The Champagne Backpacker: Michael's Round the World Trip 2005-2007-- The Adventure of a Lifetime travel blog

Frescos from the Kariye Museum, Istanbul

Fri., July 15. Istanbul. While Jeff went to get a replacement passport from the US consulate, I went to visit the Kariye Muzesi, formerly the Chora Church, in the western district of Istanbul. The museum houses fabulous 14th century mosaics and frescoes depicting biblical scenes in an intimate church. It takes some effort to get to, but if you have some extra time in Istanbul, it is well worth the effort.

Turkey and Travel Musings. We noticed in our travels through Turkey that Turks smoke a lot. One reason may be because cigarettes are very cheap—a pack of Marboro Lights is 1 YTL (75 cents). They also drink lots of tea in tulip shaped glasses. The tea is the same flavor everywhere and drank with a little sugar. The only variation is apple tea, which recently became popular. Turks don't speak much English, even in the tourist areas. After we parted with Cengiz, our translator, travel became a lot more challenging. Nevertheless, the Turks are by and large a very friendly and welcoming people. They are very proud of their heritage. We saw Turkish flags and monuments to Ataturk everywhere we went.

Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Internet Service

I brought both my cell phone and notebook PC hoping that I would have service at least periodically throughout my travels. So far, I have had cell phone service throughout Turkey and Greece (Cingular International roaming) and free wi-fi Internet in Istanbul (By going to the rooftop of our hotel, I picked up two unsecured wireless networks). Depending on the length of your travels, I would recommend bringing both a cell phone and a notebook PC with integrated wi-fi. For cell phones, it's best to have a GSM phone, the standard throughout much of the world. In the US, Cingular and T-Mobile are the major GSM carriers. I would recommend Cingular as it's coverage in the US is a lot better than T-Mobile. Before leaving the US, call your service provider to enable international roaming. It's also a good idea to get the unlock code for your phone in order to use third party SIM cards, enabling you to buy SIM card on the street and make local calls from your cell phone. Although international roaming rates for voice are expensive and vary by country ($1.29 to $3.00/minute on Cingular), the text message feature can be very useful (10 cents per received message and 50 cents per sent message). Jeff and I have been text messaging each other throughout our trip. I brought my notebook PC (Gateway M210X) primarily in order to access wi-fi networks and to store and edit photos. I got and have been getting periodic free unsecured wi-fi Internet access in more developed areas of Turkey and Greece. Rates for Internet access have averaged 2 YTL ($1.50) and 4 Euros ($4.80) per hour in Turkey and Greece, respectively. Having my notebook has also enabled me to keep this trip journal, share photos with people we have met on our travels, and draft emails off line. I have also burned CDs for other travelers. The one thing I wish I had is a DVD-RW drive. When I got my notebook PC, I decided not to pay the extra $50 for read-write drive since I had one on my desktop PC. However, with a DVD-RW drive, I would be able to store my edited videos.

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