Wrapping Up a Month from Moscow to Istanbul

St Basil's Cathedral Moscow Russia

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After an inspiring few days among the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, I was on to my last stop in Istanbul with an early morning flight from Nevsehir. I wasn’t especially excited to get to Istanbul, mostly because I knew it meant this amazing trip was finally coming to an end.

I’d visited Istanbul once before, on RTW #3, so I didn’t have a particularly ambitious itinerary for my last day of the trip. Of course, it had been in the middle of winter when I last visited and it was long before I was traveling with a good camera so I figured I should at least make the effort to update my photos from such a beautiful city.

I was on the ground at Istanbul’s Gokcen Airport by 9:30am and began the combined bus/metro journey necessary to get to the center of town. I had a 6:00am flight out of Istanbul’s other airport (Ataturk) the next morning so I had booked a hotel next to that airport for the night.

Unfortunately, the two airports were hours apart so it didn’t make much sense to go all the way to my hotel, drop my bags and make the hour return ride back to the city. So, I decided to tough it out with my luggage for a few hours of sightseeing.

A Walking Tour of Istanbul

It was a gorgeous, sunny summer day in Istanbul as I started my repeat tour of the city along the Bosphorus, just like I’d done so many years ago. It’s hours of free entertainment to stand along the 20-mile strait that separates the continents of Europe and Asia and watch the ferries come and go and the fishermen casting their lines from the bridges.

Hagia Sophia Istanbul Turkey
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

I wandered the shoreline and the bridges for a while before making my way across the city to Turkey’s largest covered market, the Grand Bazaar, to pick up a last minute souvenir or two.

From there, I continued my walk (luggage still in tow – thank goodness I travel light) toward Istanbul’s main tourist sites in the Sultanahmet area and emerged just between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Set against a backdrop of brilliant blue sky they were even more magnificent than I remembered them and I spent some quality time updating my photo galleries of the two. With my main goals for the day accomplished, I stopped for a late lunch before boarding the metro toward Ataturk airport.

Wrapping Things up from the Med

It’s hard to believe this trip is finally coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday I was deciphering the Cyrillic alphabet in a Moscow metro station and wondering when – if ever – the sun would set in St. Petersburg.

It’s been another incredible month of travel from Moscow to Istanbul. All in all, 13 stops, 8 new countries/territories (on the TCC list) and 8 new World Heritage Sites checked off my list. I finally conquered the Russian visa process, took my first hot air balloon flight and fell in love with a new Greek Island.

In a complete departure from my previous, precisely-planned trips, I did a lot of “winging it” on this one, especially in Turkey.

Surprisingly, that turned out to be one of my favorite things about this trip, the flexibility to make hotel decisions when I arrived or extend my stay in a place that I adored. I’m not saying that’s going to be a staple of future trips but you may see a more relaxed approach to travel planning here and there.

In case you missed any of the posts along the way, you know you can always count of me to list them all in one convenient place in the wrap-up post! So here you go, the full story of the journey from Moscow to Istanbul for your leisurely reading pleasure:

Russian Roulette in Moscow

From Russia with Luxe…the Splendor of St. Petersburg

How to Spend an Epic Day in Riga? 7 Things You Can’t Miss

Lightning-Fast Lithuania: 3 Hours in Vilnius

A Day Trip to Bonifacio, Corsica

Sardinia & the Maddalena Islands

Crete Greece in 5 Perfect Days

All Roads Lead to Rhodes

Smitten with Symi

The Ferry from Kos to Bodrum

Ephesus with Ease

A Play Day at Pamukkale

Cave Dwelling & High Flying in Cappadocia

Big thanks to Shannon for enduring my Amazing-Race-we’ll-sleep-when-we’re-dead-style of travel again this summer.

And to my Mom, proofreader of each and every blog post and likely the world’s most incredibly underpaid editor.

I also have to give a special thank you to Tom Brosnahan of the Turkey Travel Planner site. I spent hours and hours on his excellent website and literally could not have deciphered getting from city to city in southern Turkey without it. His site is definitely required reading if you’re planning a trip to Turkey.

St Basil's Cathedral Moscow Russia
With Shannon at St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow

So yes, my summer travels are done a bit early this year (though, you know I’ll be looking out for any interesting airfare deals for the next month or two!). I plan to use the remaining time before football season starts in August to finish book #2 and (more importantly) to begin planning for my next big trip. And it IS a big one…

That’s right, for those of you keeping score at home, coming up in January 2015…it’s Round the World #10!!

I can hardly believe it’s been a decade since I first had the inspiration to plan a trip around the world. Who knew it would lead to 10 years of globetrotting to more than 150 countries? I’m feeling the need to do something really special for #10 so if you have any big ideas I’d love to hear them (2017 Update: Little did I know when I wrote this just how special RTW #10 would be. Spoiler alert…HONEYMOON!).

Thanks to all of you who followed along again this summer. I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did!

Happy summer travels to you all…’til next time!