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Countries and State We’ve Visited

It’s always cool to get a visual of where you’ve been. Here’s an up-til-today map of the United States and the world of all the states and countries we’ve visited [as opposed to just drove through]. Not all of them we’ve both been to, but if one of us has been there, it’s on the map.


27 states (54%)


14 countries (6.22%)

I’ll update them as new states and countries are added; or when Nduku let’s me know I forgot one.

The Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia seen from the Bosphorus Strait

Several years ago I read a book about the Ottoman Empire, one of many that talked about Hagia Sophia. The more I read about it, its history which predates the Ottoman Empire by several centuries, the higher it climb my bucket list.

With just a one day layover in Istanbul starting around 1:00 pm, in which the line to visit Hagia Sophia wasn’t realistic, I made it a point to rise early the next morning to make sure I got to get inside before heading to the airport to come home.

Though the Blue Mosque looks so much more compelling physically, there’s no denying the extraordinary history of Hagia Sophia.

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Bosphorus Boat Tour

Bosphorus Boat Tour Meetup

After waiting a little longer than I would’ve preferred, we were finally on our way to the boat for the Bosphorus Boat Tour. As a mob, we started walking. And walking. And kept walking. And walking so much that Najwa insisted on being carried. So I picked her up [somehow lost sight of Nduku in the mob], but kept walking. And walking.

Apparently Hagia Sophia isn’t quite right on the water.

Eventually we made it [and found Nduku]. And how thankful I was that most of it was downhill. Then it become a mosh pit on the little dock we were standing on waiting for the boat to pull up. Surely there were people eager for the tour, but it was getting later in the day, meaning the temperature was falling, so I’m sure many people just wanted to defrost. Nduku being one of them.

Bosphorus Boat Tour

Fortunately, as the boat was pulling up, obviously not big enough for all of us, there was a call for English speakers since the boat was giving the tour in English.

 

3431Dock

We finally got underway, but many others were still waiting for the next boat.

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Walking Around Sultanahmet Square Looking for a Place to Warm Up

After visiting the Blue Mosque, we walked around the tourist area, checking out the other landmarks. In the plaza area near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, there are these obelisks and other cool structures. One was the Obelisk of Theodosius, an Ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmose III re-erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople (known today as At Meydanı or Sultanahmet Meydanı) by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in the 4th century AD.

Theodosius Obelisk Istanbul Turkey

The obelisk was first set up by Thutmose III (1479–1425 BC) to the south of the seventh pylon of the great temple of Karnak. The Roman emperor Constantius II (337-361 AD) had it and another obelisk transported along the river Nile to Alexandria to commemorate his ventennalia or 20 years on the throne in 357. The other obelisk was erected on the spina of the Circus Maximus in Rome in the autumn of that year, and is today known as the Lateran obelisk, whilst the obelisk that would become the obelisk of Theodosius remained in Alexandria until 390, when Theodosius I (378-392 AD) had it transported to Constantinople and put up on the spina of the Hippodrome there.

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Visit to the Blue Mosque

The main attraction in Turkey is the Hagia Sophia. For me at least. When we finally made our way around the corner to visit the historic site, well, about a hundred or two other people beat us to it. It wasn’t so much that the line was so long — and it was hella long — but it was freezing cold and standing still wasn’t going to help.

So, we meandered across the way and greeting us was an even more impressive, albeit less historic, site — The Blue Mosque. Magnificent [and I don’t usually use that word].

Blue Mosque - Istanbul, Turkey

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Quick Walk Around the Block from the Hotel

There is no such place as a major city without a McDonald’s [well, except Nairobi]. And we Americans, even when we’re in foreign countries and are open to trying foreign foods and experiencing the foreign experience, well, we like McDonald’s.

3275McDonalds

3277McTurco

Is trying the McTurco burger trying out new foods?

It’s always interesting to see what we consider cheap fast food in America treated differently in foreign countries [KFC delivers in Nairobi, Kenya]. If we had known that McDonald’s delivered, maybe we could’ve kept warm in our room.

3279McDonaldsDelivers

Delivery guy preparing to deliver those McTurco burgers in Istanbul

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Elanaz Hotel Makes Turkey Visit Perfect

Elanaz Hotel Istanbul Turkey

I don’t know what it is about Turkey, but I already love it. Maybe it’s because I read the entire history of the Ottomans. Or because this tiny waterway was so sought after, empires went to war for it. Over and over. It has such a rich history, every time you read a new book, you learn something new.

The first thing that caught me off guard, just leaving the blazing hot sun near the equator of Kenya, was how cold Turkey was. For whatever reason, I thought it would be more mild, but it was freezing cold! First thing we bought in Turkey? Ear muffs! more…

The Dining Scene in Bucharest

I love to blog. I love to eat. But blogging about what I eat isn’t something I care to do. But while in Bucharest, we did eat at some places with some really good food.

Mon Amour Caffe

One evening we got off the Metro at Piaţa Romană and literally walked around in drizzling rain until something stood out. The idea was to go where the locals went to eat as opposed to Old Town where the tourists go. We found a place called Mon Amour Caffe.

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Bucharest Traffic is Organized Chaos! [Video]

At the intersection where Mânăstirea Caşin faces in Bucharest, Romania, the traffic is absolutely chaotic. Najwa and I were crossing the street during a morning saunter in the neighborhood, and either I’m blind or there simply were no traffic lights. There were walk/don’t walk signals, but what’s the point if there was nothing telling the drivers to stop?

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Bucharest is a Graffiti Artist’s Dream Canvas

Bucharest, Romania

I mentioned it earlier, but after a couple more days in Bucharest, I can’t reiterate enough how much graffiti there is in the city. Literally everywhere you look you’ll find graffiti. We stayed in an area known for its elite residents, and there was graffiti everywhere. Around the corner were the homes of Romania’s power players, government officials, the former president Ion Iliescu, homes of the former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and his people, and there was graffiti everywhere. Graffiti was in the downtown area, the city center, old town, the main commercial business districts, everywhere; there was nowhere we visited that was immune to the spray cans of these “artists.”

There was so much graffiti, it started to become part of the character of Bucharest. If there was an area without graffiti, it looked out-of-place. Next to the Armani shops, the high-end hotels, the government institutions, there is graffiti. Graffiti was the silent voice of Bucharest telling you its story that you won’t find in travel guides.

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