlements—Lygos and Semistra—on the Sarayburnu, near where Topkapı Palace now stands, between the 13th and 11th centuries BC. On the Asian side, artifacts have been found in Fikirtepe (present-day Kadıköy) that date back to the Chalcolithic period. The same location was the site of a Phoenician trading post at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC as well as the town of Chalcedon, which was established by Greek settlers from Megara in 685 BC."

Finally we were nearing our destination which was the original European outpost in the city: The Galata area, and Beyoglu.

As we neared our destination the view out the window reminded us that we had missed lunch.

Street food is abundant and really cheap in Istanbul!  (basically the exchange was 1 euro to just a touch over 2 TL which pretty much meant that it was simple to divide the price in half and figure out how much you were actually spending.)

view from a balcony window
So finally we arrived and settled into the Santa Ottoman Hotel, near Taksim Square (5 minutes) and Istikal Street.(3 minutes). The room was lovely.  We had two wonderful balcony windows and a heavenly memory foam mattress bed.

On arrival I texted an old friend and we arranged to meet at 7:30 for dinner.  Then we took a wander out to discover the wonders of Istikal Street.  Istikal street NEVER sleeps.  There are people going somewhere, either up or down the street all day and all night.

We wandered along with the crowds.  I'll end today's post with a few pictures from out wanderings, and tell you that we had a great evening with our friend and had a brilliant dinner at Refik. Tomorrow will be more of our next couple of days in Istanbul (on the Galata side of the bridge, and our departure to Izmir)
Greek Embassy Consulate on Istikal (main Embassy is in Ankara)

Çiçek Pasajı
lovely art nouveau window above pasaji exit (duplicate above entrance as well)
St Antoine Church, Beyoglu, Istanbul
(for you Nina!) I ate one every day.
Galata Tower
and last but not least... where we had our lovely dinner:

tres tasty!


  1. Super! Thank you, bringing back happy memories.

  2. I sighed with regret when reading your post and seeing the photos of Istanbul: I lived in Armenia for years, and never ended up checking out Turkey. Really wished now that I had. I keep hearing how wonderful the place is.

    Thanks for the post, and enjoy!

  3. What did you have for dinner? And what is that stand you mentioned for Nina? What kind of food do they sell? Details woman! :)

    Hugs and quiches from Kitty xx

  4. Dear Fly,
    It was amazing to me that this trip triggered so many sensory memories for me! The tastes, smells and sounds all brought other memories up from the depths. I'll continue posting, thanks for continuing to read!!

    Dear Miss Footloose,
    Ah, I keep wishing I'd gone to SO many places, when I had the chance, too! Maybe our NEXT life, eh? (gives you a reason to think favorably about reincarnation...)

    Dear Kitty,
    We had a great meal of assorted meze plates (aubergine dips, little crispy fried rolls of pastry wrapped cheese, garlic and potato dip... there were lots and lots of little starter dishes, the way food is served in any Meyhane (similar to Taverna) T had fish and I had chicken our friend had lamb, all cooked on the charcoal grill.

    The part that made it all quite mellow and unphotographed was the bottle of Raki (like Ouzo) we killed! It was so great catching up with our friend that the food though excellent turned out to be merely a piece of the whole of a lovely evening.

    I'll try and be better about remembering the great food!


    The little stand belonged to a Simit seller. Simits are little circular breads with sesame seeds, very common in Turkey (as well as in Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and other parts of the Balkans and Middle East)



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