For some people traveling means having nice hotels with swimming pools and a driver at your service, but this is not my case, or perhaps it is the case after a long journey of extremely basic lifestyle.
This is also because my wanderings bring me to places where western comforts are not included in the deal.
For the next few weeks, I will tell you about a journey that is bringing me from Helsinki to Vietnam and Laos, via Turkey.
I found out that a long layover between connection flights can be a blessing rather than a curse because it gives me the chance to visit another country for free. Like many other people in the world, I do not need a visa to stay in Turkey, and this means that having a 10 hours layover in Istanbul, allows me to reach the city from the airport, see the main attractions, wander around the streets, have a chat with the locals and have the best kebab ever.
If this is not the best deal ever, I don't know what it would be!
Now, let's go back to Istanbul, and for that, we need a short historical introduction about the city and the culture. Istanbul is the cultural and geographical connection between Europe and Asia as it straddles the Bosphorus strait, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.
Founded under the name of Byzantium around 660 BCE, the city grew in size and influence, becoming one of the most important cities in history. After its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 CE, it served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine, the Latin, and the Ottoman empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 CE and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Now with this interesting history, you can imagine it as a hub of different cultures melted together to form something extraordinary.
Our airplane reached Istanbul airport at 16:40 and thanks to the connection between the airport and the city. We entered the city center at dawn, this means a lot of night pictures and exploring the Turkish nightlife.
Something particular about this mosque is that it has six minarets, and that makes it unique. I might have told it already, but I really think that the Islamic architecture is one of the richest and beautiful.
On the other side of the blue mosque, there is the Hagia Sophia.
It was considered a marvel of engineering at its times because of the large dome that distinguished it from the other cathedrals.
The city at night, is presumably more interesting than by day, as the streets are lightened up by thousands of lights and colors of the various markets.
We couldn't reach the Grand Bazaar (we will on our way back), but we found more interesting what we saw on the other streets, where the markets showed the characteristic face of Istanbul.
There are many things indeed that can grab the attention and be a threat to your finances, and the turkish house decor is one of those.
One positive thing about having connecting flights with a long layover is that they are generally cheaper than those who have a shorter one. This doesn't mean only saving money on the trip, but also if you do not require a visa for the layover country, you have the unique chance to visit another place practically for free.
Note to self (and also to you), next holiday check out for this possibility.
Next stop Saigon...
See you there next week. In the meanwhile have a great weekend!!