The Journey: MSP > ORD > IST (…Finally!)

Posted on January 12th, 2012 by

Fish Meal.

Fresh bread.

Mixed salad.

Hotel room.

In seat entertainment.

Downtown to the left. Suburbs to the right.

Merhaba, or hello from Istanbul!  We have finally arrived at our destination.  Before I discuss Istanbul itself, let me

The Sultanahmet Fish House.

retrace our

Green lentil soup.

steps to our departure from the United States.  On 10 January, 2012 at

Baklava dessert.

12:00 we departed

Chicken meal.

from Gustavus for Minneapolis St. Paul International (MSP) via a coach bus.  Upon arrival at MSP around 13:30, we checked in as a group, received our boarding passes, and proceeded through a relatively short security line towards our boarding gate.  Once we had located our gate, the wait began.  We had plenty of time to spare before our 17:15 departure.  Many of us used the extra time to grab a bite to eat and to learn more about each other.  Before long, it was time to board and we were Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) bound.  The flight between MSP and ORD was short, roughly fifty minutes.  The night views of both the Twin Cities and Chicago were breathtaking from above.  Once we had landed in Chicago we again took the opportunity to enjoy some food, not knowing when we would be fed or what to expect on the plane.  After eating, we transfered to the international terminal and went through security.  Almost immediately after security, we were called to board.  For many of us, this is where the nerves took grasp.  For some, the flight to Turkey marks their first experience leaving the United States!

Our departure from ORD took place at 21:05 on Turkish Airlines.  The airplane was nicely furnished, being two seats on both sides, four in the middle, each seat having its own screen for films, games, music, and other entertainment, helping to pass time on the eleven hour or so flight.  We were each provided headphones, a pillow, a blanket (knit, not fleece like on Delta and other providers), and a small travel kit containing toothpaste, a toothbrush, socks, and other small things.  About an hour into our flight, we were provided a snack of hazelnuts and beverage of choice, followed by our evening meal about an hour and a half later.  The evening meal choices consisted of pasta or chicken.  While I cannot describe the pasta meal, I can describe the chicken.  The chicken meal consisted of buttered rice, grilled chicken breast, mixed vegetables, green beans with lemon, salad, cheese, and a dinner roll.  It was a nice meal.  After eating, it was time to attempt to sleep.  At about and hour and a half away from Istanbul, breakfast was served.  Though I am not entirely sure of what the breakfast was due to being extremely tired at this point and not being hungry, I do remember it consisting of eggs, a sandwich of some sort, mixed fruit, and a roll.  Before we knew it, the cosmopolitan of Istanbul was within sight as we flew over what I believe was the Sea of Marmara.  Flying low over the sea, preparing for landing, was a bit nerve wracking.  It felt as if we were about to land in the sea, though the runway was just meters away.  Our landing was smooth.  It was 11 January, 2012, and about 16:00 local time.  It was drizzling at the time of our arrival.  After safely landing, we exited the plane and headed towards passport control.  Proceeding through passport control was surprisingly very fluid and quick.  Since we already had visas, the passport control workers only looked at our passport, scanned it or whatever they do, and stamped our visas to validate them.  There was no exchange of words involved, which seemed strange, in my experience, compared to entering other countries where one is question in depth about their plans.  After we had all passed through passport control, we collected our baggage and made our way to the exit where we were met by our tour guide holding a sign reading “Gustavus Students”.  After exchanging greetings, we exited the airport and were helped into mini busses (in the style of large vans in America, like a Ford Economy) and shuttled about an hour away to our hotel.

The drive to our hotel was interesting in that we experienced our first glance of Istanbul and its culture.  Little to our surprise, Istanbul is a busy and crowded city.  The roads are styled in resemblance of a European fashion; more narrow than America, circular speed signs, and roundabouts.  Trees lined the road of all sorts, including some sort of palm.  The roads upon which we traveled followed along a body of water nearly the whole way to the hotel.  Eventually we turned off of the main road onto side streets.  The side streets upon which our hotel is nestled within are extremely narrow, paved (with stones), and wind up and down the hillside.  For many of us, being passengers on this part of the journey was a bit nerve wracking.  Our driver often had to negotiate the corners and hills while being met with oncoming traffic.  Once we arrived at the hotel, Art City Hotel Istanbul, we were met by Asli’s family and were settled into our rooms.  The rooms are very nicely furnished, each having an armoire, television, table/desk, bed(s), night table, and water closet with toilet, sink, and shower.  After settling into our hotel, we had a few hours for rest.  After resting, we met with Asli’s family for dinner.

For dinner we went to the Sultanahmet Fish House.  Dinner began with a mixed salad and bread.  Green lentil soup soon followed before the main course.  For our main course, we were offered many choices.  The most popular choices were grilled fish, grilled chicken, and meatballs.  The main course was then followed by traditional baklava for dessert.  The meal was very good.

Overall the trip to Turkey was great.  Everything went smoothly at the airports and on the planes.  Though most of us are experiencing some jet lag, the first night in Istanbul was extremely enjoyable.  The city is beautiful.  I have not really felt much in terms of culture shock, though this may in part be attributable to traveling with Asli and a guide, as well to the fact that I just returned from studying in the United Kingdom and from traveling Europe for the four months.  It seems that most people speak some English, at least enough for basic conversation, and are friendly towards tourists.  I am greatly looking forward to the next two weeks and am certain that the rest of my class is as well.

Below are photos.

Until next time,


From the window of our Delta plane, overlooking the Twin Cities at sunset.


One Comment

  1. Karen Kedrowski says:

    Thanks for the pictures and detailed description of your trip to Istanbul. Enjoy!