Here are my traveling companions: Bob Denison, Don Fischer, Lavona Grow, and Wendy Fischer. Don is the fellow I worked with at the Department of Education 1995-96, and we've remained in touch since. This whole thing was his idea. I think.
We'd just sat through Mete's orientation session for the trip, complete with a complimentary glass of cherry juice, courtesy of Trafalgar. Mete recommended we take a taxi up the hill from the hotel to a restaurant named "Saray." You will never miss it.
So we all piled into an itsy bitsy TAKSi, me in the front and the other four in the back. The poor driver couldn't speak English and he was very nice, but clearly he wanted us out. So he appealed to the hotel doorman for help getting rid of the Americans. Don and Wendy and I eventually took this TAKSi to the restaurant, while Bob and Lavona followed in another.
Here's the restaurant. Our first exposure to Turkish cuisine. Mmmmmmm.....
See what I mean? Desserts, desserts, desserts. Good stuff.
This was our hotel in Istanbul -- the ParkSA. We stayed here later too, when we returned to Istanbul at the end of our trip. Turns out the SA in the blue circles showed up everywhere in Turkey. Mete explained that SA was the richest man in Turkey, when he was still alive, and his family owns everything from banks to auto dealerships to, well, Hilton Hotels. I think Mete doesn't buy anything with SA on it. Why give more money to the rich guy?
Early the next morning I was up at the crack of dawn. Jetlag, I guess. Anyway, I was the first person upstairs at the Hilton for breakfast. This slightly blurry photo out the window of the hotel shows shipping activity in the Bosphorus mixed with an interior view of the hotel restaurant.
Here's a better view of the sun coming up over the Bosphorus. The hotel is in Europe, and over there in the background, across the water, that's Asia. Lots of history has passed between these two points of land.
See that tower on a tiny island in the Bosphorus? That's Kiz Kulesi, better known as "Leander's Tower." It has served as a quarantine center, lighthouse, a customs control point, and a maritime toll gate. Now it's a restaurant and disco. They still have discos in Turkey.
Those lights in the sky are either UFOs or reflections from the restaurant. I'm not sure.
Probably UFOs. Yeah, that's it.
More Istanbul skyline, and a bridge.
There was a nice patio on the roof of the hotel.
We're off on our sightseeing tour! First stop was an old Roman wall in Istanbul. The locals use the grounds for vegetable gardens.
Big vegetable gardens.
We acted like these old walls and the vegetable gardens were interesting sights. Little did we know what lay in store in the days to come.