We crossed the border into Turkey at a small crossing near the Black Sea. I had read and heard that the crossing into Turkey could take around 3 hours due to the long lines. To my surprise and delight, there was no line at all! After stopping at a booth and showing our passports, we were instructed to park our car and enter the building to get our visas. Once inside, we met the friendliest border officials who guided us first to the visa window where we paid 15 euros each and got our visas in a matter of minutes, no forms, no questions, just smiles. Then we went to the second stop, customs where we showed our vehicle registration, title and driver’s license. The official looked over the paperwork, handed it back with a smile and we were on our way. We couldn’t believe the beautiful highway that welcomed us to Turkey. It was such a difference from what we drove on in Romania and Bulgaria. I almost wanted to get out and kiss the asphalt, but I restrained myself. We drove to Selimpasa to a campground about 35km west of Istanbul called Istanbul Mocamp. When we drove in we were greeted by a choir of frogs who lived in a pond at our campground. Their sound was really unique and incredibly loud both of which made us laugh. It was so nice, especially after the place we stayed at the night before in Bulgaria. I was so happy to be in Turkey and excited about all the adventures that awaited us here. While enjoying the sunset and a meal of Kraft macaroni and cheese which I brought from home, the load speakers from a nearby mosque’s minaret announced the ezan (the call to prayer). In Turkey there are five calls to prayer each day (sunrise, noon, midday, sunset and night), so we would hear the ezan many more times throughout our trip, but this first one was especially memorable.
Istanbul (June 1-3)
The next day we headed into the city of Istanbul. A Dutch couple we met the night before at our campground suggested that we do what they did and leave our car at the campground, take public transportation and stay overnight in Istanbul since the commute takes many hours. We followed their suggestion and were glad. After two different buses and a tram winding through packed streets, we finally arrived in the center of Istanbul 3.5 hours later. We checked into Hotel Ararat in the Sultanahmet district. This area is “Old Istanbul” and is designated a Unesco World Heritage site. It was a perfect location to stay since the majority of sights are located here. As a bonus, our hotel had an incredible view of one of the main sights, the Blue Mosque, from its lovely rooftop terrace.
Breakfast at Hotel Ararat
View of the Bosphorus from Galata Bridge