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The Big Year Out-Iran Visa

View Food from our Journey & Silk Route and South East Asia 2012/13 & The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Photographic Equipement & Visas & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

large_1842667_1335204239832.jpgSo, our first Visa for collection was the Iranian visa. We applied for authorisation from Iranianvisa.com, it took three weeks from application. We went to the Iranian Embassy in Istanbul [travel-blogs/100510/Istanbul-travel-guide-608771] on Tuesday Morning just after 9.00a.m. and filled in the application form as directed by the really helpful consul. We paid 150euro each at the bank, the consul gave us the account number. The bank is directly across the street from the Embassy, so was easy to get to. We took the reciept and completed application form, one passport photo (head covered as we are women)and passport back to consul and we were asked to come back on Friday to come back and pick up Visas. This all took about forty minutes from start to finish. Friday we turned up just before 9.00a.m. and five minutes later we walked out with visas in passport, success


Posted by TheJohnsons 01:41 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Ankara

View Food from our Journey & Silk Route and South East Asia 2012/13 & The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Photographic Equipement & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

We really like Ankara [Ankara-travel-guide-602437], Very very very Hilly! But you know, not heaving with tourists, and prices for eating out which Istanbul could really learn from. We really used this as a stop for grabbing visas and picking up our train toIran. was always going to be a transit stop. ItPeople here speak English even less thanIstanbul, in fact non existent, but so eager to help us get what we needed to eat, or drink.

We visited the Uzbeckistan Embassy which is open9-12a.m.and although we had tried to fill in online the visa application form and print, three times, it wouldn’t. We were directed to a small basement round the corner from the Embassy, by the lovely uzbeck consul, to a small internet office where a very nice young woman fills in the form and prints it off for you, all for a princely 10tl. Back we trot t the uzbeck embassy and hand in our forms, only to be told that they cannot issue them in Ankara, and gave us the choice of Tehran, or Ashgabat, we chose Tehran, as we did not have three days to wait for it in Ankara. The took copies of our passports, and gave us the original applications back, for us to take to their consulate inTehran, for Monday.

We had just enough time to get over to the Turkmenistan Embassy, we thought we would try our luck getting our Turkmen visa as well as we already had a LOI. We arrived with 15 mins before they closed for lunch and managed to start the process of application, we showed our LOI, and first we were quoted $75 for a less than 3 day issue for the visa, as once again we didn’t have 3 days to wait. As we were filling in our forms the consul there came out and informed us that the price was now going up to $113, and we had to pay through the bank across the road, bring back the receipt and he would issue the visa, or we could get them inTehran. We we choseTehran, and walked out with our LOI.are now aware that that is the price for instant visa issue.

I sometimes wish we had done all this before leaving the UK, but the whole idea about the aspect of this trip was flexibility. Alas not without cost.

Citadel Day, today we took the metro into central “oldAnkara”, which is largely very modern, and a smaller very ancient part. The Museum of Anatolian Civilisationwas our first call, and having walked from the metro up another hill! 1842667_13351188843380.jpgWere not really sure the lonely planet map was very accurate, coupled with the fact that I had eaten something that disagreed with me; I could see I was not going to make it on foot. We flagged down a Taksi, which looked like he had done this one many times before, and charged us 5tl to take us up a fair way to the museum. I have to say from where my tummy was at it was well worth it(the 5tl). When we arrived and walked through the gates it was like an oasis of cool trees and beautifully laid out grounds. We paid 15tl each to get in, but this was a stunning museum, not boring or stuffy at all. We found state of the art WC’s with air con, and very modern features all around a 15th century beautifully restored building. It has been voted 1994 museum of Europe and I think still holds that title for me today. Photography is allowed in the first set of halls, which for me enhances my experience, and rightly the second set of halls it was not allowed, but then you saw so much ancient pottery, metals, gold and precious ceremonial, burial, and everyday artefacts, it would have been lost on camera. (Pics to follow).1842667_1335118881248.jpg1842667_13351188792327.jpg1842667_13351188704869.jpg

After we rested and refreshed we walked up a little further up the very steep hill to the site of the old citadel, or Ankara Fort.1842667_13351188682753.jpg In here village people still live and work, mostly for the tourists, but it is not tackville, they leave that to the stalls outside the walls! We found a lovely café courtyard where we sat and had a couple of well earner drinks and soaked up the lovely calm atmosphere missing in downtownAnkara. You are aware that you are still walking uphill as you pass through the windy street lined with houses looking like they are about to fall over and still lived in. They are in poor repair, but you can see where once they would have been stunning. Lots empty and some lived in; a small community still thrives here. Lots of children all under 14, run and play football in the various small squares you pass through.1842667_13351188755147.jpg Finally we reached the end of the village and we were able to look out onto the mound across the modern road built in-between the two hilly outcrops, (pics to follow), here you could see 14thand 15thCentury buildings in decay, with just one or two here and there with people still resident, almost slum like, sad really as this could have been preserved for cultural history.

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:37 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Trans Asia Express

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1842667_13352052359611_thumb.jpgTrain Ticket
We booked this at Sirkeci Station in Istanbul. The international ticket desk sells the ticket - 206 turkish lira for 2 people in a 4 berth couchette from Ankara [Ankara-travel-guide-602437] to Tehran. We left it until Thursday 12th April to book for Wed 18th April and as a result were very lucky to get tickets. The travel agent we tried (Turista) said it was full and books up at least a month in advance. The first guy at Sirkeci said full and the 2nd guy said full, but we pleaded with him and he offered us 2 beds sharing with men. We took this as we don't mind but don't think they usually do it.

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:35 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

The Big Year Out - Istanbul Photos

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Posted by TheJohnsons 22:26 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-The start of the journey Istanbul

View The Big Year Out & Photographic Equipement on TheJohnsons's travel map.

Arrived inIstanbulafter easy 4 hours via Turkish airlines. Landed at Attaturk airport northIstanbul, what seemed like miles away from the centre. We grabbed a bus, which seemed more like a coach toTaksim Squareas there were no buses to Eminou where we would have to take the ferry across to Kadakoy, crossing the Bospherous to the Asian side ofIstanbul. As it was, had to take another bus from Taksim to Kadakoy, finally arriving quite late in the evening to near our destination for the Hush Hostel/Lounge (please read our review), which is up a rather long steep hill at the end of the main road at the ferry port. I have to say I was quite tired and managed to fall over on the uneven pavement on street, and was lying there with this huge backpack arms flaying everywhere feeling like an upturned turtle, shouting at Angela “Help” in a turtle type way! I was really heartened to see and hear so many local people rushing to help me. As usual, I was hoisted up by rather scrawny looking, fifty plus, man, who lifted me up like I was a twiglet! After the very long climb up the hill we found our hostel and checked in. End of day 1.

Today was Pouring with rain, but we decided to make the best of it.1842667_1335118186922.jpg Blue Mosque day it would be. We purchased our Istanbulkart at the ferry port (just like an oyster card inLondon), and put on about 20 Turkish lira. Carefully navigating our way onto our first of many river crossings. It did remind me a bit of the river taxis we have been on inThailand, but better organised! Landing on the Western side ofIstanbulyou are greeted by the stench of fish from the port fish restaurants on the dock, all selling fish sandwiches for a mere 5tl, and the New Mosque and then the Blue mosque to your left, with the spice market tucked down in front of the New Mosque. A feast for the eyes. We took the tram to Sultanahamet. Again we used the card we purchased from the ticket office, easy, across the park and we are there. Stunning! Beautiful mosque, of which I have many pictures and will post when I get a chance. It is definitely a “must do” when visitingIstanbul. Entrance was free. We did walk up to the topaki palace only to find it was closed until Wednesday. So off back to the hostel for the rest of the day, and dry out.

So today we took the trip across the river again back to Sultanahamet, as we had to visit the Iranian Embassy to get our visa for our journey throughIran. We had forgotten to get our headscarf passport photos done back in England (note to self, do this before leaving home), and it didn’t take us long to find a small shop with various ticky tacky tourist bits, but also very usefully “passport photos” for we paid 12tl each for four pics which was about the same as you pay in England (£5-6). Pics done off up the smaller hill to the Iranian Embassy, we got there about 9a.m. and were greeted by a friendly security guard who let us in after we said “Visas!” we were greeted by a large open space with dark glass windows all around one side with tiny little openings to speak through. There was one in English and Farsi market “Visas”, so we waited patiently, the lovely consul came over and we explained our requirements (please see blog on Visas), we left our passports and decided to spend the rest of the day out sight seeing.

We had been told by a friend of Angela’s about some beautiful underground cisterns in centra lIstanbul. So off we went to find them, they too are not far from the Aya Sofia Mosque, and we joined the que, thinking we might be there for a long time, but actually it moved quite quickly. We descended into near pitch blackness via some very solid stairs. To be greeted by soft, warm orange light, tastefully showing the stunning huge columns holding up the ceiling. (Again pics later) soft unobtrusive music accompanied your walk round on solid wide walkways. The water here is now only a few inches deep in places. Again somewhere well worth the visit if your there. We paid 15tl each to get into this and I have to say was definitely worth all of that, especially when you consider what you would pay for something similar at home.1842667_13351181913019.jpg1842667_13351176327217.jpg

When we popped up, like rabbits in Alice in Wonderland, (through another set of sturdy stairs) we found ourselves almost right outside the Aya Sofia, we took one look at the que and decided that that was not an option today!! So we elected to go to the Museum of Islamic Art. We paid 10tl to get into here and saw some interesting artefacts, carpets, scripts etc. I must say, maybe it was just us, but we came away not so impressed. I guess by then we were a bit hungry and foot weary, we set out to forage for food, we wandered across the square in front of the aya sofia across the hippodrome and off down a side street to find ourselves a sunken café/restaurant, where we were greeted by a smiling face (again). We sat and decided to give ourselves a well earned lunch (2.pm)1842667_1335120906885.jpg1842667_13352045249038.jpg and rest. Great food, good prices and no hassle meant we stayed quite a while chatting about our next days plans of places to go and things to do. I must say the chicken Kebab is lovely there. We finished off the day just wandering back towards Sultanhamet for our tram, but without really worrying exactly how, or which route we took.

Today Is Aya Sofia Day! And Topaki Palace day is also the day when it finally stopped raining and allowed us to wear less cumbersome jackets. 1842667_13351176269328.jpg1842667_13351176219226.jpgFinally sun, that thing that Turkey is apparently famed for. Aya Sofia was not so busy this morning, but still a good showing of people and we got through to tickets quite quickly. We Paid 20 tl each to get into here, again worth every penny. I guess I didn't realise how big it is inside, actually huge! And lovely art work, again one of those places you have to see (pics later). We did the long sloping walk up to the upper gallery which give you a stunning view of the main place below. My camera did have a smashing time in there taking some lovely shots.

As we had had missed the Topaki Palace on Monday (it was closed for two days), we went straight round the corner from there and took the walkway up t the ticket entrance, it’s a bit like looking at a fairy tale castle when you approach the main gate, and just to the left are the ticket booths. The Harem is definitely a must see, but you have to pay separately for that once inside. 20tls saw us into the main part of the palace, and a further 15tl each to get into the Harem, which is where we went first. Very elaborate entrance through many courtyards and passages to finally get to the quarters where queen and concubines were housed. Gilded cage does come to mind, I thought as I walked round, but put in context of time and history I guess it was an honour to be picked as a concubine? Still not altogether a rough place to live. The main parts of the palace are set into sections, an armoury, where photography is “strictly forbidden!”, and a treasury, which houses some of the most stunning jewels you will see anywhere, a bowl full of Emeralds, one of the top ten diamonds in the world, weighing in at a hefty 80+carats, and various stunning gifts form various heads of state throughout history. An empty Library, which looked very comfortable, but had no books! The section of various prophets’ relics and even the staff of Abraham, and important relics pertaining to Mohammed. This was again very worthwhile going to, and we spent our time in lovely sunshine and relaxed atmosphere marvelling at the views from the terraces looking across the Bospherous.

Pick up Iranian Visa Day! We got over to Sultanhamet again to pick up our Iranian visa, in and out in five minutes, with fetching headscarves emblazoned in our passports. Hooray! We are going to Iran!

We booked ourselves the Trans Asia express from Ankara [Ankara-travel-guide-602437] to Iran at the local railway station inIstanbul, Hydraplace is closed. We paid 103tl each for our train tickets and then we booked our bus form Istanbul to Ankara which cost 51tl each, not forgetting to ask for a place on the shuttle bus that takes you to the main bus station. We got that on Saturday at10.30a.m.and I was impressed with the Turkish Bus, more like a coach even with in coach entertainment screens with Turkish TV. We had some refreshments and one half hour break throughout a five hour journey. We arrived at what I can only describe as the biggest bust terminal I have seen anywhere in the world so far!, hundreds of buses/coaches making their way into the station in no particular order, but all finally finding their allotted spot. The lovely attendant form our bus directed us to the metro, where we got tickets 3.50tl for both of us to our stop at Kurtulus. Again up a hill (yes we seem to keep choosing them this way) we settled into yet another clean and roomy Hostel (review to follow).

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:25 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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