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Let’s get this out of the way. Istanbul isn’t just a big city. It’s a massive city of over 14 million people. That’s six million more people than in all of NYC—the biggest city in the U.S.
Like any city this size, one needs to escape, if only for a day—escape the honking, sirens, haggling Turks on seemingly every street corner. New York City has the Hamptons. Istanbul has the Prince Islands.
Historically speaking, during the Byzantine era, the islands existed as a place of exile for royalty and later the Ottoman sultans. As you can probably see, this is where it got its name as the “Prince Islands.”
Today, of the nine islands once used for exile, only four are open to the public—Büyükada (the most popular) Burgazada, Heybeli, and Kınalıada—making for a perfect Turkish day-trip. Here's what you need to know in reaching and enjoying these paradisial spots that have entranced Turks for centuries.
More than two thousand years ago, ancient Greeks built pontoon bridges to cross the Bosphorus River from Europe to Asia. As time progressed, the Asian side of Istanbul grew as a largely residential area, housing roughly one-third of the city's population.
Today, the area is known as Kadıköy and won't find the parties you would in Taksim. There are virtually no tourists like over-crowded Sultanahmet, so no need to worry about $11 baklava and shady carpet salesmen inviting you for a tea and a look in their shop.
To get to Kadıköy, you’ll likely need to take a ferry—the bridge can be far from most tourist spots—but, upon arrival, here’s what to do when you first enter Asia—besides shoppoing on the famous Bagdat strip.
Travel News / Passports / Visa / Turkey Travel / IST / Istanbul Travel / → All Tags
You've booked a ticket, bought a guidebook and Netflixed a documentary; it's official that you're excited to travel to a new destination. That is, you were excited until you read that the country requires a visa. We're not talking about the plastic credit card, but a little piece of paper or sticker that means you've filed paperwork and paid for the privilege to cross a border.
Obtaining a visa can either go the hard way (like Brazil) or the easy way (like Australia), and we're thrilled to announce that one visa-requiring country has made the decision to take their process completely online. Beginning April 11, 2014, Turkey will require visitors to file an e-Visa.
Cruise Travel / Lists / Greece Travel / Mediterranean Travel / Island Travel / Azamara Club Cruises / Greek Islands / Turkey Travel / → All Tags
We know, we know. The word “cruise” doesn’t always evoke the best images in the minds of travelers. And we totally get it, because the clichéd imageryoverweight, aged travelers sitting around a pool between trips to the buffetis not exactly unwarranted. Then there are those potentially boring days at sea, the underwhelming onboard nightlife, and the plethora of problems (read: disasters) the industry has seen lately. With that, we acknowledge your skepticism and hesitation when it comes to the idea of cruising.
All that said, allow us to present a silver lining. Turns out, cruising doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of ships out there to choose from, ships that focus more on the destinations, carry less passengers and stay late into the night at port (eliminating your reliance upon on-board entertainment).
And it just might make sense for exploring certain parts of the world. We recently sailed on the Azamara Journey on its Greek Islands and Turkey itinerary. Consider us convinced that, when approached appropriately, a cruise can satisfy the needs of young, active travelers, helping them see more places than they could on their own at a price that, while more expensive than backpacking, is not at all unreasonable for what you get.
Travel Alerts / Turkey Travel / Istanbul Travel / Travel Safety / Politics Travel / Ankara Travel / → All Tags
2013 really seemed like it would be the year for Istanbul tourism. International flights from the US to Istanbul have been extra cheap ($500-700 roundtrip!), andperhaps most importantlythe majority of our friends either have just returned or are preparing to leave for a quick visit to the city, so a cloud of Istanbul chatter on social media is influencing vacation decisions. Or was.
Protests, rioting and the threat of a "Turkish Spring" are quickly chipping away at the tourist desire to visit Istanbul in 2013. To be clear, the protests, which began with the aim of opposing development of the beloved Gezi Park but quickly developed a broader focus against the current Turkish government, are dangerous; this is no Occupy Wall Street situation with drum circles and damp sleeping bags.
Shopping Travel / Souvenirs / What Everyone's Buying / Istanbul Travel / Coffee Travel / Turkey Travel / → All Tags
Welcome to "What Everyone's Buying," a new series on souvenirs, wherein we investigate what tourist trinkets are the hottest selling in hotspots around the world.
Yes, Istanbul has Starbucks. Inside those Starbucks, as in every other cafe in the city, you'll be able to order the thick, deep umber of Türk kahvesi, or Turkish coffee. Starbucks won't offer it in anything more than a plan white espresso mug, but elsewhere you'll likely lift exquisitely styled cups decorated in copper or even more precious metals, each with its own lid.
The bazaars of Istanbul offer sets of these mugs, often with a matching sugar bowl or carrying tray. They're beautiful and make excellent hostess gifts, but resist the urge to keep them away in a curio cabinet; they're best appreciated in use!
In-Flight Meals / Airplane Food / Turkish Airlines / IST / Istanbul Travel / Turkey Travel / Airlines / → All Tags
18. Eighteen. That's how many specialty meal types an international airline offers, on average.
21. Twenty-one. That's how many you'll find in the drop-down meal options when you book on Turkish Airlines. That's quite a feat, considering how complicated it already is for catering to stock an airplane with meals for several classes of service, then to throw special dietary requests into the mix.
We actually ordered a Moslem meal for our recent flight to Istanbul, but come to find out that all standard meals served on Turkish Airlines fall into this category, as the meat is halal and all ingredients are "in accord with Islamic religious beliefs." Next time we're definitely going for a vegetarian meal, because that's where things get crazy. Turkish Airlines has no fewer than seven different vegetarian meals! Check 'em out:
When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
Forget bagels. Let's talk about the Simit. These baked rounds of dough are covered in molasses and sesame seeds and, though they look more than a little bit like pretzels, have a flavor all their own. First-time visitors will be dazzled by the Simit vendor balancing act of navigating crowded streets with a tower of Simits atop their head, while seasoned Istanbul travelers are like, "whatever."
The utility of the Simit in Turkey is similar to that of Chile's Hallulla bread. It's the cheapest of the cheap, you-can-count-on-it carbohydrate beloved by all walks of life, for meals at all times of the day. We've had it cut into bite-size pieces for breakfast nibbles, slathered with Nutella as an after dinner street snack, and wholly plain during a fit of hungry stomach grumbles.
The Simit may not be a exclusive to Turkey, but the use of molasses sets Turkish Simits apart from those of the Balkans and Middle East.
New York has its Staten Island Ferry, Venice the Vaporetto and Bangkok the Chao Phraya River Bus, but no city ferry line seems quite as regal as that of Istanbul.
Last night, we hopped a Vapur (the name for these old ferries) for the first time, traveling from the docks at Eminönü near the Spice Market to about 25 minutes up the Bosphorus to Ortaköy, a neighborhood just before the towering Bosphorus Bridge. Though a private water taxi charges 120 Lira ($67 USD) for a one-way ride between these points, sharing the ferry means a far budget friendlier cost of only 3 Lira ($1.67) each way.
There's no shortage of excellent inspiration travel quotations, that's for sure. We have a few well-known favorites ourselves. Here's a few:
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." -Robert Louis Stevenson
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been; travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux
“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine
All these you've probably already heard more than enough to cause them to lose the strength of message. However, we've got one to add, and it's simple and sweet and packs such a punch that it approaches tattoo-worthiness. Ready?
Turkish Airlines / Turkey Travel / Airlines / Airline News / Design Travel / Flight Attendants / Airline Uniforms / In-Flight Fashion / → All Tags
There was a little bit of news out of the Turkish Airlines camp over the weekend, and it wasn’t exactly positive. Apparently a sneak peek of their new cabin crew uniforms was leaked out across the interwebs, and let’s just say the feedback was a little less than positive.
It doesn’t appear that Turkish Airlines has officially confirmed that this is the direction that they’re going in with their new uniforms, but if they listen to the masses they might want to throw these new uniforms in the trash and start over. Things on Twitter have kind of calmed down, but every once in a while you can still catch someone comparing these new uniforms with those from the 1960s.
If you're super-short on time in buzzing Istanbul (which is something that frequently happens with long layovers), we've "been there done that" so here are the things that’ll let you experience the modern side of Istanbul in a rush.
If you want to see how the beautiful people live in Istanbul, head down to the Kurucesme Park pier and wait to board the complimentary boat that will take you to the privately-owned island home to Istanbul’s Suada Club. Or, as some do, take your own yacht and cross the Bosphorus on your own time.
Suada Club was created in 2006 by the club mogul who owns the wildly popular celebrity hangout nightclub, Reina. Although the original vision was for a club catering to the wealthy who are far too busy to go away on a well-deserved vacation, even commoners such as we are let in and allowed to get a taste of the good life.