Day 14 – Istanbul (without pictures)

Another beautiful day welcomed us this morning. We are staying at the same hotel as when we arrived in Istanbul two weeks ago. However, we are staying in a different room, a larger, nicer room, this time with a view of the Bosphorus River and many fishing boats. It is very charming.

Our first duty was to schedule a COVID test so we can travel through the US to Mexico. We travel from Istanbul, through Frankfurt to Houston, and ultimately to Guadalajara. Proof that we are fully vaccinated is required when traveling throughout Turkey and also to Frankfurt. As many of you know, this is not sufficient when traveling to the US. We need an antigen or PCR test to enter the US.

Our tour contact arranged to have someone come to our hotel and give us the test this afternoon after our morning tour. We only have a couple of things to see this morning. First, we went to the Spice Market, where our guide knows the best places to visit. I found some wonderful typical Turkish options, such as Turkish Delight (delicious treats made with nuts of all types and naturally sweet), natural hand-made soaps, unique teas (energy and relaxation), jasmine tea flowers, and seductive yet subtle perfumes.

We then went to the dock to board a large boat for our cruise down the Bosphorus. The day couldn’t have been better for this. It isn’t hot at all and there are gentle breezes, making the ninety-minute trip very pleasant. There are three bridges that cross the river. Two connect Europe with Europe and one connects Europe with Asia. As I mentioned before, almost all of Turkey is in Asia, not Europe. That was a surprise to me. As we went down the river, we saw mosques, fortresses, and dwellings of all kinds.

It was now time to return to our hotel for our COVID test. The young man who administered the test was very efficient and will send the results to my phone on WhatsApp, as well as an email so the hotel can print it to show at the airport. It should be ready in the early evening today.

Afterward, we walked from our hotel toward some of the most significant and touristy sites, including the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. They are only minutes away. But, lunch beckoned. We found a beautiful restaurant and strayed from Turkish food to a chicken Caesar salad and a delicious hamburger. Okay, call us ugly Americans! We just needed a change of cuisine.

Feeling full from lunch, we decided to relax in the afternoon and then go to Taksim Square. This Sunday night probably was no different than any other night but the traffic to the square was a nightmare. How taxis (taksi in Turkish) maneuver the roads is like Demolition Derby. They weave in and out between cars, vans, and buses with alacrity. It isn’t for the faint-hearted.

We heard that the Square is full of nightlife, restaurants, and interesting sights. It was not exactly as represented. We probably were some of the oldest people there, with an average age of about 30. There were lines at shwarma and ice cream stands. The only restaurants we saw were dessert places, with seating overlooking the square. They had baklava of all types, of course, sweets of every kind, as well as coffee or tea. Why Turkish people aren’t obese is a mystery, because they love their sugar treats. We settled on a cappuccino for me and cafe Americano for Jim, sharing some baklava. It was incredibly sweet, making Jim’s teeth ache. A few bites and we were off to grab a taxi back to our hotel.

Tomorrow is a totally free day, allowing us to visit the last of the sites on our list, without a guide and zillions of people like we witnessed today. We are hoping that a weekday will be quieter.

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