We enjoyed several wonderful meals during our time in Istanbul and even took a food tour where we ate food in both the European and Asian sections of Istanbul. In addition to the food, we also had a local drink called Raki as well as several local beers and wines. One of the most popular dinner choices are the dinners cooked in clay pots over an extremely hot, open fire. They bring the fire pit next to your table and put on quite an extravagant show as they cook your meal and then crack the pot open and pour the contents onto a plate for you to enjoy.
Coffee and tea is also quite popular and we even tried an orange tea made with fresh orange rinds. We love taking food tours as they provide you the opportunity to try many different varieties of dishes, but it is also way more food than the two of us could possibly eat. We started our tour with breakfast, which is not something that we normally eat, but it was a really enjoyable way to start our day. We ended our tour in the shopping district of Istanbul and then took the ferry back to the area near our hotel.
You will find street carts with stuffed mussels near many of the attractions and in shopping areas and it is definitely worth trying as they are very tasty. Overall, we couldn’t say that one meal was better than another as we found each of them to be completely interesting with unique tastes. What we can say is that the staff at every restaurant where we ate were extremely friendly and very proud of the cuisine that they had to offer. At some point we’ll try to replicate some of the meals that we had, but obviously we’re not going to be cooking in a clay pot over an open flame.
Whether traveling to see family or traveling just to see a new place, there is good and bad about being on the road during the holidays. We are definitely the type of people who love being surrounded by holiday decorations, cooking special meals, and spending time with people that are important to us, but we tend to travel more often than not during the holidays. Since Thanksgiving is not something celebrated outside of North America, it is a great time to travel, but we also tend to travel over the week between Christmas and New Years. It is fascinating to see how other cultures celebrate the holidays and it gives us a different perspective that can influence our own holiday traditions.
Lets get the bad out of the way first. Travel over the holidays is often expensive because so many other people are traveling during the same time. That also means that airports are busier, lines at the counters, security, and customs are all longer and slower. Another reason for the longer lines is that people travel during the holidays that don’t normally travel. They aren’t prepared and don’t know what they are supposed to do, which causes problems and delays. We have often told each other that we wish they would create separate lines for those people who travel all of the time and those that don’t travel at all. Restaurants fill up quickly, often need reservations, and sometimes have fixed menus as opposed to a la carte. Depending upon where you are, weather can also be an issue causing flight delays, icy roads, and just generally cold conditions. Traveling over the holidays takes extra planning and most importantly an extra dose of patience.
There are definitely a lot of good things about travel during the holidays as well. First of all, seeing all of the decorations in different places can be amazing. Many cities have special holiday markets, events, plays, concerts, and parades that can create very special memories. Depending upon where you decide to go, you can actually avoid crowds by traveling to places where other people do not typically go at that time of year. Seeing how other cultures celebrate the season and trying unique holiday foods is something truly special. Once you reach your destination, people seem to be genuinely friendly and happy to share their traditions. You can also find unique gifts for friends and family, especially things that are hand-crafted.
Regardless of your reason for traveling over the holidays, it can be frustrating as well as rewarding. The biggest keys to being successful when traveling during the holidays is to plan ahead, make reservations where necessary, and most of all, give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Also, remember it is the holidays, smile and be nice to people, especially everyone who is there to help or serve you. If you are traveling over this coming holiday, we hope that you have a wonderful trip and there are many more good moments than bad.
We realize that we have been relatively quiet as of late, mostly due to our recent move across the country to Baltimore. We have finally settled in as we near the six-month milestone and an actual adventure has been long overdue. We have scheduled a trip to Turkey and Bulgaria that leaves this coming Thursday and we are extremely excited to be on the road once again. As is fairly typical, we are planning on making the most of our time and seeing as much as possible, but we will take a few days to unwind a little bit while we’re on the west coast of Turkey near the beaches. Our itinerary is roughly as follows:
Seven days in Kusadasi, Turkey where we will visit Ephesus, Pergamom and Asklepan, as well as Apjotdisias and Pamukkale. It is an area rich with historic sites and beautiful scenery, so we can’t wait to spend some time exploring. It is also where we will take advantage of some much needed relaxation.
Three days in Istanbul where we will see all of the historic sites of the old town area, including the palace and the Blue Mosque. We have also scheduled a food and spice market tour that we are looking forward to as well. Needless to say, we will be enjoying as much local food as possible, but this will provide us some cultural background as well.
Finally, we will spend four days in Sofia, Bulgaria where we have a tour to the historic towns of Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa. Then we have a wine tasting at the Rila Monastery followed by a city tour of Sofia on our final day before returning home. The total trip will last sixteen days and we are truly looking forward to sharing everything that we see and do during the trip.