After yet another trip to Greece, I decided to stop over in Istanbul, here is my trip report. Enjoy!
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June 6 – 9, 2012
My return flight back to the US from Greece consisted of taking advantage of a stopover in Istanbul that is allowed when you spend United frequent flyer miles. Therefore, I got to fly business class from Thessaloniki, Greece to Istanbul on Turkish Air. It was my first flight on Turkish Air and first time to Turkey, both long held travel goals!
After a nice two hour bus ride from Larisa to Thessaloniki (second largest city in Greece’s north) I had the chance to check out the very nice Aegean Airlines lounge:
At the gate:
There is our plane, we take a short bus ride to it:
Service was outstanding and here is our meal in Business Class, delicious!
Landed in Istanbul:
After paying 15 euros for a Turkish visa and a short cab ride, I arrived in the hotel. I decided to stay in the Best Western Antea Palace in the main tourist attraction area called Sultanahmet. I decided to pay for the hotel as I was traveling alone. The rate was good but the hotel did not meet my already low expectations. Oh well…
Views from the hotel patio on the roof:
I arrived around 7pm at the hotel and decided to head out. Less than five minutes away I was faced with the incredible Blue Mosque:
I think this is one of the best pics I have ever taken…and it is widely known that my photography skills suck big time!
After a good night sleep and breakfast (included in the rate) in the hotel, I was off and running through the streets back to the Sultanahmet area…
First stop, Hagia Sophia, a cradle of Christian Orthodoxy!
Another amazing picture. Sitting there and taking it all in…is very emotional…and I do not consider myself religious! But I could not help but think how this amazing architectural feat has managed to survive all these centuries in the midst of Muslim control…It was one of these priceless moments that only travel can provide…
As I was here for only two full days, I decided to take a bus tour to maximize my time…
A nice little tank like vehicle in front of a police station…
Bosphorus ahead…Asia side on the other side!
This is the Galata Bridge, one of several bridges separating the European and Asian sides of Istanbul:
The outer walls of the city
I then visited the Topkapi Palace, next to hagia Sophia
In Europe, Asia on the other side
Istanbul fish market:
Vendor, I have no idea what he is selling!
Then I spent some time in the magnificent Grand Bazaar, the shopping area with the 4,000 tiny stores selling everything!
Next morning I decided to hop on the bus again (ticket good for 24 hours) and took some shots along the way:
About to cross another bridge in the Bosphorus:
and finally reached my destination, the highly recommended Dolmabahce Palace…Very long line! But oh so worth it. The tour of the palace and Kemal Ataturk (the father of the Turkish nation) quarters were absolutely amazing. The palace tour is an absolute must imho! Another one of those priceless moments. I thought touring the palace in Madrid was fantastic…this place is even more stunning! I wish I could have taken some pictures (it is forbidden). Lets just say that the Sultans lived very well with their several wives and maids!
Then I took the metro tram back to the center of the city.
I stopped near the Galata bridge area and watched boats go on short excursion up the Bosphorus waters and beyond. Locals do like to fish a lot here:
Walked around the many fish restaurants under the bridge:
These boats were serving fish sandwiches…you walked up to it and bought one for 5 liras (about $2.50 usd). Super delicious!
Then I walked over to the Spice Market. I have never seen so many spices in my life!!
Pic above me is the entrance to the Istanbul University.
What I noticed was the vibrancy of the people…I did not see a shop closed!
Walked some back streets, this was a shoe outdoor market!
Last night, after going back to the hotel to watch Greece – Poland, the opening game of the Euro 2012 championships, I walked to the square near Blue Mosque where I got to watch a great local band playing…Salsa music…Ole!
After my walk before heading to the hotel to watch the game, I visited The Basilica Cistern, built hundreds of years ago to help with providing water to the city. A must see, very unique structure!
These are the two Medusas…they don’t know why one was upside down and one was sideways!
I had some great watermelon from local vendors, yummy!
I loved Istanbul! Something about being in the middle between Europe and Asia and its two distinct cultures, the vibrancy of the atmosphere, the smells abundant in the air, the great food, the cultural gems. Must visit in my opinion!
Very early flight on Saturday June 9th so early cab ride. Istanbul airport was very busy. It took a while to get checked in as I was flying coach to Munich on Turkish Air, then to Frankfurt and then to Detroit on Lufthansa
We had a medical situation with a passenger near landing time. Two paramedics were first aboard as soon as we landed; I hope the woman was okay, she just did not look good at all. And just like this short super fast trip was over.
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