Why not Istanbul?

23 04 2013

I have travelled much more extensively than most people I know, but when it comes to choosing a new destination I still have plenty of places to decide on.  I try not to repeat destinations, there is still so much to be seen before I do that.  So last September (I like to book early), I started searching for a spring vacation.

The process for me always starts with a map of the world.  I will zoom in and zoom out, look at pictures and climate until something strikes me.  Then I start doing some research.  Is it safe?  What is the weather like when I intend to visit? Is it affordable?  What will I do there?…These are the questions I ask myself each time I settle on a destination.  Affordability is the main factor for me as a solo traveler, I don’t have someone to share the hotel cost with.  Safety (unless it’s a war zone) can be handled with some light reading of State Department warnings and using some good old fashioned smarts and savvy while on a trip.  What I do at a destination varies, but something has to peak my interest.

So that lead me to Istanbul.

Why?  I loved seeing images of the skyline dotted with minarets.  I was intrigued by the history of a city at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and for centuries the capital of powerful empires.  Istanbul presented a city of diverse cultures with the blending of both old and new world charm.  This city shouted culture, history, and photography at me.  As a bonus, my early research proved Istanbul a good fit in spring with both rain and sun, but overall not freezing cold or too hot for my taste.  Spring is also their shoulder season (this means it’s between the high/low tourist seasons.  Crowds are much more tolerable during these times of year, but the weather is mild enough to bring travel bargains).  Yes, when Istanbul popped up, I was hooked.  Would it be affordable?  I typically book through Expedia (not a plug, I just like their interface and verified customer reviews), and after a couple of quick searches and I was confident I could afford this destination.

Over the next several days I combed through hotels and reviews.  I knew that I wanted to stay in the Sultanahmet area near the major monuments and museums, so I filtered them down by guest review scores and location (often looking reviews vs. number of reviews.  For example, a 5/5 star review that is the only review for a hotel is not enough information for me to feel confident, but a 4.1 review score from 30 reviewers is a good sign.  I’m also not paying as much attention to the hotel’s star rating.  I have stayed at many 2 and 3 star hotels and been quite satisfied, it’s the customer’s responses that mean more to me).  So with that, I settled on my hotel.  A little boutique hotel a block from Sultanahmet Square for 8 nights including my round-trip flights from Denver for $1420!  I think that was a steal.

I booked it, and thus began the long 6 month wait occupied by a few hours of research and planning.

View of Sultanahmet and Maiden’s Tower at sunset from the Asian side of Istanbul.

View of Sultanahmet and Maiden’s Tower at sunset from the Asian side of Istanbul.

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2 responses

25 04 2013
Carl Stern

Great blog Jeff. I was scheduled to fly Istanbul Dec 7, 2007 on AIr France. Had my reservation at the Sultanahmet Suites. My Mother died on the 7th of December and we had a ice storm which closed the OKC airport. Alas, my trip was not to be. I did have a year to use the Air France ticket, but 6 weeks later my Uncle died. I was his caretaker in the nursing home, so the whole year was spent getting 2 estates settled. I did lose the flight. Istanbul is still on my bucket list. Thanks for the amazing pics on Facebook. It is like the trip I wanted. -Carl

25 04 2013
thewanderingbear

Carl, I’m sorry to hear about the unfortunate turn of events preventing you from traveling. I still have more to tell, and one of the reasons I have decided to start the blog is to allow others to live these trips through me. If you ever do get the opportunity to go, please let me know so. I have a lot of tips and maybe I could meet you there.

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