Sunday, August 30, 2015

My All-Time Favorite Tour, Circle Tour

To understand a city, you must see the city and learn about the culture from an experienced and local teacher, and Oz was our guy. Get off the beaten path. See parts of the city away from the tourists. Experience the flavors (which is why we travel).

Circle Tour
Circle Tour's website put it best, "Have you ever toured a city and wished you knew someone there?" Every itinerary differs depending on the day of the week and what's open, etc so this is just one Sunday example.

1) Met for a local breakfast spread, expertly curated and passionately explained. Chated with like minded travelers as you sample egg dishes, cheeses, spreads of all flavors, breads, all while enjoying çai (tea).

2) Walked down Istikal St and past the Gallata tower and onward through the local shops. Cooled off with fresh orange juice.

3) Took the ferry to the Asian side, while learning about various sights and landmarks.

4) Toured the fish market and local shopping areas. Stoped for incredible mincemeat flat bread.

5) Wound through local parts and stop to learn about Turkish coffee. Enjoyed it.

6) Caught the Bosphorous cruise and enjoy the incredible sights, mansions, parks, etc that line the shores. Relaxed. Let the breeze blow our cares away.

7) Back in reality it was time for a tour of a local antique market and a stop for a special Turkish crepe filled with spinach, or meat, or cheese, or of course with pistachio and sugar. Explored.

8) Then we were off to the ultra-conservative Istanbul neighborhood to walk and wind the streets. Then the Greek neighborhood. Then the Jewish neighborhood. All this walking made us hungry, so baklavah and more tea.


Tomorrow we will try a proper hammam (Turkish bath).

Miles Walked: 7.4

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Invasion of the Selfi[sh] Stick

By Sam

You know a trend is a fad when the umbrella men are hawking "selfie sticks." (Umbrella men - plural of umbrella man; n. a man hawking umbrellas when it's raining. synonym - water bottle man, lottery ticket guy, and spinning top boy).

There we are at the Blue Mosque, where the proper police enforce garments below knees for men and concealed shoulders and covered hair for women, and in the Muslim prayer section I spot it. Look closely. Can you see it?

So if I found a dozen at this holy site, you'll believe me when I say that all the selfie sticks are everywhere. Topkapi Palace? Selfie stick. In front of the Hagia Sofia? Selfie stick. The Bosporus river? Now you got it!

Pro tip: consider keeping your phone in the selfie stick always, especially when taking regular (fka non-selfie pictures). Then you'll really look like the pro photographer that you are, as you jab at your photo victim.

Bonus points: Can spot the tourist posing in the holy spot where the imam conducts service?

Tomorrow I'll share more from our Old City tour by Circle Istanbul, while we're off on our Circle Istanbul tour, a behind the scenes look at Istanbul a local's experience.

Miles Walked: 7.21

Friday, August 28, 2015

Istanbul First Impressions

By Sam

First full day in Istanbul, so lets capture some early impressions. I'll also do a post on Wed when we leave for Athens and we can compare.

It's dirty. Yeesh, I'm two sentences in and I'm already complaining. And this is new, positive, daily affirmation Sam you're talking to. But back to it. Dirty, as in both dirt and trash. Crumbling stairs, potholes, collapsing facades, shit (pardonez moi), graffiti, car exhaust. But let's be real for a minute, it's not an Istanbul problem. This drove me crazy in Tel Aviv, and Bolivia, and Buenos Aires, and even our dear New York (people, clean up your pet's shit). Why do I start there? Because it's what you first see.

It's modern. The tram that whisks you across the Old and New City. The subway, the bus, the funicular, the boats, the malls, the galleries, more restaurants thank you can shake shack a selfie stick at. Oh my the selfie sticks! Everywhere.

It's diverse. What does a Turkish person look like? I have no idea, and I have a feeling I won't find out. One minute they're Middls-Eastern with darker complexions. The next they're European pushing on the edge of fashion. No, I swear they're uktra-conservative Muslims in burkas. Or was that uktra-conservative Christians. No, I got it, they're pasty white guys like me. And yet they're all of them.

It's historic. I have only a few mosque sightings to report, and what I've learned about Atatürk from Rick Steve.

Tomorrow is our Old City walking tour. More on all of that later.

Miles Walked: 8.47

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why do we travel?

By Sam

There's a transformative piece I read (I will share it with you), that says we travel to find ourselves. It's at first a strange notion that you have to go somewhere else to find where you want to be. Think about that for a minute. You need to fly around the world to figure out that you were already there.

Ah, or maybe you find something entirely different. Maybe you find that where you are, is NOT where you want to be.

THIS is the magic of travel. Experiencing new places and cultures serves as a catalyst for two reactions:
1) you confirm that what you know is what you want to hold dear
2) you challenge your notion of what is and what should be

In part, having reached this enlightened state was part of my mental roadblock in approaching this current trip.

You see I have traveled (see the other entries of this blog), and I have reflected (see above).

And where I am is increasingly where I want to be.

In the love of family, in the embrace of friends, in the satisfaction of work, and in the beauty of my home.

But as I've reflected during this flight, I have realized that I am where I am because I have traveled this far, and there is much more to see, feel, taste, learn, hear, smell, and do.

So lets continue this adventure, and let's do this together!