Leo’s travel journal

Leo’s travel journal and other juicy bits…

Posts Tagged ‘Istanbul

IST-ZAG (Turkish Airlines TK1449)

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Istanbul was fantastic although the weather wasn’t.  I felt that I had to come back once more to explore the city in a more thorough manner as I rarely made my way around much.

Anyway, it was time to move on to Zagreb, this time on Turkish Airlines once more.

I arrived at Ataturk Airport, check-in was a breeze through the business class counters – however the economy lines were choc-a-bloc. The benefits of the Star Alliance Gold status were truly appreciated.

After check-in, I headed to the lounge of Turkish Airlines to grab something to eat as I was starved. The lounge itself was one of the largest and most spacious lounges I’ve ever set foot in.

I must admit that I loved the idea of natural light in the lounge and airport. However, the interior left me a little perplexed – a current mix of neo-classical fittings and Scandinavian-style furniture.

Overall it was nice and before I realised, it was time to board the 737-800 headed for Zagreb.


The 2-hour flight and meal service was uneventful.

Landing in Zagreb was a shocker for me – no aero bridge, so we were all bussed to the terminal.

More on Zagreb in the next post…

Written by Leo

22 May 2009 at 18:25

Istanbul – part 02

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One of the magnificent historical constructions of Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern, located near the southwest of Hagia Sophia. This huge cistern founded by Justinianus I, a Byzantine Emperor (527 – 565) is called “the Sinking Palace” by the public owing to the great number of marble columns rising out of the water.

The name Basilica Cistern originates from a basilica which formerly existed in place of the cistern. The cistern is a giant construction located in a rectangular area with a length of 140m and width of 70m.

Inside this cistern, you descend through 52 stone steps and observe 336 columns each 9m high and 4.8m apart, arranged in 12 rows of 28 each.

The ceiling weight of the cistern is transferred to the columns by means of vaults. Majority of the columns which appear to have been taken from older buildings, which were engraved from various types of marble are composed of one piece while some were made up of two pieces.

Capitals of these columns have different features; 98 reflect the Corinth type, and some others reflect the Dor type.

The cistern has a capacity of 100,000 tons of water and have 4.8m thick brick walls plastered with a thick layer of Horasan mortar and made water resistant.

The two Medusa’s head columns found in the north west corner of the cistern are great examples of the Roman Age art sculptures. It is not known exactly where these two heads come from. Researchers think that they were brought there in order to be used only as column pedestals during the construction of the Cistern.

Written by Leo

3 April 2009 at 22:07

Istanbul – part 01

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So I found myself in Istanbul for the weekend and what more to do than visit the sights.

The weather was not letting up so I decided to brave the rain and cold winds from Siberia to visit both the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.

Firstly, a visit to the blue mosque. (As it is 6.00am in the morning and I’m too lazy to do some research, the following texts in italic have all been quoted from Wikipedia).

*The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the national mosque of Turkey, and is a historical mosque in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the capital of the Ottoman Empire (from 1453 to 1923).

The mosque is one of several mosques known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.

It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice.

The design of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development. It incorporates some Byzantine elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period.

The architect has ably synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour, but the interior lacks his creative thinking. During the rule of Ahmed I, Sultan Ahmet mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 CE.

Designed by architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is considered to be the last example of classical Ottoman architecture.

From the Blue Mosque, it was only a stroll in the rain to the Hagia Sophia, one of the largest cathedrals in the world.

Hagia Sophia is a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture.

It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral in 1520.

The current building was originally constructed as a church between A.D. 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site (the previous two had both been destroyed by riots).

It was designed by two architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles.

The Church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 50 foot (15 m) silver iconostasis. It was the patriarchal church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1000 years.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building to be converted into a mosque.

The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were eventually plastered over.

The Islamic features — such as the mihrab, the minbar, and the four minarets outside — were added over the course of its history under the Ottomans.

It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

More Istanbul in the next post…

Written by Leo

23 March 2009 at 15:37

W Istanbul

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Well hello there! My stay in Istanbul was marred mostly by was gloomy with long episodes of rainfall, with temperatures hovering between 7 – 10 degrees Celsius.

As it was my first time to Istanbul, I preferred to stay at somewhere familiar (as in hotels). So the W Istanbul was the choice, by recommendation of more experienced travellers (SPG junkies).

Shocked was putting it mildly. If you remember my previous post, I was staying in an elegant, understated and pretty much somber and subdued Grande Bretagne in Athens. The W Istanbul is the exact opposite – pompous, overstated, funky and borderline tacky in specific areas (the elevator especially), in my opinion.

The Welcome desk was dark – in fact the whole hotel was pretty dark. Not the sort of airy, brightly lit / natural light, open spaces that I’ve grown accustomed to in my Europe hotel stays. Nevertheless the trick was to keep an open mind and take it in. It took exactly 3 hours to get used to the level of lighting, the constant chillout music that was piped (instead of the standard opera / classical music you hear – the lady calls it toilet music).

The Welcome area was dark and was nice with touches of fabric keeping the cold draft outside – where it is supposed to be.

Touches of Ottoman design was sprinkled copiously across the entire hotel.

Welcome drink was offered all times of the day and since it was winter, it was a hot one.

Breakfast was served at SIP, a very light one with croissants and pastries with complimentary coffee and tea.

Being a Platinum member of SPG, I booked the lowest category room (Wonderful room) was upgraded to a Fantastic Suite (a 6 room categories upgrade, circa 600sqft) which was essentially a large room.

The bed was Wonderfully delicious to sleep in, and indeed I fell asleep after unpacking 🙂

The suite, like other areas of the hotel was dark, with use of dark colour wood and furnishings accentuating the sensual side of design. It featured a little alcove with a day bed which I really liked as I could chill there and work on the laptop.

The TV, a 42 inch LCD was built into the wall behind a darkened glass – I was wondering where the TV was. The guy on the Whatever/Whenever told me to point the remote towards the toilet and press the power button 😀

Contemporary touches were also evident in the design of the room and furnishings.

The bathroom area features a separate WC and bathroom – ideal for people travelling in pairs.

Featuring Bliss lemon and sage spa amenities from New York, bath time was indeed heavenly.

I must proclaim that the World’s best shower goes to the W hotels! Look at the size of that shower head!!

Besides shower, you also have the option of the Turkish style Hammam bath.

The hotel featured Spice Market by Jean Georges – I had a meal there and it was good (the concept of Asian fusion food is all too familiar to me, so I found nothing Wow about it…).

Spent most of my time at the W Lounge where they had free internet access. Supposedly Istanbul’s latest nightspot, the lounge transform in the night into what I would deem as something really crazy – the Who’s Who of society hangs out here, from ambassadors to rich people with swanky models in both arms. There was a line leading out of the hotel!

Next – Istanbul!

Written by Leo

2 March 2009 at 19:00

ATH-IST (Turkish Airlines TK1846)

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After spending a wonderful four nights at the Grande Bretagne, it was time to head on to Istanbul.

After checking in at Athens airport, I was directed to the BA Lounge – a brightly lid lounge with internet access and very very basic drinks and snacks.

Today’s aircraft, A320-200 is one of the latest addition to the TK family (IIRC). Being my first time flying TK, I was rather “shocked” with the selection of the cabin colours. It was a regional configured one with a one class cabin, and the J (business) part of the cabin being separated by an armrest built into the middle seat.

When asked by the cabin crew whether I liked it, I said it was “different”. The mentioned crew obviously didn’t like the colour though…

It wasn’t a terribly full flight and to my delight cabin service was prompt.

Moved my behind to the EMEX (emergency exit) row when cabin doors closed.

Full meal service for a one hour fifteen minute flight – I am amazed.

Loved the route map that was shown throughout the flight (unlike LH).

A view of Ataturk International Airport, we flew well off the airport due to traffic and had to circle for 15 minutes or so before landing clearance was given.

Luggage was swift and it was good traffic in Istanbul (surprisingly), I found myself in the W Istanbul approximately 40 minutes from landing.

Written by Leo

25 February 2009 at 17:41

So I’m really leaving…

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This Friday for Athens (at the Grande Bretagne – Deluxe Suite), Istanbul (W Istanbul – Fantastic Suite), Zagreb (Westin Zagreb – Westin Guest Office), Ljubljana (day trip from Zagreb), and Riga (Monika Centrum – Deluxe Room).

Good to finally lift off to Europe after several months of grounding 🙂

Flying Thai, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Croatia Airlines.

Updates soon! Tatas!

Road trip! Europe in February…

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So it’s that time of the year again, the first of my (foreseeable) many trips to Europe in 2009.

I’m quite excited, it’s been quite some time since I flew long haul – unfortunately it will still be winter in these cities.  New cities I will be visiting this time around will be Athens, Istanbul and Zagreb.

I’ll be flying the TK (Turkish Airlines) and OU (Croatia Airlines) for the first time.  Wish me luck!  And I’m not flying Singapore Airlines this time round due to their prohibitively expensive airfares.

Lifting off on 6 February and back about 17 days after, here’s what’s in store…

TG418 KUL (Kuala Lumpur)/BKK (Bangkok) 2100/2205

TG920 BKK (Bangkok)/FRA (Frankfurt) 2340/0530+1

LH3380 FRA (Frankfurt)/ATH (Athens) 0920/1305

TK1846 ATH (Athens)/IST (Istanbul) 1055/1210

TK1449 IST (Istanbul)/ZAG (Zagreb) 1400/1505

OU410 ZAG (Zagreb)/FRA (Frankfurt) 0655/0830

LH3244 FRA (Frankfurt)/RIX (Riga) 1100/1410

LH3245 RIX (Riga)/FRA (Frankfurt) 1440/1555

TG923 FRA (Frankfurt)/BKK (Bangkok) 2055/1305+1

TG417 BKK (Bangkok)/KUL (Kuala Lumpur) 1640/1950