Several days ago, a terrorist plot to bomb nine planes with liquid explosives (concealed in carry-on luggage) was foiled at Heathrow Airport. Needless to say, it’s been all over the media and has resulted in even tighter flight restrictions. I had no real worries for my flight from Athens to Istanbul, however, knowing that Greece would be slower to implement the security restrictions. I wasn’t wrong about that—I sailed through security without a hitch. I am not so sure about my friend Krystal, however—she’s flying out of London. As I write this entry, I am in Istanbul awaiting her arrival.
I’ve only been here for four hours and already I love the place. Our hotel is located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of central Istanbul (the ‘old city’), a place surrounded by amazing sites. As my taxi drove into the neighborhood, I actually felt my breath catch. With the Sultanahmet mosque (aka ‘The Blue Mosque’) on the left and the Hagia Sofia mosque on the right, I felt as though I had entered some otherworldly place where flying carpets might whiz by at any moment. In fact, had one idled next to the taxi at the stop light, I would have been unfazed.
Hmmmmm…I wonder what a terrorist plot to bomb a flying carpet might look like. A swarm of moths, maybe?
I shouldn’t make light of this. Terrorism is serious business and something that raises my hackles both as a citizen of the world and as a traveler. But I want to spare you from that diatribe, so instead here are a few quick facts gleaned from my guide book: Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents. On the west is Europe and on the east Asia, both separated by a narrow strait called the Bosphorous. Another interesting thing (to me, anyway) is that Turkey is 98-99% Muslim, but considered one of the most liberal Muslim countries. Islam is more of an identity here. Turkey is also a member of the UN and the only Muslim country that is a member of NATO.
There. Diatribe averted.