Day 1 : Houston – Istanbul

I almost missed my flight in Houston because I was discussing some business on the phone in the food court of IAH. I heard my name over the loudspeaker “Shareek Ghaanee last call to board flight xxx to Chicago”. I ran. Laptop case on my left, my backpack glue to my back, passport and ticket in my right hands, and then my shorts almost fell off. Not all the way, but far enough to get a little unwanted and very embarrassing attention. It reminded me of something from a “Home Alone” scene.

The flight was good. Unfortunately, my flight wasn’t directly to Heathrow and I had to connect through Chicago. No problem, I wandered around the food court, found a plug, got online and then I almost missed my flight again.

I dozed off on most of the 6 hour flight to London, and would have been asleep the entire time had it not been freezing in the cabin. Good job AA.

When I got to Heathrow and I was heading for my connecting flight with British Airways to Istanbul, a security guard stopped me and point towards an incredibly long line.

Note to all: Apparently, when you fly through Heathrow, you can only have ONE carry-on.

I told the guy that I was cleared through O’hare airport, but he didn’t care. His words, “you’re on UK property now.” Got another stamp on my passport, went through customs, checked-in my bag, and hurried to the gate with only 10 minutes to spare.

FINALLY! I made it to Turkey. My first observation: people were speaking Turkish ?. It’s nice to hear another language being spoken so openly other than Urdu, Arabic, English, and Spanish.

Not to all: When you get to Ataturk International, don’t wait in the passport line. Far off in the distance, very far off in the distance there is a visa line. Head there instead. I wasted about 35 minutes in the passport line.

Istanbul looks like something right out of a European movie set. Or maybe it’s just me. It reminds me of the movie Ronin with Robert DeNiro. Brick roads, hanging trees, gloomy sky, fast small cars, etc. etc.

My Taxi driver

My taxi driver

 

Ataturk!

Driving from the airport to the hotel, I saw pictures of the guy below everywhere. Who is this guy?

My hotel is nice. I’m staying in a corner of a section called Sultanahmet which is part of “Islamic Istanbul”. This is where all the nice museums, masajid, and other touristy destinations are. The room is huge and for some reason I have four beds in here. Still paying the regular room rate. It would be nice if there was more people with me, but at least I can spread all my stuff around without worrying about a mess.

After I had freshened up a bit, I walked out to grab some food and check out some of the sights. It was a little Too bad everything in this section of Istanbul closes around 8 or 9pm. I got to check out the famous Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofia which it was modeled after.

For thos who don’t know the Aya Sofia was a very famous church here in Constantinople. After this area was conquered the church was redone to resemble a masjid, and some time later the Turks decided that it’d be good to have a nicer mosque right across from it. The Blue Mosque was made, and is still one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world.

My mom would have REALLY loved the chestnut stand. You can smell the roasting chestnuts a mile away with a big pummel of smoke to mark the spot. They nuts themselves are cut almost in half, and there is no peeling involved at all. They’re pre-cracked, and you just pull out the soft steamy chestnut and enjoy. At home, this process would involve an oven, about an hour’s worth of time, and lots of peeling.

Only 3 lira, which is about $2.25 or $2.50.

Tomorrow: Princes Islands, Islamic Museum, and the Topkapi Palace.

Chestnuts!

Chestnut stand!

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