The trip from Belgrade to Istanbul went well, but there were a few moments of feeling like you’re slowly being herded to the Gulag. Preparation – covid test, documentation, etc. – was the hectic part. I made the 1.5-hour flight via Pegasus, a new airline to me. It’s a small Turkish carrier, but compared to similar European airlines, like Ryanair, it’s luxury. Pegasus even allows passengers one free 20 kg (44 lb.) piece of checked baggage – shocking!
I sat next to a friendly couple – man from Los Angeles with a Serbian wife. They live in Belgrade and have a home there, but are searching for an apartment in Istanbul.
Pegasus flies into Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) instead of Istanbul International (IST). I can’t tell the difference, as both are huge. Unlike Frankfurt, SAW has an easily identifiable covid testing area.
My airport transfer went a bit mad. With covid precautions, drivers aren’t allowed inside the terminal. Instead, they wait outside, holding up a sign with your name. After figuring that out, the next hurdle was passing a horde of aggressive hawkers. Somehow, they’re “tuned-in” to pickup service website info (maybe hacked). They huddle near the exit doors and approach travel-weary passengers coming out of the terminal, claiming to be airport transfer “coordinators”. Some even find your name and destination on their smartphone!
Eventually, I found the driver and made it to my apartment in Beyoğlu. The location on Istanbul’s European side is fantastic – a hop and skip to Istiklal Avenue. I enjoyed a light meal at a cozy restaurant near my apartment, where the waiters were friendly and helpful. It was packed with jovial locals.
In May, Turkey was under a 15-day covid lockdown. Restrictions were lifted and didn’t apply to tourists? Last night, I noticed quite a few people out and about on Istiklal Street.
I’m planning my stay, which will be low key, just enjoying this massive, exotic city and its fantastic outdoor cafés. I’ve done most of the touristy things during previous visits. Attractions, like the Spice Bazaar, whirling dervish performances, and a Turkish hammam, are a must to experience local vibes and culture!
The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art is a three-minute walk from my apartment, so it’s first on my list. I’ll get an IstanbulKart for trams and ferries which will provide easy access to the Asian and European sides of the Bosphorus. Wearing a mask on public transportation will be essential.
I’ll revisit a favorite attraction, beautiful Hagia Sofia, which was converted to a mosque recently. Both Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque are exquisite Istanbul landmarks. Hagia Sofia was originally a Christian Orthodox church. transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans after their conquest of Constantinople in 1453. In 1934, it was declared a museum by “secularist Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk“. In 2020, the current Turkish government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, returned the extraordinary building to mosque status.
Istanbul weather is cool (low 60s to 70s), but it’s supposed to heat up next week. I’m experiencing Belgrade withdrawal. To soothe this distress, I may indulge in a baklava binge with freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice as a chaser :o).
Well the travel transfer stress is now behind you. Time to settle in and gain your rhythm to this city. How long are you staying?
Leave for Athens July 2nd… Must say that I’m finding it a bit strange that two cities visited so far have been extremely mellow. Guess I was expecting havoc and chaos like in the US
Let’s hope it’s not complacency. I had my first jab last week. No reaction, at least so far. Second towards the end of August. But rollout in Australia is slow …
I have a paper card logging my two shots and have thought I lost it a gazillion times and then found it again :o( (also have a photo on iPhone)… We need a top notch automated system recognized worldwide! Now wondering if boosters will be required?
I am positive we will end up with annual boosters, much the same as our yearly flu shots (if you choose to have them). COVID variants will emerge all the time, and immunisations will be developed to keep pace with them. That’s my thoughts at least.
Many passports are now electronic – facial recognition passing through immigration, etc. It would be good if immunisation data could be embedded within them. A huge cost to developing the IT might hold the idea back.
Apparently we get some kind of “ticket” after the second jab. I likened it to the clinic’s receptionist to the stickers we used to get at school for a job well done.
I did a post on this back in December 2020, when contemplating my next trip – https://suemtravels.com/2020/12/22/digital-health-passports/ – clearly, the concept is being bandied about. My Serbian landlord had an electronic record version of his vaccinations. The US is in a hot debate over this and how it may infringe on personal privacy rights. I won’t comment on that, but as a traveler would like to see an efficient worldwide system that makes it easier to get from place to place – although not many people travel the way I do. So far, the fact that I have had both vaccinations seems irrelevant to others but certainly not to me – no one cares or wants to see my vaccination record? I have heard that boosters may not be required, but it’s too early to tell – sounds like you’ve heard a different take on that Gwen. I hope boosters are not needed! Frankly, I don’t trust or believe any news sources these days. It’s best to discover for yourself, if you can. Had I cowered out of fear of getting covid and stayed at home (some people were horrified at the thought of my impending trip), I would not be experiencing what is so far a very, very lovely adventure!!! Need to focus on Istanbul now – time to explore. Ciao!