A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about kumuka

Istanbul in three days

sunny 28 °C
View The move to Egypt on lucid's travel map.

Istanbul

My husband and I arrived in Istanbul after a pleasantly short flight from Cairo. We were met at the airport by the hotel pick up service and started the 40 minute drive to Sultanahmet. I was instantly impressed by the well maintained roads, sensible drivers and European styled buildings. The taxi driver pointed out some interesting geographic features and informed us about some events we could attend while we were in town. We stayed at the Hotel Turkoman, which is only a stone's throw away from the hippodrome and Blue Mosque. As we found out later we were also only a stone's throw away from the speaker for prayer call!

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The hotel was quiet, with old style furniture and quaint rooms. It provided breakfast and you could buy a beer in the evenings and sit out on the narrow roof top area, which overlooks the Blue Mosque. The hotel was in a great location and within walking distance to many of the tourist spots.

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My husband and I were impressed with the cleanliness of the parks and public areas and there were some great shopping areas and restaurants.

We had a pre-departure meeting the evening before the overland trip started. We were hoping that the tour leader would have some information from Kumuka about our visa situation but he didn't know anything about my husband's visa problems for Syria. the other American guy on the trip had managed to get himself a Syrian visa from the embassy in Washington DC, but at a cost of over $300!

The trip started early the next day after we loaded our things onto the truck and left Istanbul. It was a long, but scenic drive to our first night's camp on a beach outside the 'Boomerang Bar'. It was a difficult night's sleep, on a windy and rough beach, not helped by the bar owner and his local customers' attempts to sing kareoke at 2am. This was pretty much the worst place we had to camp during the whole 35 day trip.

Monday 19th July 2010

Day 2 of the trip, sitting on a car ferry, crossing over to see Troy. It's been an uneventful few days, which is why I haven't written until now. I've also had two nights of extremely bad sleep so that's not helping things.
Going back then to my first evening in Istanbul. We strolled down to the local shops and restaurants and had a really good meal at a place up one of the narrow alleys. After that we had a drink on the roof of the hotel and then had an early night. The next day was very busy... We saw the Hagia Sofia (an ex-Christian church turned mosque) followed by the Grand Palace, the Grand Bazaar and finally we walked around the spice bazaar. The Agia Sofia was large and impressive, with beautiful mosaic pictures and stained glass windows. My first thoughts however, were that it had been invaded and spoiled. The huge Islamic wooden discs that hung over the Christian art made the whole church feel like Christianity had been thrown out but only a feeble attempt had been made to convert it into a mosque. It was very damp inside the Agia Sofia and many of the art works were being removed to prevent further decay.

Posted by lucid 04:34 Archived in Turkey Tagged overland turkey kumuka Comments (0)

Waiting for a visa from the Syrian embassy in Egypt

No more visas at the border for US citizens!

sunny 24 °C
View The move to Egypt on lucid's travel map.

I wouldn't normally blog on pre-trip preparation but the situation my husband and I were in, forced us to plan for the possibility that my American husband wouldn't be able to enter Syria at all during our overland trip from Istanbul to Cairo. Our travel company gave us information about obtaining visas for our trip and after looking on the appropriate country's visa pages, we were confident that we would be able to obtain visas at the airport in Istanbul and at the borders of Syria and Jordan. We already had resident visas for Egypt. We paid the balance of our trip before the 60 day deadline, but found out a few weeks later that Syria had changed its mind about US citizens and the only chance of getting a visa was to apply in advance at the Syrian embassy in Washington DC. Since we live in Egypt, this was clearly not a viable option so my husband approached the Syrian embassy in Egypt. They told him that his application would take a minimum of 6 weeks giving us a 2 day window before leaving for Istanbul. After the six weeks and numerous trips to the Syrian embassy, my husband was told that the embassy still had no answer about his visa. At this point we realised that my husband would need to find a way to travel from Cappadocia in the South East of Turkey, back to Istanbul, fly home to Egypt and then wait 5 days before meeting me again at Jerash in Jordan. Our tour company (Kumuka) did absolutely nothing to help us with this situation. We contacted them 2 months prior to the start of the trip to check the visa situation and were told that my husband would be able to get on the group visa no problem. All in all this 'hiccup' cost us around 700 pounds sterling! We were not reimbursed for the 5 days of the trip my husband didn't use and I was even put in shared accommodation during my time in Syria! Suffice to say we will never travel with Kumuka again!

Posted by lucid 08:36 Archived in Egypt Tagged preparation kumuka Comments (0)

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