Domestic Dilemma

It’s always great to return to a cozy home from very long travels. I’ve distracted myself with some other things and completely neglected my living space in the townhouse.

I decided to get the experts’ help – DesireToInspire. Kim and Jo posted my household dilemma in their blog and I already received some creative suggestions:

Oks needs your help

Yoga Sundays

While still under the spell of my Turkish adventures, I decided to take it to the next height. All the way to the 16th floor of the W hotel for some lazy Sunday yoga session. There was nothing lazy about it – stunning views of downtown in sunset, light wind in the hair, calming whispers of the never-ending pool. Total escape to tranquility.

Turkish Adventures: Practical Stuff

Packing

Clothes. Instead of trying to fit your entire wardrobe into a suitcase, pack light. Euros allow to check-in only one 20 kilo suitcase and a carry-on. During the summer, I recommend taking light casual clothes (dresses, skirts) and very comfortable shoes for walking (flip-flops or some cute flats) to wear during the day. Swim-suite is a must as you never know which Princes’ island you could end up at. A pair of high heels and a trendy evening outfit  (stylish jeans with a top, or a dress).

Electronics. Bring a converter to be able to use your technological magic. Hotels and rental apartments – all offer free internet/Wi-Fi.

When I travel internationally, I also take an unlocked cell phone and buy a local prepaid SIM card to avoid spending hundreds of dollars on the roaming fees.

Currency

Dollars, Euros and Turkish Lira are accepted in Istanbul. Cash usually gets you better deals than credit cards (at least 10% off). I think that’s the fee that banks charge a merchant for the transactions. ATMs are everywhere, so getting cash should not be a problem (your account currency will be converted into lira based on the exchange rates ) .

Cabs

Most of the taxi drivers do not speak English or any other language besides Turkish. Most of them don’t know where they are going either. At first I thought it was my inability to communicate in Turkish, but later learned that it was not the case. Even when I showed the address to a driver, he would drive around asking people on the streets how to get to my destination.

Shopping

Bargain everywhere. Turks are amazing sales people. It is my belief that selling talent runs in their blood and they will try to sell you anything for as expensive as possible, so don’t be a fool. Don’t rave about being ripped off – you can bargain and set your prices as well.

Large shops offer VAT – just ask for the forms and requirements on the minimum spending amount to collect VAT in customs.

Dining and Wining

Delicious food is served in different variations from traditional to modern and most restaurants are open late for dinner. Alcohol is heavily taxed turning drinking into quite a pricey habit.

Hotels, Apartments

Do your research before booking. Prices vary from 600+$/night at Four Seasons to less expensive rates in some less known hotels. Short-term apartment rentals are also available – depends on your preferences.

Turkish Adventures: Take-off at terminal D

The beginning of my trip is quite adventurous already. As I proceed to my seat in the limbo section between heavenly first class and hellish the rest of the plane, I examine my closest neighbors. A cute old lady whose English vocabulary consists of two words, Arabic and Egypt, and an angry Indian boy who managed to get two extra seats for free (American Airlines messed up his flights, shaving a day of his vacation). Just as I settle in, a family on the left decides to send their broken ankle son to a little oasis of my own 2 empty seats. So much for hoping to get some sleep.

Delay at the gate. Something about a door not matching the standards or maybe an issue with the fuel… The more I look around the more I wonder about the age of the plane.

Take-off, at last. One of the oxygen masks falls out. Noise on the back. I tell the Indian that I will blame him if we die – he is bringing bad luck. We produce a laughter with a hint of neurosis.

Unable to hide the masks and close the lid, flight attendants simply band-aid it to the panel with a clear tape.

Dinner time. Passengers in limbo leave their technological inventions of Stevie or Billy and start chewing. Strange noise on the back. Relax, peoples. It is only a girl stuck in the bathroom because a food cart abandoned by a flight attendant is blocking the door.

I have no complains – this “Friday night live” is a great substitution for the “Boy with a little dragon” movie offered by the high-on-altitude American Airlines. Mind you – the only movie available at this point. What happened to the good old days when flying was a pleasure even in the limbo section?

I desperately need a drink and some sleep so that I can arrive fresh and stunning. Yet I think that screaming baby in the first row wont let my dream come true.

Little did I know that it was only the beginning of my troubles as if travel gods were punishing me.

The rented apartment so charmingly advertised by the New York Times turned out to be a total disaster as it lacked A/C. Crazy hot summer days were driving me crazy together with the landlord who attempted to convince me that A/C is not a part of the Istanbul’s traditions. All I wanted to do was to cry and hope for the magic.

My friend suggested a cozy boutique hotel Uyan in the heart of Sultanahmet. The lack of cold air destroyed my opposition to hotels and I moved. The apartment situation in Istanbul took me by surprise because even the rented flat in Rio de Janeiro was great. I assumed that Turkey was not an exception from the rest of the world’s short-term rentals.  I was wrong.

Grand Bazaar

This year I am escaping August in hot Terminal D and flying the magic carpet to the city that is torn between Asia and Europe. Istanbul.

I’ve been always intrigued by its history as after introducing Christianity to Ukraine, Constantinople became a head of the Ottoman empire,  joined Islam and began the Turkish-Mongol invasions. The army simply could not resist stealing beautiful Ukrainian girls and later selling them to the harems. The most famous one, Roksolana, managed to become Sultan’s favorite wife and actually ruled the country together with her beloved.

In any case, I dedicated nine days to the exploration of  Istanbul’s every corner. To better experience the city I rented an apartment at 4 Floors. Then, will cross the Black sea to Lviv, Ukraine.

There are many flourishing cities in the world.
But you’re the only one who creates enchanting beauty.
I say, he who has lived happily, in the longest dream,
Is he who spent his life in you, died in you, and was buried in you. ~ Yahya Kemal Beyatli

Life of my Dreams

Difficult not to feel disappointed when you learn that your closest friends think your life has no path, no plot and represents a cobweb of stories. Especially when you have always been there for them, listening and supporting.

Maybe not agreeing, but never judging.

The old me would get mad, try proving that my life has a path and I’m confidently walking it. Today, I simply feel sad just for a moment, then smile and continue my journey as I know – I no longer have to prove anything to anyone but myself.

Perhaps, my non-traditional trail raises a few skeptical eyebrows, but I’ve learned to accept my inner gypsy and feel comfortable in my colorful skirts exploring the world, playing my guitar and singing my songs.

Perhaps, the judgment is the result of our inability to relate as we don’t truly understand problems of others until we walk in their shoes. In a way, I am lucky to have a colorful array of friends composed of different personalities, who make me see things outside the box.  It is through arguments that we learn each other better and understand that each of us has his own life to live.

Life of our dreams according to us, not to our friends, family, or society.

iPad

Stevie’s new toy caught even my attention and I added it to my travel bag. Yes, I finally bought the fashionable iPad! It was quite a day deciding on “to buy or not to buy” because I wanted to make sure I get the perfect fit for me. Turns out, there is always a catch.

– Unlimited data plan. AT&T will no longer be offering it for iPads as of June 7. However, if you buy your iPad before June 6th, you will still qualify for the unlimited plan. Catch: going forward, if you decide to cancel the plan, you will lose your unlimited freedom for good.

– AT&T, however, will be providing pay as you go option – a.k.a prepaid data card. Catch: valid for 30 days only without any roll-over options.  More on data plans can be found here

– Roaming. Careful when traveling abroad. In countries where 3G actually works, the rates for the data services are almost astronomical.

– Sync or file transfer from iPad to a laptop can be done only via iTunes. USB is not an option which is a bit annoying.

– Photo editing is also not an option, but there is no iMouse for iPad so I can live with that.

– However, there are many great features for a gypsy like myself and iPad will satisfy my nerdy needs with movies, music, books, etc.

After going back and forth, I acquired 32GB iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G. Hackdna, would not have done it without you!