On the verge of leaving for Istanbul…

Living in a northern climate is funny. After Christmas and New Year’s die down, you are stuck with at least three months of bitter cold. You freeze your buns off, you don’t feel like doing anything, and you constantly think about either moving to a tropical island or killing yourself. Then one day (you never know what day), it suddenly gets warmer, for good. All the bad thoughts go away. You go outside. You bask in the sunlight. You love life again. You look forward to a fun-filled summer.

This all happened to me this year. And here I am today, dreaming of all sorts of activities to do this summer. I think this year will be full of travel. In fact, my first big activity is coming up in just a couple of days. I’m headed to Istanbul, Turkey! Can’t wait!  Turkish delight on a moonlit night!

The first thing people ask when I mention Turkey is: Why??  I guess it’s not high on everyone’s list of places to go to before they die. But I’ve already been to a few places. Turkey is actually a great destination and should be on people’s lists!  I’ll get into these details later. Here are my personal reasons:

  • It will be the farthest I’ve traveled going east.  Next farthest east is Naples, Italy (not that far east).  Farthest west is currently Thailand.
  • I’ve never been to the Middle East before
  • I’ve never been to a country that is predominantly Islamic.  Come to think of it, I have never been inside a mosque before.  After this, I can say I’ve visited lands dominated by 3 of the 5 great religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam).  Too bad that the remaining two religions (Hinduism, Judaism) are the majority in only two countries…
  • I’ve never been in a Turkish prison (but I do like movies about gladiators)
  • I need a lot of miles to retain my Elite airline status
  • As wise man once said, “If you’ve a date in Constantinople, she’ll be waiting in Istanbul”
  • This trip was Woj’s idea.  It’ll just be him and me on this trip.  Last time this happened was this one time, in band/orchestra camp – seriously 🙂
  • Woj and I have a friend from high school, Janine, who is currently living there and is doing research.  Would be great to see her again.  She also works at a travel agency, so we’re extra cool!  The Turkey photos in this article are hers.

Turkey has a very rich history and culture. It is truly where East meets West.  Here are some interesting facts about Turkey and Istanbul:

  • One side of Istanbul sits in Europe, while the other side is in Asia
  • The fabled city of Troy (and site of the Trojan War) is in Turkey
  • Istanbul has been a capital city for the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire
  • Istanbul was first known as Byzantium.  Later it became Constantinople, after the Roman emperor Constantine.  Now it’s Istanbul.  Just think – even old New York was once New Amsterdam…
  • Turkey boasts some of the oldest known cities on the planet.   The remains of Catal Huyuk may be 7000-9000 years old
  • Istanbul occupies a very strategic position geographically.  It guards the Bosphorus, the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean (eventually).  The Black Sea provides sea access to great countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Romania
  • The Republic of Turkey was founded to succeed the Ottoman Empire.  The Ottomans were one of the “bad guys” in World War I
  • Turkey may be considered part of the Middle East, but it’s also a member of NATO.
  • Turkey may be mostly Islamic, but it’s actually a secular state (no official religion).  In fact, the Orthodox Church (the oldest and perhaps closest-to-the-original Christians – check out this cool denomination tree) is based in Istanbul.

Ok, this might be all I know about Turkey.  I haven’t read my books yet, so I have no idea what I’m doing.  The one thing we do have planned, however, is a side trip to Cappadocia.  Cappadocia is in central Turkey and is known for some very unique geological scenery.  You can take a hot air balloon over the region! Have never done that either.

Oh yeah, the other thing I am looking forward to is my layover!  Heh, that sounds wierd eh.  I picked an 11hr layover in Madrid.  I figure it would be cool to walk around that city for a few hours, before heading over to Istanbul.  Maybe grab a tapas dish or ten….

Hopefully the “Inter-web” will be working in Turkey and I’ll be able to post a couple updates.  Stay tuned! 🙂

Photos by Janine.  This article and other cool articles can be found on my blog, at http://discopalace.com/blog.

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