Europe

Turkey, March 2010

I finally got the chance to go to Turkey, a country I have always wanted to visit.  My school needed an extra chaperone for a student trip, so I agreed to go. But then, they needed one less chaperone, so they paid for my flight (because I had already committed the week to the school) but I didn’t have to chaperone any kids. Bonus!!

Istanbul is certainly a fascinating city.  I have never been to a place that has more hotels- but they are small boutique hotels rather than huge nondescript ones.  A bit like all the small ones dotted throughout the French Quarter, but even better.

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The other great thing about Istanbul is the food.  A wonderful blend of Eastern and Western, traditional and fast food.  A great delight for someone coming from Sudan and suddenly craving a Big Mac.  Yes, I admit it.

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Istanbul has so many great sites to see that it is impossible to write about them all.  Of course the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque were first on my list.  The age of those edifices is just staggering.  A couple of walks through the Grand Bazaar, although I didn’t get to go to the Spice Bazaar as I had wanted.  Not one but two trips to the Hamam, the old Turkish bath.  A new experience for me and completely enjoyable.  I could have stayed all day, it was just a desire for more food and more sightseeing that finally pulled me out of the steamy marble baths and back into the cold day.  Because yes, it was quite cold in Istanbul, particularly as here in Khartoum we had already been getting up into the 90’s.

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There are many palaces of the Turkish and Ottomon empire dotted around the city of Istanbul- great places to view the architecture as well as amazing collections of jewels and chandeliers, rugs and furniture that great rulers habitually give each other as gifts.  Wish I had friends like that!

A cruise along the Bosphorous, with a view of Europe to one side and Asia on the other- Istanbul is truly a city that spans two continents as well as two cultures.  Outside of the city, a quick bus trip to Bursa, the silk capital, and a visit to the Silk Market to pick up ties and pashminas made of pure silk.

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One area of Turkey that is rated as a “must-see” is Cappadoccia, home of the underground cave cities and the fairy tale chimneys, a geological formation.  A great two days in the area seeing some amazing sights.

I didn’t get a chance to go to Ephesus or Troy- hopefully  one day I’ll take a cruise of the Greece and Turkey coastline that will make a stop at those places.  I would love to see the ruins of Troy.

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