Monday, February 28, 2011

An Extended Weekend in Istanbul

I visited Istanbul two weekends ago, from 17 until 20 Feb.  I departed from Abu Dhabi early on Thursday and came back late Sunday.  That Thursday was a holiday in the UAE, birth of the Prophet Mohammed.  And since Sunday is the start of my work week here, Sunday was my President's day holiday.  So it made for a long weekend.  I had originally planned to visit Cairo, but ... Although I wanted to go to other Middle East locations in place of Cairo, the uncertainty and unrest ongoing around the region made my decision to visit Istanbul instead easy.

I had been to Istanbul before in Oct 2008 for a brief stop on my way to Incirlik for work.  The day and a half spent back on that first visit provided a great impression and enough incentive to visit Istanbul again.  The first time I went to see the usual big touristy sites such as the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar.  I visited these sites again  but I also visited, this time, other places I had not seen before.  I crossed Galata Bridge on foot, leaving the old town area of Istanbul to Taksim area and crossing the waterway where the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn meet.  I ventured more into the city by doing a lot of walking, and riding the city tram lines.  I also took a boat tour of the Golden Horn and Bosphorus but because of the rain during the boat trip and the amount of people in the boat, I spent all of my time inside the boat on an inside seat barely able to see the sights.

Except for one afternoon, the weather was gray and drizzly during most of my visit.  No matter.  Istanbul's dazzling display of colors in its bazaars, spice market, cuisine, and brightly painted homes in the restored neighborhoods overwhelmed the drab weather setting.  The following are a few pictures from the trip.  More can viewed in my flickr account.