Flying to Istanbul

5pm west coast time, but at the moment I am somewhere over the Atlantic ocean with Iceland to the north. Who knows what time it is, doesn’t it all become irrevelant when you are flying at 629 miles per hour, at 37000 feet and the outside temperature is -58 degrees?? Funny.

Travel. Great word. Brings to mind all sorts of things like adventurous journeys to amazing places I have never been. Brings to mind journeys in the MoHo, stories I hear about Mo’s travels to so many places in the world, travel. What I always want to do. Road trips. Far places. Exotic countries. One thing, however, is that you do have to get there. Which usually means flying. Travel equals flying. For many very long hours in very small spaces with a whole lot of people.

I used to love to fly. Flying was once a great thrill to me, but after a lot of years of traveling for my government job it has become a bit less dramatic to get in a big metal cylinder and zoom up to 37 thousand feet or so. I have always loved the window seats, I guess it’s the map maker in me, I love to watch the landscapes, the patterns, see how the soil patterns show up on the ground beneath me, identify the peaks and ranges and rivers. It’s a bit sad that I am beginning to think that yeah, maybe an aisle seat isn’t so bad after all. How many times can you fly over the US, trying to see through the pervasive high level pollution and still be thrilled by what is below. Well, maybe a few more times, but I still won’t let myself be completely disappointed by the aisle seats.

We left Jamestown yesterday afternoon for the 3 hour drive to san Francisco, this time staying at the Travelodge in SSF for their great park and fly special. The room wasn’t bad at all, a place to sleep and bathe and get ready for the next day. Dinner at the Hungry Hunter, good food, good wine, and to sleep by 8 for the 3am alarm call. Shuttle at 4. Plenty of time. OK where are we going? Carefully reading our itinerary, we see “international” terminal 3. Mo thinks maybe it should be domestic since we are going to Chicago first, but we rethink perhaps our luggage needs to depart in some sort of international way. Shuttle drops us off, through those doors, he says, and in we go to the emptiest airport I have ever experienced. One tired maintenance worker pushing a cart around, an asian man sleeping on the chairs, and row after row of empty counters. United Airlines international check-in, not a soul. Counters say they open at 7am. Our plane leaves a 6. Hmmm. Must be some kind of mistake, we think, both of us seriously uncomfortable but not sure what else to do. Finally someone says, the counters are supposed to open at 5, and then I spied a pilot and cornered him. In very, very patient, very condescending tones, he asks me, “so what city do you think you are in right now? What city are you going to? You need to go to the domestic counters.” “But our papers say international” I say, trying to stay calm. He says, you are getting a bit late for your baggage, go down those stairs, down to the next terminal, and find the domestic counter.

Off we go, feeling a bit panicky, and a bit frustrated, and after a bit of time, we manage to find the domestic counter, with lines, and helpful people who don’t understand why we are late. We try to check our luggage, and then trying to make sure that it is checked through to Istanbul, the airline person, says, no, it’s just going to franfurt. What?? Panic getting a bit stronger now. She says, “follow me here, we will get this done for you.” Counter person, with a hmph, says you are running a bit late here for the baggage cutoff. Do you have one or two pieces. Just one. Wait Mo has one, is that me with one or me with two? Moana? Oops, I left my ticket back on that last counter. OK we are running now, trying to find the gate and get through the security lines. Sure enough, someone very slow in front of us, someone very large with a lot of stuff and a leg in a brace, he says go in front of me, so Mo goes ahead. Oops, can’t carry your passport folder through the machine, quick drop it in the bin. Whew. Through the xrays. Uhoh. Where is Mo’s passport??? It’s fallen out of the bin and is now caught in the rollers. Hmmm. Where? The rollers???!!! The security person lifts off the rollers, retrieves the passport, Mo tries to get her shoes on, Sue tries to get on shoes while picking up the laptop, and omigosh, where IS that gate anyway. Now we are running, almost running through the airport, looking like all those people I see running through airports and think hmmm, how could they not have planned more carefully. We find the gate. Coffee? Breakfast? Not today. The plane is loaded. We are flushed and rushed and yes, we are on the plane. Whew! What a way to start a trip.

After that very wild start, we had a lovely flight, smooth and on time. Amazing. It was a great time of day to be leaving SF with enough light to see everything but enough darkness for the lights to be twinkling. The bridges were lovely, the pink morning light illuminated everything like magic. In spite of the fact that my hair and clothes were drenched from the run, it was beautiful.

The rest of the day has been fairly simple. Plenty of time in Chicago for a salad and a beer, back on the 777 again, just a couple of seats ahead of our previous flight, this time in the middle aisle, but thank goodness on the aisle. I am knitting, Mo is doing crosswords. The movie was “Mamma Mia” which is fun for both of us since we have a great memory of seeing the live broadway show on a spontaneous travel afternoon in Minneapolis a couple of years ago. Half way through this flight now, to Frankfurt. Hopefully our luggage will keep up with us. Amazingly, there isn’t one single crying baby on this plane! How lucky is that!

Saturday morning we landed in Frankfurt, Germany. There wasn’t any clue about where to go or what to do and when I spoke English to some of the airport personnel they acted truly irritated with me. I was getting a bit intimidated by all of it, and Mo and I walked around a bit before we managed to find someone who could tell us where to go. After flying for so many hours we were beginning to get tired and not a little bit grumpy with all the unknowns. I was surprised at how hard it was for me to feel at all comfortable with the language barrier in Germany. I was also surprised at how little I like the sound of the German language.

We finally found a Haagen Daz store, I had a tiny bit of ice cream, 5 bucks for maybe 4 ounces, but it was nice to have a place to sit and watch people. We discovered that we just had to wait till our departure time was a bit closer before they posted it up on the big board. We had 3 hours to wait in Franfkurt, so of course, there wasn’t anything up on the boards yet. They listed the gate letter but not the gate number and that had the two of us a bit disconcerted for a while for sure. By the time we got on the big airbus headed for Istanbul we were feeling the tiredness of all these hours flying. No matter where you go, you somehow have to get there, and that’s the hard part. It makes the first day seem really hard, so even things that might seem ok are made much worse by the tiredness and exhaustion of the travels. Just forget how things feel on that first day, I guess, just let it go.

Saturday evening at 730 pm Istanbul time
We are here in the hotel Lion waiting for our included dinner after meeting with the group. We managed to get in to the country today in spite of the wild weather that was plaguing most of Germany. As we circled Istanbul, the wild waves whipped up by the winds were dramatic and scary. The passengers cheered the pilot when we landed, it was a scary windy very sideways landing. A visa is required to enter Turkey, and before we left Grand Circle sent lots of documentation regarding how to buy this visa through a private company in advance. With some research however, we learned that you can by the visa when you enter the country. Just be sure to have a crisp new $20 bill. Immediately after getting off the plane you go through the visa gate, hand over your $20 and your passport and you are on your way. Five minutes at the most! Buying our visas and going through customs was completely uneventful once we got of the plane we just followed the signs.

We are here, we are certainly tired, we are ok, safely landed. The hotel smells smoky, it’s a European thing I guess. The room seems very small, and we open our window to look out at our lovely view of another cement building and some heating equipment. As I said, ignore however I feel on the first day of a long flight and just get some sleep. The wonders will begin to appear after that first day is a tiny laughable memory.

Less than a week!

I am excited, to say the least. This weekend I am finalizing my packing, making sure bills are paid, details taken care of. I will work the first of the week, Mo will arrive Wednesday from Oregon, and we leave for San Francisco on Thursday evening so we can be ready for our 6am flight to Chicago, and then on to Istanbul by way of Frankfurt. We are traveling with Go-Ahead Tours, a first for us, since past international travels have been mostly with Grand Circle. It’s a chance to compare. I am taking the laptop, and plan to write daily and upload photos as well. My last two international trips were journaled sporadically with pen and paper, so hopefully this time I will actually keep better track of everything. This trip has a fairly ambitious schedule, so it might be even more important to keep good track of things since it really can all run together after a few days.

Day 1 Nov 21- Istanbul
Board an overnight flight to Turkey from San Francisco via Chicago and Frankfurt.
Day 2 Nov 22 – Istanbul
Land in Istanbul, the ancient capital of civilization known previously as Byzantium and Constantinople.
Day 3 Nov 23 – Istanbul
On a guided tour of Istanbul, visit 15th-century Topkapi Palace, home of Ottoman sultans; the ancient Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia, illuminated by 30 million gold mosaic tiles; and the stunning Blue Mosque. Pass by the Hippodrome, an elaborate stadium once the site of ancient chariot races.
Day 4 Nov 24 – Istanbul
Free time to explore Istanbul. Plan to visit the Museum of Ancient Civilizations. Possibly join an optional morning cruise among the Bosphorus Straits, the ancient waterway that connects Europe and Asia. View Ottoman palaces and medieval castles during this half-day cruise along the Bosphorus Straits, which separates Europe and Asia.
Day 5 Nov 25 – Canakkale
Stop for a guided tour of Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman empire. Continue to Canakkale, a town coveted in centuries past for its strategic location.
Day 6 Nov 26 – Kusadasi
A local guide leads a tour of Troy, where Homer’s Iliad comes to life. Tour the ruins, where experts have identified the relics of nine civilizations dating back 5,000 years. Then follow the Aegean coast to Pergamon, visit the ancient Greek Acropolis. Continue on to seaside Kusadasi.
Day 7 Nov 27 – Kusadasi
Visit Ephesus, one of the Mediterranean’s best-preserved classical cities. View the Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian and the house where Mary is said to have spent her final days. This afternoon, opt for a journey to the village of Sirince for a firsthand look at Turkish rural life. The peaceful village of Sirince lies in the hills outside of Ephesus. On a walking tour led by tour director, stroll past some of the country’s best-preserved 19th-century architecture.
Day 8  Nov 28 – Pamukkale
Stop today at the ruins of Miletus. Next, visit Didyma’s Temple of Apollo.
Day 9 Nov 29 – Pamukkale
Take a guided tour of Pamukkale’s travertines, a cascade of snowy white calcium terraces formed from hot springs. The tour includes the ruins of Hierapolis, the Roman spa city built around Pamukkale’s calcium rich waters. In the afternoon, opt for an excursion to Aphrodisias, the best-preserved Hellenistic site in all of Turkey, dating back to at least the 1st century B.C. The site includes a temple dedicated to Aphrodite. In Aphrodisias, explore the city that honored Aphrodite, goddess of love. Ancient sculptures made of glowing marble date back to the late 1st century B.C. in this beautiful getaway.
Day 10 Nov 30 – Antalya
Cross the Kale River Delta to Demre. Visit the 4th-century Church of St. Nicholas. Continue to the ruins of Phaselis, an ancient Lycian city. Later reach Antalya, ancient retreat of Antony and Cleopatra.
Day 11 Dec 1 – Antalya
View the Old Town and visit the archaeological museum and Hadrian’s Gate. Later, a trip to Aspendos and Perge. Perge was settled for new Greek colonists and prospered under Alexander the Great. The ancient remains of the city include the Great Theatre, Hellenistic Gates Roman bath houses and a magnificent stadium.
Day 12 Dec 2 – Cappadocia
Stop in Konya. Visit the Mevlana Museum. Continue to Cappadocia. This evening, an optional excursion to see a Whirling Dervishes performance. The Muslim sect known as the Whirling Dervishes was founded in the 13th century by Mevlana Celeldin Rumi. Learn about this fascinating sect and its modern-day practitioners during this special cultural performance of dance, music and tradition.
Day 13 Dec 3 – Cappadocia
Tour the rock churches of Göreme and visit the towns of Pasabag and Avanos. This evening, attend a traditional Turkish Folklore Evening. Taste Turkish wine, snacks and beer at this authentic Cappadocian restaurant, carved out of sheer rock.
Day 14 Dec 4 – Istanbul
Enjoy a free day in Cappadocia or opt to visit the Eskigimus Monastery. After an included dinner this evening, board your return flight to Istanbul, where you’ll spend your last night in Turkey.
Day 15 Dec 5 – Istanbul
Depart for home .