A story of changing plans
The genesis for my trip to Turkey and the Caucasus came in January 2020. I booked a tour to Israel and Jordan for that fall, and I was thinking that it would be good to start with a few days in Rome, a city I’ve never visited. I could use the time to get over jetlag before the tour, and of course, to see Rome.
When I started looking at flights, it turned out that a stopover in Rome was very inconvenient. So I looked into some alternatives, and I settled on Istanbul. Turkish Airlines flies direct from Mexico City, and I could fly from there to Amman and back from Tel Aviv.
But before I could book my flights, the world changed. The Covid-19 pandemic upended my plans completely. Not knowing what would happen, I postponed the trip until fall of 2021. When that also proved unrealistic, I postponed again to February/March 2022. That, too, wasn’t possible. Finally, I canceled the trip and instead booked a tour to Machu Picchu and the Galápagos for late spring 2022.
By that time, though, Turkey jumped to the top of my bucket list. Israel’s borders were closed, but travel to Turkey was wide open.
As I started to plan, I thought I should expand my itinerary beyond just Turkey, and I settled on Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, and I booked the trip for fall 2022. By that time, while Covid was still a factor, travel restrictions were ending, face-masks no longer required, and borders were open. (Well, except the land border between Azerbaijan and its neighbors, so I had to make some last-minute adjustments to the itinerary.)
I flew from Guadalajara to Mexico City, spending the night at the pod hotel in the airport before my morning flight to Istanbul. I spent five nights in Istanbul, and I booked a tour with Turkey Insiders that took me to Ephesus, Pamukkale, Antalya, and Cappadocia. Then I flew to Baku for the Caucasus portion of my trip, which I booked with JayWay Travel. I spent six days in Azerbaijan, ten days in Georgia, and four days in Armenia.
I started out blogging regularly, but as the trip went on, I fell behind. So I ended up doing something I haven’t really done before: I blogged about most of my experiences in the Caucasus after I got home.
As usual, I took way too many photos.
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This post is about my final impressions of Istanbul, though, so I’ll write later about Kuşadası and my day today, but I just wanted to share this glorious… more… Ephesus and Less (9/22/2022) - Today I saw Ephesus and more, except everything else was lesser than Ephesus. Hence the title. If I only saw Ephesus on this trip, it was worth the long journey from Mexico. Kuşadası Kuşadası is the seaside resort about twenty… more… Hierapolis: A long day’s drive to some ruins (9/23/2022) - I thought today’s excursion was about Pamukkale, and I’d also see the adjacent ruins of Hierapolis It turns out today’s excursion was about Hierapolis, and I also saw the travertine pools of Pamukkale. Getting there I was scheduled to be… more… Antalya: from the sublime to the ridiculous (9/24/2022) - Driving from the airport to my hotel in Antalya went through the worst kind of suburban sprawl such as you see in the USA. It was hard to distinguish this as a Turkish city. Strip mall after strip mall, car… more… The ruins never fail to impress (9/25/2022) - Today I visited three sites near Antalya that had stunning ruins. No matter how many different sites I’ve been to on this trip, I’ve seen things that have consistently blown me away. Perge About fifteen kilometers east of Antalya lie… more… Caves and Rocks (9/26/2022) - I’ve seen a lot of pictures of Cappadocia, and I knew there were caves and rocks, but until I saw it for myself, I really had no idea what it was all about. Today was a revelation. Arrival I flew… more… Cappadocia: fairy chimneys, caves, and a view from above (9/28/2022) - The history and gorgeous geological variety that is Cappadocia was on full display today: from a hot air balloon, ground level, and below. By “today,” I actually mean “yesterday,” since I am writing this from the Turkish Airlines Lounge at… more… Baku: A city of contrasts (9/29/2022) - Baku is a delightfully charming city with attractive historic architecture. Baku is also a dramatically modern city with startling skyscrapers and brilliantly conceived spaces. I read a lot about Baku before arriving, but I was still not prepared for this… more… Azerbaijan: land of contrasts (10/2/2022) - I previously wrote about how Baku is a city of contrasts. I now have to take it a step further. In the last two days, as I traveled outside Baku, I’ve seen an extraordinary variety in almost all things. Azerbaijan… more… Tbilisi Is Tdiefor (10/5/2022) - I had my first day in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital and largest city, yesterday. To say I was charmed is an understatement. My guide, Irakli, took me on a walk that seemed to offer new delights around every corner and up… more… Tbilisi Retrospective (10/8/2022) - This morning I will be saying ნახვამდის (nakhvamdis, or goodbye) to Tbilisi. My experiences here and on excursions outside the city have filled me with a lot of feelings, too many to recount here. Photos I’ll let my photos tell… more… Surreality and rain (10/11/2022) - Two full days in Kutaisi would have been great if the rain hadn’t interfered with some of my plans. Still, this is an interesting city, and some stops on the way here were quite fascinating. Gori: City of Stalin Imagine… more… Summing Up the Caucasus: Politics (11/7/2022) - I normally try to blog as I go, but during the last part of my time in the Caucasus, I was on the go so much that I didn’t find time to post updates. I also try to chronicle my… more… Summing Up the Caucasus: Three Capital Cities (11/10/2022) - Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, three small countries in the Caucasus, all gained independence from the Soviet Union at the same time. Before this trip, I expected that Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan, their three capital cities, would all be more or… more… The Caucasus: Smaller Cities and Towns (11/18/2022) - The capital cities of Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan are also their countries’ largest cities, and that’s where I spent most of my time. But I visited several smaller cities and towns in the Caucasus, a few on overnights, and others… more… Summing Up the Caucasus: Religion (12/6/2022) - The history of religion in the Caucasus is long and complicated. I saw many mosques, churches, monasteries, and monuments, but it would take a lot of study to understand the complex stories about how religious beliefs have shaped the politics… more… Summing up the Caucasus: Food (12/30/2022) - The food in the Caucasus was a joy for me. I am an adventurous eater. There are few things I won’t try. And the the Caucasus offered many opportunities to try some delicious (and not-so-delicious-but-still-interesting) foods. I was often surprised… more…