Postcard from Turkiye – 1

May 2, 2024

We took the Air Arabia flight to Istanbul via Sharjah. The flights from Bangalore to Sharjah and onwards to Istanbul were quite uneventful. We found the food served on the flight surprisingly tasty.

Family reunion

Our son, Siddharth, and our daughter-in-law, Prerana, had already landed in Istanbul from Cambridge, UK. Both of them are intrepid travelers and have been to different countries even before they got married. They had been solo travelers earlier and by now, are great international travelers and travel planners. This trip to Turkiye had been completely planned by them. Their arrival at Istanbul an hour ahead of our touchdown was part of the plan.

Both my wife, Jyothi, and I were ecstatic to meet them. After a round of affectionate hugs, we were heading to the hotel. It felt so special to ‘surrender’ to our children and allow them to fully take over. Sometimes it is a joyful relief not to be a leader of the expedition and to just follow the leader.


The trip to Turkiye was in the offing for some time. Last year, my wife and I had been to Cambridge, UK, to spend some time with Sid & Prerana. You can read my travelogue series, ‘Postcard from the UK’, here.

This time around, Sid & Prerana suggested that instead of visiting Cambridge again, we could visit another country and preferably a country that they had also not visited.


A visit to Turkiye was suggested by me. Travelers are always looking for diverse experiences. I felt that Turkiye offered a different perspective being part of both Asia & Europe. It is both ancient and modern. Istanbul is the only Transcontinental city in the world. It straddles both Europe and Asia. On one of the days, we took a Metro from Sirkeci (in Europe) to Ayrilik Cesmesi (in Asia) and within a matter of minutes, we crossed over to another continent. Fascinating! Well, more of that later…

Travel agents and travel agents

Travel agents come in all shapes and sizes. Our regular travel agent was out of business, so we contacted another travel agent for advice on a Turkiye visa. He quickly sent across a form with all the specifications. When I went over the requirements, I felt overwhelmed. This travel agent had nothing more to offer by way of recommendation or advice.

Through a friend, we got in touch with another travel agent. The moment we mentioned Turkiye, she advised us to apply for a UK visa as once a UK visa has been granted, it is only a matter of a few minutes to get a Turkiye e-visa. Also, as we had already visited the UK several times, we could be certain of getting a UK visa. We were quite familiar with the documentation for a UK visa. This advice worked and as indicated by her, we got our UK visa and within a few minutes of visiting the Turkiye Tourism website, we emerged victorious with a Turkiye e-visa.

Travel agents need to understand that we approach them for their expertise and advice. For us, they are not courier agents just passing on documents or simply directing us to websites.

Baggage battles

As frequent travelers, we have learned to travel relatively light. Both of us use checklists to pack our bags. However, this time around, we were presented with a different challenge. Our domestic flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia allowed us only 15 kg. per head as check-in baggage. So, although we could carry more weight – and bags – on our international flight from India to Turkiye, we had to pack with the Cappadocia flight eligibility in mind. Well, it only made us travel smarter and still lighter. Great lessons for the future!

Backup at home

My elder sister and my brother-in-law had offered to hold the fort in Bangalore while we were visiting Turkiye. Honestly, it is only because of their offer that both Jyothi & I could visit together. Otherwise, both Jyothi & I have adapted to making solo trips so that one of us is always at home to take care of my mother. And we are celebrating such solo trips too.

Istanbul airport

The Istanbul airport is gigantic and very well-appointed. It ranks second in the list of the World’s Top Airports. It took us quite a long walk to reach the Immigration counters.

As we landed in Istanbul and were walking towards the Immigration counters, we were frantically looking for wi-fi to contact Sid and Prerana. Several kiosks at the airport offered free wi-fi and the process involved scanning the passport at the kiosk and immediately, as soon as a password appeared on the screen, entering the same password on the phone to get connected to wi-fi. However, we were too slow for the system and kept getting timed out. I could attribute my response time to my age. Of course, Jyothi will not agree with this attribution. Anyway, we were unsuccessful in connecting to the wi-fi. However, while returning to India, we learned of an easier method. There is a Print option on the same screen and we could use the printout to feed the number on the phone. It gave us more time and the idea worked. Travelers are always learning from their experiences and becoming smarter travelers in the process.

Airport to hotel

We met Sid & Prerana. They had already booked an airport pickup through the hotel. Sid and Prerana had already done a lot of research for this trip. It was recommended to book a pickup through the hotel. We gathered at a point just outside the airport exit where a bunch of people were waiting. From a distance, it would have appeared unorganized but the process was very well organized. We followed Sid as he approached a young man holding a placard. Once we met him, we were asked to wait. Another young man took over from there and walked us to the car bay where we were handed over to a third young man who was coordinating the allotment of vehicles. I saw so many Minivans coming to pick up people that I lost count. The Mercedes-Benz big-size Minivans seem to be extremely popular here.

Apple Tree Hotel – a home away from home

Sid and Prerana had booked our stay at the Apple Tree Hotel in the Sultanahmet area. It was a great idea to be centrally located. Within walking distance, there was so much to see. We were located next to the Blue Mosque and within walking distance of the Hagia Sophia. It was going to be our home for the next few days. We were to return to the same hotel after our trip to Cappadocia.

We settled into our comfortable rooms, set up the wi-fi, understood the hotel protocols, and took some rest. Not much was planned on Day 1 anyway. However, as the hotel was centrally located, in the evening, we sauntered in the direction of the neighborhood Arasta Bazaar for window shopping. It was a riot of colors. Being in India, we are familiar with the concept of bazaars. We felt we were roaming around the Dilli Haat, a go-to place in New Delhi known for knick-knacks from across India.

Local eateries

Towards late evening, we passed by several neighborhood eateries. Most of these eateries are colorfully decorated and have outdoor seating. Their menu is displayed prominently on the pavement and people are free to examine the menu from close quarters. However, many of these eateries employ young men who invite passersby to their eatery. They use imaginative and creative ways to invite the guests. As we passed by one of the eateries while Sid was seriously checking his phone for dinner recommendations, one of the young men came up to Sid with a straight face and said, ‘Google is lying to you. It should show you this place.’ while pointing us to his eatery. He offered us Walnut Baklava and Turkish Tea for free if we chose his eatery.

Unable to resist his persuasive tactics, we entered Turgut, which happened to be a great place with many vegetarian options. As both Sid & Prerana had done their research, we enjoyed a great vegetarian dinner comprising Lahmacun (a distant cousin of Masala Papad), Balloon Bread, Mezze Platter, Salad, and Vegetarian Pide.

We watched Turkish folk music being played on Qanun and Tef and were pleasantly surprised by some Bollywood numbers or the theme music of the Hollywood movie, The Godfather. When the Bollywood numbers were playing, the musicians kept looking at our table, smiling. We also acknowledged their gesture.


What also added to the magic was the location – we sat at Turgut’s rooftop area with the imposing Blue Mosque in the background.

As we were leaving Turgut, the young man who had succeeded in his persuasive tactics checked with us if we had been served the Baklava and Tea as promised by him. When he learned that we hadn’t been served, he got upset and made us sit again and instructed the staff to serve us. Praan jaye par vachan na jaye! We were too full but having experienced the effect of his persuasive tactics, we relented.

A vacation is also about family conversations while relaxing on a cold evening inside a warm neighborhood eatery.

We returned to the hotel for a well-deserved rest after a long travel.

Our vacation had truly begun on a great note.


Coming up next: A cruise to Prince’s Islands (Heybiliada & Buyukuda), Hagia Sophia, and experiencing the mother of all surprises…

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