Three Days In Istanbul: Travel in a (Sort Of) Post-Covid World

After nearly two years of Covid-related isolation from the World At Large, I finally made my way out across oceans to spend three days in Istanbul, Turkey.

 And, after a long time away, back to where I began so long ago...

My itinerary was a bold one.  Three countries, two continents, with thirteen days to explore.  If I had to wait two years to travel, I reasoned, I'd better make it count.  And I did.

You may be thinking, why entitle these essays 'Post-Covid.'  Covid isn't over.  And you'd be correct.  We're still in the thick of it.  But for me, my isolation was coming to an end, for better or worse.  For me, Covid is over.  At least, the limiting, mind-numbing, seemingly eternal exile that the coronavirus imposed upon me.  I'm vaccinated.  I'm battle-tested.  And I'm unafraid.

With weeks of unused vacation, I decided to burn off a chunk of it with extended travel.  Turkey, France, and a brief jaunt to Switzerland would mark my itinerary.  Three days in Istanbul, eight in France, and a brief stop-over in Zurich for a taste of the ancient, neutral country that in some respects, is as isolated as I had been in Lockdown.

The Selection Process

Why Turkey?  Why Istanbul?

As I contemplated all of the potential places that I could visit, I applied my standard criteria.  It had to be someplace far, somewhere that spoke a different language than I, and a land that offered me the opportunity to experience a radically different culture than mine.  (I am from the United States.)  Turkey certainly met all of that criteria.

More importantly, I am a student of history.  Not just textbook, documentary history, but visual history.  I am a visual learner.  I need to see to understand.  Ruins.  Edifices.  Geographical landmarks that tell stories about people from both the past and of today.  I need to see, smell, taste, and immerse myself in this history for it to really register as reality.  Perhaps you do, as well.

Istanbul.  Straddling Europe and Asia.  The Bosphorus, both uniting and dividing.   

Constantinople.  The seat of the Eastern Roman Empire.  The remains of its empire, now a thousand-year-old crumbling wall.

Istanbul.  The seat of the Ottoman Empire for 600 years.  Replete with beautiful mosques, hammams, and palaces.

It was an easy choice.  Istanbul.  Mythical.  Mysterious.  Magical.

As it turned out, three days in Istanbul were not enough!

My Kind of Travel

I have made peace with the fact that I don't fall into the usual traveler types: backpackers, luxury-lovers, and tour-takers.  I'm a self-described hybrid.  

Admittedly, I like to stay in mid-level hotels that offer all the amenities of home.  Hot showers.  A clean bed.  Good food readily available.  When I'm finished exploring for the day (or night), I want to be safe and comfortable.  I'm not ashamed or chagrined by this preference.  I'm honest with myself and having a solid base is instrumental to my overall enjoyment of my journies.

On the flip side, I'm uninterested in posh accommodations.  I don't need fine china, Egyptian linens, or upscale restaurants.  Just comfortable, clean, consistently good conditions and I'm satisfied.  I'd rather spend my travel budget on experiences, not fine accouterments.

I do, however, feel authentic in the sense that most of my time spent in distant lands is on foot.  I enjoy experiencing my surroundings as a pedestrian.  Walking as much as possible, I'm able to see life around me as most others do: up close and personal.  Time to stop, snap a photo, talk with another human being, or just take a deep breath and enjoy my surroundings.  Obviously, as this is my preference, hotel selection in a central area is crucial to my ability to see as much as possible.

The Rest of the Trip

After three days in Istanbul, the second leg of my journey was for another, more important purpose: family.  As my youngest daughter lives in Paris, I made France the centerpiece of my sojourn.  Deprived of seeing her for upwards of two years as the 'Rona virus raged, a long stay in Paris was a given.  Although she was finally able to make it home this past August, sharing her with family and friends during her two-week stay was not enough for this sad Dad.

With that, however, we planned a long weekend in Bordeaux together to coincide during my stay.  As I have been to Paris several times already, and she and her husband love to travel, we arranged for this delightful side-trip together. 

The plan was to take the high-speed train to one of France's most recognized wine countries; a mere two-hour trip.  There, we would wine, dine, and revel in each other's company amidst the ancient, rolling fields of grapevines.  But, the best-laid plans often go awry...  More on this debacle later.

After better than a week scheduled for France, I had a long layover scheduled in Zurich, Switzerland on the trip home.  In normal times, it might have been a simple consideration to get out of the airport and into the city.  But with all of the restrictions and bureaucracy involved with travel during Covid, it felt far more complicated.  The reality of it, however, proved to be far simpler.

Arriving around 11 AM, and with a scheduled flight out at 5:30 PM, six-plus hours seemed more than enough time to get out to Zurich and then back into the airport.  Making sure all of my travel and health documents were in good order proved key to a successful jaunt into the city.

Upcoming Posts in this Series

In subsequent posts, I'll go into greater detail on my three days in Istanbul, and the other cities I visited.  Hotels, restaurants, food tours, museums, and other happenings will be discussed with an eye towards entertaining and assisting other travelers with their future plans.  I'll offer advice, insight, ratings, and descriptions of as many of my experiences as I can possibly pack in.

Trip Details

Friday, October 1 - Depart Boston, USA

Saturday, October 2 - Arrive in Frankfurt, Germany - 5 Hour Layover

Saturday, October 2 - Arrive in Istanbul, Turkey

Wednesday, October 6 - Depart Istanbul, Turkey; Arrive in Paris, France

Thursday, October 7 - Travel to Bordeaux, France

Sunday, October 10 - Return to Paris, France

Thursday, October 14 - Depart Paris, France; Arrive in Zurich, Switzerland

Thursday, October 14 - Depart Zurich, Switzerland; Arrive in Boston, USA

Cheers, and happy trails!

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