“Turkey 🇹🇷 ~We Are Going to Pakistan 🇵🇰! Hip-Hip-Hooray! Also, French Street and Around Istanbul”

Our main focus today, was collecting our Pakistan Visa at the Consulate, here in Istanbul. We got an early start, thank goodness, because there were a few surprises!

So proud. So proud

The good news is, we did get our Visas, but it would require some more waiting time; you know, just to ensure we REALLY appreciated it and all. 🙄 I am so over these delays! When it was our turn at the Consulate window, we handed over our Passports again, and we were told to return to pick them up by 2PM. WHAT! This would mean four hours from that time. It was a little frustrating because he told us our Visas were ready. But, for some reason, it would take four hours to peel the back off and adhere them inside our passports? Sooooo, off we went to find a “taksi” again, to go over to hang out on French Street, and see what that was all about. Come to find out, I had been in the French area before, at least a part of it, and it is very close to Taksim Square. I got a Turkish Bath a month ago around there. Nothing really indicated we had the actual French Street, but the district name of “Beyoglu,” we did see, and that was right. The other indicator are the gas street lamps, which are unique to the area. Its a nice place with huge, old French building, with exquisites architecture. The main square is on a wide road that only has a trolly. Other than that, it is pedestrian. I wanted to ride the trolly after we got our shopping done, but we never saw it again. Bummer. Oh well, it was fun to see, regardless. I didn’t take a lot of photos, because during the day, the electric wires and lines crossing over the walking area, between the buildings are very distracting and unsightly for photos. I’m sure at night the place is lit up like a runway and very pretty.

French Street in Istanbul has a long history that goes back as far as to the end of the 19th century. It was during these years that many French people started opening the first hotels, cinemas, theatres and coffee houses in Beyoglu. Also, a good number of the buildings on the street were built by the famous French architect; Michel Pasha.
At the end of 2003, a restoration work for most of the buildings on the street started under a joint project of Istanbul Kultur University and Afitas Production. Paris Municipality sent most of the French-style street lamps you see on the street today. The paving stones were changed, the buildings on the street were painted with colors and decorated with awnings, flowers and plants to reflect the French culture. In July 2004, the street was opened with many festivities under the name “French Street.” But after the France accepted the alleged Armenian Genocide, many of the shopkeepers on the street objected to the street’s name. Beyoglu Municipality accepted these objections and changed the name of the street to Cezayir Street (Algeria Street), which is a reference to the France’s massacres in Algeria. French Street signs were replaced, and the only ones left today are the ones on the entrances of some of the businesses.
Notice the gas lamps. We had time for a Hamam but this ancient bath was closed.

For our shopping, Daryl got a lightweight jacket and a pair of long pants. I bought boot socks, and a new carry-on suitcase. I had gotten a new e-Bag back in 2017, and I now know that three years of wear and tear is about all these bags can handle. That bag has really traveled the world, just like me. But I clean up wsy better than my bag. It was dirty and smelly; this after I had taking it into a shower with me and scrubbed it. No matter what I did, it never seemed clean, and never smelled good, either. The zipper was tearing, and it was ready to break. I was happy to say so-long! The e-Bags are not a cheap brand, and I was surprised how heavy the bag was for a carry-on size; while empty. For now, I got a far less expensive and lighter bag for $20 that will take care of my needs for at least another couple of years.

Addicted to Baklava. So many varieties to choose from!
We will diet, after we leave Turkey
Doctors on strike. They want more money from the government for the longer hours they work with the Pandemic going on. It was peaceful, but the police with machine guns surrounding the area would ensure it stayed that way.

We headed back to the Consulate, ahead of time, since we were done goofing around, and it was a darn good thing. You see, the President of Turkey was making his way to Taksim Square, as we were heading back to the Consulate. NOT GOOD. The roads were blocked and it took so long to get back to the Consulate, which was normally a 20-minutes affair. The $20 one-way was a drag, too! Ugh. BUT, it is all water under the bridge as that was our LAST trip (five in total) to the Comsolate, and we do feel such releif to have our Visas and and now we can be done with that chapter! From here on out, we know we are going to Pakistan, and that’s all that matters!

Driving past the Dolmabahçe Palace, located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, Turkey, on the European coast of the Strait of Istanbul, served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1887 and from 1909 to 1922.

If interested in seeing more, here is a link to my blog post from when we visited this Palace:

The next thing I did, after we got our Visas, was to line up the Mobile Medical Technicians, with the help of our good friend, Taskin, from Galatolia Suites. He helped me arrange a 9:30AM appointment for us in the morning. He is so nice, our friend, Taskin. The mobile unit will roll up to our hotel, and they do our testing for us in our hotel room. Easy-Peesy. We have no reason to believe our PCR test will be anything but negative, (for COVID19) and we are ready to get on that plane Friday night and blast off! Our friend in Pakistan is just a dear. He is lining us up with some fun activities and site seeing in Lahore and the outskirts. We are not use to being so spoiled!

As you can see from the map, Pakistan shares borders with India, China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran (plus the Arabian Sea). Out of that list, we have not been to Iran and Afghanistan. I know, call us crazy, but we are in touch with some peeps from those countries, to inquire about tours, since Afghanistan and Iran visits would be limited to one or two stops, only. We are weighing the costs, and of course the border entry requirments. In Pakistan, alone, we will not get to go to all the places we want, either. We fly into the east coast; Lahore, and fir sure we will get to Islamabad. The rest is to be determined. We will only go where we are allowed, and where it will be safe for US travels, such as ourselves. For example. We wanted to got o Kashmir, when we were in India, but it was not safe to do so. Here, we have another chance from Pakistan, but it is not looking good, either. We will have to get proper permissions and approvals to enter the Northern Territory. We do not know much more than that, but we will find out, after we arrive.

“Turkey 🇹🇷 ~Yep, Still Here in Istanbul”

Today, we had plans to go up on hill called Pierre Loti. It’s a French area. I googled the directions, only to discover this area was closed! Why? All I could discern was the Muslims and the French are not seeing eye-to-eye at the moment. Not wanting to get in the middle of that, we obviously went nowhere near the area, probably closed to outsiders for good reason. The views overlooking Istanbul from this Hill is suppose to be quite nice, but we did not see for ourselves today. We had waited to go there to see if the marine layer of low clouds would clear up. It was not going away, so we decided to go for the exercise anyway. With this marine layer, it looks smokey, so it’s just not great weather for vista shots. The good news is, I think I have found another French area, actually a district, known as a cultural center. It is an area dedicated to the French history in Istanbul. This “French Street” as it is known, is not anywhere near the Pierre Loti Hill from what I see, and there is nothing indicating it being closed. We still have time to see this before we go.

Plan B was to take the ferry and cross the Golden Horn to enjoy the Karikoy area again; this time in daylight. Its like making plans to go from Europe to Asia in about 20 minutes. How cool, indeed! We wandered around the streets, then sat for a mineral water break (iced coffee is not very good in Turkey) and we people-watched. I saw the sweetest thing while sitting there, too. An elderly woman came to the cross street in front of us and needed to go downhill. The streets can be quite steep in some areas. She had a cane and was very feeble. She managed to get the attention of one of the staff at a nearby restaurant. She must have asked the young many to help her down the roadway. One of the staff took her temperature (they are devices that are pointed at the back of our hands). She must have been fever-free, because the young many gently folded her arm in the crook of his arm and he slowly walked her down to the bottom of the hill. Now that young boy was raised right! Youth is a wonderful thing, because when he was done doing this wonderful deed, he ran all the way back up the hill, to get back to work.

Daryl got a scissor cut, and I did some shopping. Since we can’t get back to India, (due to closed borders), to get our stored luggage and winter clothing, we need to be buying a few things in preparation for the cold that is coming. We had not planned to be anywhere cold, for the winter, but because Thailand is also closed, we won’t be wintering there; or Bhutan, Myannmar, and Bangladesh …. COVID19 foiling our plans again. We are learning not to make ANYMORE plans; at least not more than one country away at a time. It’s not worth the struggle or disappointment. Hopefully we can all look forward to the day, without COVID19 being front and center.….Sorry, not sorry, I digress… Anyhow, we had a lovely day around Istambul. This place never gets old to us. 

I had been down in my back 🙄 for the last few days, really struggling. (kitty snuggles made things a little better) Anyway, now that I am feeling better, it was good to get out of the room and enjoy some exercise and adventure. Before we left for the ferry, we stopped at KFC to take some chicken back to our digs. Yes, KFC is cheap and is actually very good here, as well as all over the Balkans and non-EU area of our road-tripping this summer.

Port to port..Europe (Eminonu) to Asia (Üsküdar)
The sun was very bright, and I forgot to say CHEESE!
We will miss this sweet girl when we go.

Tomorrow morning we go back to the Pakistan Consulate to (hopefully) get our Visas in our passports. My inability to get out and go was both a blessing and curse, because we were suppose to be at the consulate yesterday to get our Visas, though making appointments are not done, there. Everything is walk-in. The good news is our Visa designation starts our 30-days in Pakistan. Given that we are not going to arrive in Pakistan till Saturday, we really did not want to lose six days of our precious 20 days, right away. By going tomorrow, we only lose four days. Of course I had called the consulate and left messages to make sure they knew we were still coming, but not till Wednesday. Regardless, I will feel much better when we get this last visit done at the Consulate and it is successful. So far it’s just been stressful!

We are being optimistic, and have purchased airfare for Friday night. ($530 pp). (We saved about $300 by traveling Friday night instead of Wednesday night). We arrive in Lahore, Pakistan at 5:30AM on Saturday. I have also tentatively arranged a mobile PCR testing appointment for Thursday morning, here in Istanbul at our hotel. This will be so easy, as the unit will come to us, and we are given results a few hours later by email. ($56 total). Super convenient and cheaper and faster than the hospital and even more affordable, because of the $20 we won’t have to spent on a taxi! While we are allowed to enter Pakistan, we must prove we do not have Covid19. We have 96 hours from the time of testing, to arrive in Pakistan, before the test is invalid.

I am slowly beginning to make some plans for our time in Pakistan. We are very excited, as this country is very rarely seen by tourists. It is also quite beautiful and scenic. I will need to get to the bazaar after arrival to get a few outfits for this ultra-conservative country. I’m glad it won’t be overly hot, because I’ll be covered, head-to-toe, again.

Turkey “Walking the Streets of Balat in Istanbul”

I venture out into the village with thoughts of baklava and bread; a bakery for my destination. 

I will give you my impressions as I pass the broken stones and crumbled walls.

The walkway narrowed as it led to a brick staircase and the street below. A lady dressed head-to-toe in black, with a green paisley scarf over her head, passes me, going up. She stops several times, hesitant to take more steps till her breath slows. Another thin lady, carrying groceries does not hesitate, as she knows dinner will start soon. I pass the biggest mottle-haired dog who watched my every move in silence. A cab races up to me as I jump out of the way. He stops to ask me directions. I’m startled and laughing a little. I am no help at all. He mumbles something in Turkish and drives off, looking desperately side to side. 

I pass a group of ladies, who always sit sewing and laughing. I’ve seen them before. Small kids run and play in a dilapidated playground. Everything stops when a boy breaks glass in the play area. Every few feet, the stones and bricks of the road changes, as maintenance crews need to repair the walkways. A little girl walks with her parents, and is dressed like a princess. She sports a white cap with a white feather arched from the back to the front, dangling. Everyday a man sits beside a small table in the street, with handmade jewelry for sale.  His two prosthetic legs are crossed in front of him. Graffiti stains almost every vertical surface around this area. Men with carts full of castaway articles are gathered together; for sale at only a few lira. It’s better than begging. 

I pass a coffee shop with men sitting in the same spots everyday, drinking tea. Only men are there day after day. not women. At another coffee shop, the men are puffing on a hookah in heated conversation. Everyone has donned a face mask, most below the chin. It is hard to smoke with safety. I pass a fruit stand with more varieties of mushrooms than I have seen anywhere. The dirty orange ones interest me the most. I pass a friendly chap, who is always happy to see me. I come to a fork in the road and take it. I see a lady selling a bag of what looks like crystal sugar. Her shelves are full of herbs and tea. Her row of big jars, filled with something I know nothing about, looks like a witches apothecary. 

A fish monger has smelt and five sizes of mackerel, all with the red gills bent outwardly, to show how fresh thy are. Another store across from a butcher sells only muscles in their shells. The streets are so narrow, and full of people, and the cars have to come to a stop or back up to let facing traffic move past. I stop at a bakery and buy a hoop of bread, and a Rotisserie chicken catches my eye. Every barber is busy. A stubborn driver refuses to move as a delivery truck muscles his way past, with horns double honking. I pass a Hamam which costs 50 TL and 15TL for a massage. The baklava can not be passed up! A man with twenty three aprons on his neck, cries out as he passes. He want to sell them. A group of boys hang next to a building, all staring at a boy showing off his bottle of sugar water. You can see the other boys salivating as one grabs the bottle away and runs. Their cries fade as the distance increases. I see a grown man kick a glass jar away from his doorstep, down to the corner. He proceeded to break the glass, as I look down at my flip flops and bare feet. I think I see where the young boy learned to break the glass on the playground, earlier. I am back to the five women sewing in the same spot everyday. It is knitting day for one. A simple boy swings every day in a miniature hammock strung in the doorway. I trip on the tallest step on the staircase back up the hill to our home, thankfully staying upright.

I hear a group of green parrots land in a tree, nearby. It will soon be time for them to roost for the night. They take flight as a seagull watches. The Golden Horn is coming into view for a short moment. I join an old man at the top of the stairs and sit on a bench he is on. He sees I am not wearing my mask, so he slowly rises and walks off silently, breathing hard. I follow behind, soon, as my breathing has slowed. The call to prayer starts in the distance, with the one next door joining in, as a dozen green parrots land in the tree below.

True fact: Two hundred parrots escaped in 1997 from their cages, and have made İstanbul their permanent home.