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.
Category Archives: Travel
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.
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 ) .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I am not sure why I could never describe my favorite faces or places. My words suddenly stumble and get stuck in a doorway of my brain. In any case, I had a fabulous time in New York over the past weekend. The weather was perfect and the city welcomed me with its usual creative spirit.
Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work was still in MoMa and I got to discover the world through his photographs taken decades ago. The exhibit shared a floor with a woman interrupted, Marina Abramovic, who’s work I believe scared me for life. The “Sex and the City” episode where Carrie and Petrovsky meet at a gallery to check on a starving artist appears almost romantic in comparison with the Abramovic’s current state of affairs. The woman cuts herself, burns herself, takes pills to induce a catatonic state, massages her breasts continuously on a video as part of an ancient rain-making ritual… the list is endless. And she calls it art.
As if I did not have enough of craziness during that day I decided to check out Fuerza Bruta in Union Square. Perhaps, if I were heavily infused with drugs, I’d really get the point behind the plot-less show. A few mimosas simply could not awake my futuristic imagination, so I stood in the middle of the dark theater-club room guessing who was having the most fun. Probably the DJ in a crazy Victorian wig while spraying the audience with water.
Later that evening D. and I had chocolate and wine at Ayza and set the mood for dinner at Asia de Cuba. The night turned out to be quite poetic – the city, the full moon, bridge and a light kiss of a fresh river-side summer breeze.
It’s already summer, I thought and smiled. Time doesn’t wait. Doesn’t stop even for a second. I suddenly wanted to hold on to this very moment of romance and the city.
Next morning fresh bagels (I do love bagels!) and coffee at a local shop woke me up as I was getting ready for a stroll in one of my favorite neighborhoods. Local galleries, boutiques, and artists on the intersections of Mercer, Prince, Spring create a dreamy atmosphere reminding me to learn how to paint. When the heat calmed down and the sun started heading west, D. and I rented bikes for a ride around Central Park.
To pain my heart selfishly dooms me,
My senses have devoured my soul.
This cruel love tortures, consumes me,
Love I know I will never control.
Mad with passion, I bow before you…
I despise and adore you…
~ Phantom of the Opera
I run through centuries, years, days, and countless minutes to you. To your passion, your fire, your drive. Your anger and happiness. Your tears and joy. Your constant progress, creativity and strive. Your wisdom.
You move me. You motivate me and give my soul everything it could ever dream of.
The minute we met, I felt I could fly freely without turning back. It was my point of no return as I realized you were what I was longing for. Your endless energy that fills wide streets and every skyscraper is what I need to live a grand carnival and not a gray existence. It’s my addiction.
Decades ago you opened your arms to millions of immigrants who were looking for a better life because you knew that their diversity and aim will evolve your essence, develop you, and create who you are today. You. New York. Full of art, amazing restaurants, fashion, intellectual debate…. You are the heart of the finance industry and the minute it stops pulsating, your global roots spread around the Universe start dying.
You harbor the voyagers, the speakers, the pilgrims. You host conferences, competitions, shows. Regardless of the disasters you went through, you carry your pain buried in your deepest corners with eternal optimism. Because you know that tomorrow is a better day. A day that brings new beginnings and opportunities.
And because of that, my darling, you make me feel alive.
This past month and the distance separating us has been a torture. With so many things happening lately, I barely can sit still because I know that in two weeks I’ll inhale your warmth again and taste your spring kiss in Central Park. And like a Suzie on her very first date, I’ll get butterflies in my stomach. I’ll sing and run smiling with my eyes wide open.
Restless, yet inspired I anxiously await our date on May 28th.
“What longing in tears for you – You – my Life – my All – farewell. Oh, go on loving me – never doubt the faith fullest heart of your beloved. Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.”
At the age of modern technology, there is no longer a need to travel across the world to experience something new – I thought to myself and teleported to Seoul in a search for inner peace.
Located in the questionable neighborhood, King Spa & Sauna unquestionably rejuvenated my body and cured my brain. For only $18 entrance fee, I traveled through nine distinct sauna rooms absorbing the traditions of the far east.
Somewhere between the Yellow-Soil Crystal Room and the Gold Pyramid sauna, I ordered dumplings (I must have been Asian in my previous life) from the King Spa cafe. The evening ended with the acupressure massage offered by the bath house for $70. The massage is designed rather for a stressed body and tense shoulders, so I would not recommend it for relaxation purposes. I felt like my body was deconstructed and reassembled into a collage of muscles in pain. Comforting the sore spots at the Oxygen Room around 2 AM I decided to call it a night and travel through time back to my bedroom.