IMG_0594Tim and I left the states around 5:00 pm (EST) Monday and arrived in Istanbul at 3:45 pm (seven hours ahead of EST). Flying overseas is a long ordeal and really wipes you out. Arriving at the airport early, a couple of layovers, and long flights add up, especially when you have trouble sleeping on the plane!

Tim apparently was able to sleep well – he got bumped up to business class for all his flights! Ah, the perks of being a frequent traveler. I, on the other hand, was too excited to sleep much in the coach cabin. My crossword puzzles and music kept me company.

IMG_0593The keys to flying well are simple: drink lots and lots of water, starting the days before your flight, and try to walk around a few times while in the air. Flying dehydrates you, and sitting for long periods during drastic altitude changes will send all your blood to your feet. You can wear compression socks to help out, but staying hydrated and keeping your circulation going are the best ways to prevent discomfort during the flight and afterward.

Since we left from separate cities – Pittsburg and Nashville – the plan was to meet at our gate in Amsterdam and fly together to Istanbul. My flight from Pittsburg to New York was delayed 2 hours, which would have made me miss my connection overseas. But Delta treated me well and got me re-booked through Detroit, where I was on the same flight as dad!

IMG_0598When we arrived in the Istanbul Ataturk airport, we had to get a visa to enter Turkey ($20 gets you 90 days with multiple entrances). You can get the visa at a desk right after you disembark, at least until April 10. Now there’s a website where you can get the visa by email up to two days before your trip – saving you a lot of time that you will then spend waiting in line to get through passport control.

We bought metro tokens (“jeton”) at the airport and took the metro and tram to our hotel, Hotel Karslioglu. This hotel is close to the Golden Horn but a 30 minute walk from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The rooms are rather small and the bathroom is not en-suite but the reception is friendly and the beds are comfortable. The Karslioglu is off of the main road so the majority of street noise is dampened by the surrounding buildings. There are lots of shops, however, so we get to listen to the foreign conversations and the familiar laughter of children as we sleep tonight.

IMG_0612After checking into the hotel and catching up on our budget records, we walked around the surrounding neighborhoods and stopped for dinner. Normally Europeans are late eaters, so we were surprised to see this area of the city shutting down around 8 pm! We dined at a little kebab place called the Troya Cafe (named after the city of Troy). Tourists beware – they certainly gave us the “special price” for foreigners. Smaller restaurants that do not publish their prices will charge more for travelers simply because they can. Look for places that have a menu posted so you can know for sure what you will be paying.

And now it’s time to attempt a full night’s sleep. Tomorrow will be a big day of grand mosques and extensive museums and I can’t wait!