My Life Travel

Celebration Trip to Turkey

My trip to Turkey, was a celebration of my recovery from cancer. My daughters wanted it this way. So, during the trip, I shared almost everything raw with my Instagram followers, and they loved it. (You too, can pop over and check it out.) This trip was everything and more of what we had dreamed it up to be. Honestly, travel is the best thing! In my case, visiting Istanbul after thirty eight years was so great in so many ways. In those days, I was young, and shared my love to travel with my husband, (who had done all the dirty work of running to embassies for visas, train tickets and bookings.) Now, I was here with my three lovely daughters, and two grandchildren. (They did the running around this time.) Truly I felt so blessed.

How it all began:

It was a dream-come-true trip. When I fell ill last year, my youngest daughter Waliya would talk about this trip to distract me, while I went through the scary CT scan and bone scan machines. This talk of our Turkey trip was the most appealing at that time. Of course, it seemed like a too-good-to-be-true plan.

Ambitious plan:

It was ambitious and complicated; Nataliya and Anya would arriving from Seattle, USA. Nadiya and her three-year-old Nyra arriving from Halifax, Canada, Waliya and I going from Pakistan. In fact, it worked out beautifully – exactly as planned.

Financial logistics:

Each of us were paying for our own expenses. So, whenever one person paid up for all, later on we would work it out. On the last day the calculations became so complicated, Nataliya volunteered to do the math and present each one of us the bills and names of persons we had to pay up. That worked out fine too. Mainly Nataliya and Waliya were doing the bookings of Airbnb and hotel. The bills of taxis and guides and food etc. were being shared.

The Financial logistics included CAD, Turkish lira, USD $ and Pakistani rupees. Each of us were thinking in our own country’s currency. When it sounded too expensive in rupees, I’d ask the girls to tell me how much it would be in dollars. Ah, that sounded much better. ? When I wanted to buy a carpet, and calculated it in rupees, the girls told me not to buy it at all, as it was too outrageous. But when I told the amount in dollars, they said, ‘oh that’s nothing, go ahead, you deserve to treat yourself!’ So, I did.

Anyhow, USD was very popular everywhere in Istanbul. A taxi driver or any shop owner would happily sell us stuff if we were paying in dollars. He would also have the change for it!

Yet, we did get about Rs.70,000 worth of Turkish Liras from Islamabad before going there. We kept some dollars too, as it is better, than ending up with too many liras in in the end.

My flashbacks of Istanbul:

Here we are in front of the Blue Mosque, with our guide.

My last trip to Istanbul was in 1984 at 27 years, and then I was mother of one-year-old Nataliya. We had gone from Kuwait, and Kuwaiti Dinar was even then the strongest currency in the world, (much higher than dollar even.) So, whenever we talked about prices, I’d ask my husband to tell me in KD, then it would seem very reasonable! So this time, it was the USD which sounded better.

Here we are in Istanbul, all set to travel to London and back by trains and ferries.

Our guide, took us round the city for three days. His English was good and he even dropped us to the train station at the end, so we could go on our Euro Train trip to rest of Europe.

 Air tickets and stay:

Happy to be together in our Air bnb near Taksim Square.

So, each one bought the air tickets themselves. The Airbnb in Taksim area from 13th till 19th September was booked by Nataliya, online. (I think it was around $ 100 per night. Later on, Waliya booked our room in a hotel in Pel Palace Hotel in Sulaimaniya area, (which is in walking distance from Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, and the Cistern Bascilica (the underground water reservoir). That was around $250 per night.

Travel tips:

Communication: Sims, taxis and transport:

Get local sim for your phone: On arrival at airport Waliya bought a local sim for her phone for TL 700. (Airport is expensive.) The seven seater Mercedes taxi I hired at the airport TL 900. Later same night when Nadiya arrived at 3.00 am at Istanbul airport, she hired a taxi for same distance for TL 300!

I kept the phone number of the office where I hired the taxi, so later, I hired the same large ‘taxi’ for USD $150 for whole day, so we all could be together, and have no problem of getting different transports. Having three-year-old Nyra and me with my knee problem made us do these expensive decisions, so at least we were comfortable.

We bought sims for each of us next day from Taksim square for TL 300 each. Then on our phones we shared our live locations with each other. This ensured that all the time, we were in contact with each other, and there was no fear of getting lost or separated from each other.

The Google translator on phone was used to communicate with taxi drivers who couldn’t understand English.

Public Transport: We knew that Taksim square is best place for busses, trains and trams. A special pass can take you for full days on ferries also. But we mostly took taxis for our own comfort.

One day we hired a large coach for USD $ 150 for four hours. So, my wheel chair could also be transported in it. (Yes, the girls had hired a wheelchair from our hotel for $20 per day.)

Beautiful days in Istanbul

Saying our Isha prayers at the Hagia Sophia was very much a highlight for us.

All I want to say is that such trips are essential. It helps us in strengthening our bonds. Otherwise, relationships grow stale, they need to get refreshed. My eldest daughter Nataliya has been married for over sixteen years now, so this was long over-due. In Nadiya’s case, (my second child,) she has moved to Halifax, Canada since almost five years now. It was a lovely opportunity for us all to bond with each other in new scenarios.

This is an amazing place. Something I hadn’t seen earlier, as I believe one did boating here, then. Now walkways have been made so you can go around over the water.

Here is the underground cistern which is a water reservoir built by the Romans. This is walking distance from Hagia Sophia and is designed to contain enough water for the whole city, for a year, in case there is a siege. Constantinople (the old name of Istanbul) was a much-wanted place for the entire world, as it was the center point trade route from East to West and vice versa. Every king and ruler wanted to conquer it. So, they could charge a tax on all ships passing through it, and be rich that way.

The ferry ride was just lovely, seagulls hovered around the boat most of the time.

On way to Princess Island we were accompanied by Hannan Abdullah who spent the whole day with us. It was great having a Pakistani who knew Turkish language and all the details of being in Turkey.

At Princess Island the girls got bikes and did cycling all over the place. I roamed around the shops losing and finding my walking stick, and got a nice back pack. Then Hannan and I sat near the harbor and sipped tea while chatting about lots of things, mainly, his decision to stay on in Turkey after completing his studies.

Then rushing to catch the last ferry back to Istanbul was so much fun. Thank God Hannan was there and helped us get on in time, along with their own payment systems.

Back in Istanbul I was fascinated by the drivers of taxis, who expertly maneuvered through the narrow cobbled streets of the old city.

The Bosphorus Cruise by night was something we all enjoyed like anything. The food, the dancing, the music and the Istanbul by night views from the water. It was all quite out of this world.

The dinner and dance entertainment is something beautiful. All the while you watch the views of Istanbul by night.

Our visit to the Dolmabahce Palace another beautiful experience. Specially we spent half the day at the restaurant next to the Bosphorus, having the delicious lunch and chatting with each other.

I’m so proud of my elder grand daughter Anya who is a book worm and reads at every opportunity. Here she was busy reading while we waited for our food. Later on we went to the palace together.

The Blue Mosque was closed for renovations, so we could only take pictures from outside.

The girls went to see the Topkapi Palace, I stayed outside, next to Hagia Sophia, as I had been there before, and my knees were hurting too much for me to walk all through the huge place.

Taksim Square was also wonderful. I just loved the singing that went on everywhere:

Here it is going on in Taksim Street also, which is a very popular shopping area too.

I bought a rather expensive pair of joggers from the Nike store and a suitcase from there. When we reached the end of that long street, realized that we had left the suitcase somewhere! Never found it. So, I got another one, from the shopping area behind Blue Mosque.

Galata Tower also was a lovely place, though none of us wanted to go up, as the idea of going up the stairs to the top felt a bit claustrophobic. We just had lunch and shopped for souvenirs there.

While we were there, I hit the 100 k milestone on my Instagram:

Well, no words are needed after sharing all this with you.

Tell me how this was.

Stay blessed my Readers, and keep traveling and building new memories with your loved ones too. ?

Here I am with Nadiya.
Nyra wearing the cap I had got for her from Skardu. She loved it and wore it most of the time.

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