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The beautiful Blue Mosque, Istanbul, 2006

The beautiful Blue Mosque, Istanbul, 2006

Having settled on an itinerary, I started out on an extended surfing session looking for affordable plane tickets. I began with the usual sites – kayak.com, sidestep.com, bookingbuddy.com – which check the big travel sites like expedia.com, orbitz.com, travelocity.com, and priceline.com and hotwire.com as well as most of the airlines. Then I moved on to consolidators like onetravel.com.

The results for Raleigh-Durham (RDU) to Georgia and Jordan to RDU were depressing. Even airtreks.com, which specializes in long-haul multi-destination routings, wasn’t much help. Even after I told them about the Yerevan-Aleppo flight, they still came in with a quote I could beat myself.

Although usually I get the best price by booking the whole trip as one ticket, this time I got better prices breaking things up. And the price got even better after I did some digging around on the Turkish Airlines web site and found that I could fly into Batumi on the Black Sea coast for less than the cost of flying into the capital, Tbilisi. This would also cut out some backtracking once I got to Georgia. And rather than trying to fly from Jordan back to the US, I’d fly Amman to Istanbul and spent a couple of days there.

I finally bought just JFK-Istanbul-Batumi and Istanbul-JFK over the phone from Turkish Airlines. Since I couldn’t make the connection in Istanbul the day I arrived, the guy on the phone said that tyhe airline would put me up in airport hotel for one night. Cool!  I was going to book Amman-Istanbul with them as well, even though they would have to ticket it separately, but it would have been a 6:00 am flight.

This is me in Turkey all the way back in 1974!

This is me in Turkey all the way back in 1974!

This would make my fourth visit to Istanbul. The first was all the way back in 1974, my last vacation before I moved to the US. Unfortunately, it was also the year that Greece and Turkey went to war over Cyprus, and the day we were supposed to fly back to London the airport was shut down and the city blacked out (surely Istanbul must be the easiest city in the world to find from the air, even blacked out!) Eventually we left on the Orient Express, except it wasn’t at all luxurious! We sat up all night – fortunately I hadn’t believed the rumor that there would be a restaurant car, and we boarded with food – and drink!.

Traveling in style at ankara train station, 1999

Traveling in style at Ankara train station, 1999

My second visit, on a Rick Steves tour in 1999, I managed to fall down the stairs in a restaurant the evening we left by train for Ankara. I spent the rest of the trip on crutches! Happily, my third visit, on the way to Ukraine in 2006, was totally without incident (I don’t count persistent carpet salesmen).

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