Istanbul 1, Turkey – 4/2014

February 2, 2016

Leaving the illusion of “safe” EU countries, we headed toward the border of Turkey with some trepidation. Crossing into a new country is always a little exciting, but Turkey is on a different level. A new language that was not part of Monika’s repertoire; A new religion; The first Muslim country we had visited in many years; New foods; Great memories of my last two adventures in Turkey. We filled up our fuel tanks and Jerry cans in Greece with the anticipation of $8.00 a gallon diesel. Gary got a quick Visa at the border. Monika didn’t even need one being Swiss. This would be the start of our visa march-route to China. Our exact entry date where we would meet our mandatory Chinese guide was already hanging over our heads and we still had six more countries to explore and six more visas to arrange in route.

Welcome to Turkey!

Welcome to Turkey!

It was dusk as we entered the mayhem of Istanbul. Everyone but us seemed to know where they were going. It was like heading into a stampeding herd of wildebeest only we were going the wrong way. Stoplights are like being in a drag race. If you don’t start slipping the clutch and inching forward as the yellow light appears, the next three cars behind you are already leaning on their horns. The Garmin GPS was doing its best as we entered a taxi line at the harbor. More horn honking and “what do you think you’re doing?” gestures. I dropped over a 12” curb, crossed a divider illegally and made a U-turn to get on Kennedy Drive, and there it was!! A turn-out with a smiling guy offering us hot tea and a musician strumming his Baglama. Deep breath—Yes, of course we would love some tea. Time to check our map and see where the hell we were. The parking lot where overlanders frequently stop was just a mile or so up the expressway.

The famous Blue Mosque was in clear view from our camp near the ferry harbor.

The famous Blue Mosque was in clear view from our camp near the ferry harbor.

$15 a night, (no water and a stinky one-squat-hole outhouse) was a bargain considering the location. We were right on the edge of the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara, walking distance to the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, museums, the Topkapi Palace, the main shopping district, several Turkish baths and the Grand Bazaar, with the metro line just across the street. Pull out the chairs and table, open a bottle of Greek wine and start dinner. Welcome to Istanbul!

You want atmosphere? We were in clear sight and hearing distance of at least three mosques with their minarets that broadcast their ear-piercing ezan or “call-to-prayer five times a day starting every morning, (two hours before dawn, which is pretty much the middle of the night!) The exact time of the ezan changes from day to day and from place to place, according to longitude and latitude, sunrise and sunset, and geographical relationship to Mecca. After a few startling mornings, we got used to it.

The famous Blue Mosque by night.

The Blue Mosque by night.

Muslims observe five formal prayers each day. The timings of these prayers are spaced fairly evenly throughout the day, so that one is constantly reminded of God and given opportunities to seek His guidance and forgiveness. Not a bad idea, isn’t it?

The magical city of Istanbul is truly one of the most exciting melting pots in the world. Nationalities from every corner of the globe may be walking down the street next to you. Yes, Turkey is officially Muslim, but the dress and mannerisms in this metropolis could be from London, San Francisco, or Hong Kong. Founded by a Greek colonist in 657 BC and called Byzantium, it has been invaded by Persians, Romans, Mongols and finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Its name has changed from Byzantium to Konstantin to Dersaadet,’ and ‘Deraliye’ to Stamboul. The name controversy was assumed to be settled when Atatürk, the founder and first president of Turkey, officially renamed the city Istanbul in the 1920s even though Constantinople continued to appear on maps well into the 1960s. The Greeks still use Konstantinopolis on maps and road signs in Greece today. Whatever the name, the Pudding Shop was our first stop. It was where the notion of The Turtle Expedition, Unltd. was born.

61 Responses to “Istanbul 1, Turkey – 4/2014”

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  8. Safe travels and cheers to a new adventure!

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  17. Thanks!

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  30. Please be safe. Not a good time to be in that part of the world. Been following you guys for 10 years plus now. Hate to see anything happen due to the indigenous savages there.

  31. This made me really want to visit Istanbul! Maybe I will fit it into my travels this year. Enjoy!

  32. All the best, you guys!

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  49. Thank you. What we have found over the years is that 99.9% of the people in this world are good people and they are mostly concerned about raising their children to adulthood, feeding them, clothing them, have a roof over their heads and hopefully, get them educated. They want their children to have a better life than they had. We always treat people with respect and it will be returned in kindness. Often, they approach us first and there is no way we can ever repay their hospitality. We can only strive to do the same for others who come our way.

  50. Great to hear from you!

  51. Happy to hear from you! Istanbul is an amazing city.

  52. Amen.

  53. I am teaching 8th graders about searching for careers, about figuring out who you are, etc. I read about Turtle Expedition to them today and they couldn’t believe what you do! For some of them who have never left ID it was an eye opening experience!

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  58. It’s a fascinating city!

  59. Annie, please send us an email at We have an idea.

  60. Ok

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