Tag Archives: Istanbul

Vacation-part 3

Yes, my bloggy buddies, there is indeed a Part 3 to the never-to-be famous Pinklea Vacation Series. This part won’t be full of photos, however (You, at the back! Sit down and quit cheering!). This part details Four Things That I Did Not Like On My Vacation.

The main thing I did not like was being without luggage for our entire first day. It wasn’t so much the lack of clothes or toiletries, because those can always be purchased (and some, in fact, were). What really bothered me were my contact lenses. I wear daily contacts, meaning that I put a brand new pair in every morning. I can wear them for two days, or even three if I’m very careful (they are extremely thin), but there is absolutely no way I could wear them for three weeks. And of course I had my package of extra contacts tucked away in my suitcase. So if my luggage was permanently lost, I had two options: 1) be unable to see clearly more than a couple of metres away, or 2) find an English-speaking ophthalmologist somewhere in Athens, have my eyes examined and a prescription written and new contacts purchased. Fortunately, in the end, I didn’t have to deal with either scenario. Lesson learned: Do not pack ALL your contacts in your suitcase, keep SOME in your purse Just In Case.

Another thing I did not like was being on a tour. Granted, our tour was only four days, and also granted, we did get to places that would have been a lot more difficult to get to had we opted to do it all ourselves (Olympia, Delphi, Arachova). That was the only reason we took the tour in the first place. But it was awful to be shunted here and there, to be told bluntly “The bus will leave in 30 minutes, so please be back here on time”, to be practically forced to follow our tour guide through museums (we ended up listening to her introductions, then quietly slipping away to explore on our own as much as we could), to be taken to tourist-trap shops over and over and being overly encouraged to buy-buy-buy, to have no choice in restaurants for lunch or dinner – and often no choice in what we ate, either. I know that many people are very comfortable with this sort of travel and find it so much easier than finding their own hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc, but DD and I are not those people. Lesson learned: Avoid tours if at all possible, and if it is not possible, SUCK IT UP and make the best of it.

I also did not much like waking up with a very sore back in Crete. I didn’t even do anything to it, I just woke up in the morning and discovered that I couldn’t bend without pain. This is the same back pain that I experienced last March, which was only alleviated with several visits to a chiropractor. O – kay. But I was in Crete this time. My chiropractor was very, very far away. My three options: 1) Let it ruin the remaining week of my holiday, whining loudly about my enormous suffering. 2) Find an English-speaking chiropractor in Iraklion, stay put for a few days and have a couple of treatments to realign my back. 3) Roll out of bed slowly and gingerly, then carry on with the planned itinerary, being as careful as possible to minimize bending and carrying, take drugs if required, then seek treatment when we get home. I chose number 3, and managed reasonably well till our return and two (so far) visits to my own chiropractor. Lesson learned: Be very careful of your back, and always bring Tylenol and Advil whenever you travel Just In Case.

The final thing that I did not like was the male-dominated atmosphere in Istanbul. This is a little tricky to explain, because I did enjoy Istanbul and I am glad I went there. But would I go back? I don’t think so. You see, when you are a tourist, more specifically a female tourist in the touristy old part of the city, everywhere you go there are men at the front of stores and restaurants yelling at you to come in. They’re not necessarily rude, it’s just how they do business, but I got very tired of being constantly called out at as I walked down the street. “Hey gorgeous!” “American or Australian?” “Come in and look around!” “Excuse me, girls!” and my all-time favourite call of “Hey! How can I help you spend your money today?” We literally could not stop to admire anything in a window because there would instantly be one or two men right there in our faces. It was never, ever women working in the shops or restaurants either. And as DD pointed out, you never see groups of females walking around together either, unless they are young teenagers. If you see a woman, she is surrounded by her children and her husband or other male family members. The women are always covered up (headscarves, shoulders and arms covered, long skirts), while men and children appear to be free to wear whatever they please. I know that Turkey is a Muslim country and I know they do have a different attitude towards women than we are used to in North America or Western Europe and I do respect that – but it was still disconcerting. Their explanation is that men are the weaker sex, so in order for women to be safe around them, women must be discreetly behaved and cover up much of their bodies. Huh?! MEN are weak so WOMEN are required to behave and dress in a particular manner?! I’m sorry, I just can’t agree with that, and this way of thinking is just so obvious in Istanbul that I must confess that it bothered me. Lesson learned: Be grateful for the experience of visiting a Muslim country, but think twice about visiting another in the future.

So – there it is. I really did have a wonderful vacation (I think DD did, too) with many, many good points, and if there were only four little things that weren’t exactly pleasing to me, oh well. Nothing’s perfect. But this vacation came pretty close, overall!

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Vacation – part 2

Istanbul was very different than any other place I have ever been.

We were only there for four days, and so we certainly didn’t see everything we had wanted to. We stayed in a lovely little b-and-b style hotel in the old district of Sultanahmet, with a view of the amazing Blue Mosque out our window. (It’s not all that blue, by the way.) We heard the exotic and eerie call to worship at around 4:30 every morning and at around 10 pm (there are three other calls in between, but we weren’t always in the vicinity to hear them). DSCF0250

It’s such a beautiful building inside, with thick red and blue carpets and intricate tile work on the walls, arches, columns, and dome. DSCF0266 They’ve got quite the assembly line at the tourist entrance too: here’s where you remove your shoes, here’s a plastic bag to carry them, here’s a person giving you the quick once-over to see if you’re showing too much leg and efficiently wrapping you in a long blue velcro-ed skirt if you are (I was), here’s another person glancing at you to see if you’re showing your shoulders and tossing you a blue scarf to cover yourself if you are (again, I was), here’s the door, now enter! And oh yes, be quiet and respectful and stay on the non-Muslim side, please.

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The Hagia Sophia quite literally took my breath away. It’s the biggest, most beautiful and airy cathedral/ mosque/ museum I have ever had the pleasure to enter. It is just so wonderful, I can’t even express how I felt when I walked in! This building was DD’s chief reason for wanting to visit Istanbul, and she was not disappointed by what she saw, either. As I had come to expect, she was able to tell me (in as much detail as I could take in) all about the architecture and the mosaic art there. DSCF0258

Another highlight was the Topkapi Palace, the residence of sultans and the administrative centre of the Ottoman empire for 400 years, up to 1855. The grounds are huge, with so many gorgeous buildings to visit and views out over the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Strait. My favourite place was definitely the harem, with apartments and reception rooms all opulent with porcelain tiles, stained glass, marble, gold leaf, mother-of-pearl and the like on the walls, archways, columns and domes. DSCF0306 DSCF0315 DSCF0351

Among other activities, we took a ratty-looking ferry boat up the Bosphorus and got off on the Asian side, just so DD and I can now say that we have set foot in Asia. We had the world’s best yogurt there (and I’m not the only person to make that claim, just so you know), in a small town called Kanlica. This yogurt is soooooo creamy, with a very thin (not gross or anything) skin, and they sweeten it with a dollop of icing sugar. Big yum!

And of course I bought a Turkish carpet! Why else would I go to Turkey??? DSCN0814

Back in 3 weeks

Just in case anyone is wondering, I’m on vacation for a while. For three weeks. Almost three weeks. (Hey, there’s actual vacation time, travel time there and back, jet lag recovery time, holy-crap-have-I-got-a-tonne-of-laundry-and-housecleaning-to-do time … it all adds up, you know!)

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Anyway, I will return to blog again, so don’t miss me too much. Maybe I’ll bring you a present.

(PS – Happy Canada Day!)