Istanbul: still a Turkish delight

Last weekend we took a monumental trip to Istanbul.

However, this adventure was historic, not because of the centuries-old mosques or that we were mingling in the heart of what was once the center of the world; this trip was remarkable for one reason:

Rick let us down.

Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh – we still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and benefited greatly from Mr. Steves’ vast repository of advice and insights, but his three-triangle rating for the Bosphorus cruise was a little high (more like Bore-phorus cruise).

The northern leg toward the Black Sea was stellar and we did have the opportunity to wander around the Asia side for a bit, but the return leg rocked most of the ferry travelers to sleep, which is not always a bad thing (although it did bring back memories of my days in the Navy ...).

Different from our last trip here, which was a 24-hour whirlwind layover that included randomly scoring tickets to a Dylan concert, this weekend we made time to discover new back alleys, get intimate with Byzantine mosaics and experience more Turkish delights (only some of which are euphemisms).

Chief on my list was the Hagia Sophia, a 1,500 year-old church that later served as a mosque (and now a museum). After Muslims conquered Constantinople in 1453, they whitewashed over all the Christian art, which actually helped to preserve it over the years.

Despite wars and the many times control has changed hands, the art and structures around town are indicative of the way Istanbul's people have embraced diversity, with all those layers revealing its intricate beauty.

We ventured north and wandered streets looking for a random flea market (becoming more familiar with the work-a-day public transportation and practicing our Turkish along the way); haggled for scarves outside the Grand Bazaar; caught a show with various forms of folk dance from around the country, and later were scrubbed squeaky clean at the same bath house S├╝leyman the Magnificent frequented in the 1500s.

In all, this trip was filled with the excitement of getting to know a new friend, better. 


Top 5 travel woes

Everyone likes to get away, but sometimes when people travel they forget to pack a little common courtesy. As the summer travel season heats up, we’ve begun stockpiling patience to deal with what have become our top 5 travel annoyances.

5. Clapping when the plane lands.
Seriously? It’s a pilot’s job to fly the plane – landing is included. My co-workers don’t give me a standing ovation every time I turn in an article – it’s my job. People are especially prone to clap when the plane lands on an island – it’s an island, people, not an aircraft carrier. 

4. The doors in airport bathroom stalls.
Dear airport bathroom architect: When you design the stall door to open inward, you’ve created one helluva life-sized puzzle. People who are traveling carry bags. It’s almost impossible to get into the stall without squeezing into that little space between the toilet and the wall. Then you’re stuck trying to finagle your bag through the gap just enough so you can close the door … and heaven forbid if you’re wearing a large backpack, forcing you to break into an awkward turtle dance. Switch the hinges and you might just earn an ovation.

3. People who crowd the baggage conveyor belt.
If everyone just took a few steps back, the entire group could readily identify their bags and retrieve them efficiently; they wouldn’t have to peer through the spaces between the people and force their way through to grab their bag before it sails past.

2. People who clog the boarding gate.
Flight attendants give pretty clear instructions: “Now boarding seating group 2. If you’re not in group 2, please remain seated until your seating group is called.”

I’m pretty sure they’ve never said, “Please block the area so everyone behind you thinks you’re in line,” but that’s what most people hear. Excuse me, ma’am, are you in line?

1. People who bum-rush the aisles as soon as the plane parks.
We boarded in an orderly fashion, why should exiting be any different? As everyone exits to the front – why would you, impatient guy behind me, think you should be in the front of the line right now?

This is especially annoying when you’re exiting the plane to board a bus that will take you to the terminal. There’s no prize for being the first on the bus.

Lately, Molly and I have resorted to the ol’ pick-and-roll technique: whoever is in the aisle seat gets up quickly to keep the impatient hordes in the seats behind us at bay while the other person takes their time to get all the bags. Ah, sweet, sweet traveling serenity.