I am a recently retired theatre professor from the US currently living in Istanbul, Türkiye, on a one-year “tourist” resident permit. Why Istanbul? I retired a bit too early to be eligible for Medicare and to begin drawing pension, so I moved to one of my favorite cities in the world, where I can live much more economically. If you’ve never visited Istanbul, you should: fascinating history, beautiful art, incredible architecture, great public transportation, delicious food, and, best of all, very warm and welcoming people. And the dollar goes a long way here!
Emirates & Oman
In late March, I took a week-long cruise to explore the Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and Oman (Muscat and Khasab). The highlight was visiting the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and taking in the views from the “lounge” on the 154th floor. Incredible!
I spent five days in mid-March in Bursa, which is Türkiye’s fourth-largest city. I went primarily to attend the International Balkans Theatre Festival, which featured 11 productions from seven different countries. I ended up seeing shows from Türkiye, North Macedonia, and Kosovo as well as a Karagöz (shadow puppetry) performance. I also had plenty of time during the day to explore the city, particularly its historic Ottoman sites.
In late February, I took the train 4½ hours from Istanbul (Halkalı) to Edirne, which was the Ottoman capital before the conquest of Constantinople. Edirne is located in the far western corner of Türkiye just a few kilometers from the borders of Greece and Bulgaria. My primary interest was to visit the Selimiye Mosque considered to be architect Mimar Sinan’s masterpiece. Unfortunately, the mosque is closed until 2025 for repairs, but there was plenty to see and experience…and eat including the city’s most famous dish tava ciğeri, fried veal liver.
Doğu Express (Kars to Ankara)
During the first week of February 2023, I undertook a cross-country adventure. First, I flew from Istanbul to Kars (near the border with Armenia), where I spent two nights before taking the Turistik Doğu Ekspresi (Tourist Eastern Express) from Kars to Ankara: 1300 kilometers, 30+ hours, and two nights in a sleeper. After a long layover, I took the Ankara Express back to Istanbul.
Overall, this was an incredible trip in that I got to experience the stunning (but cold!) beauty of this country and the warm hospitality of its people. Easily, I would rank this in my top 10 most memorable travel experiences. And, what a wonderful way to celebrate the end of six months of living in and loving Türkiye!
Home for the Holidays
I returned to the US in late December to spend the holidays with my dear (and growing) family and to attend and celebrate the wedding of my oldest nephew Dillon to Emily, a lovely school teacher. Outdoor winter weddings, even in Georgia, can be beautiful but also cold, and we had such a great time!
Highlighting a busy year of traveling was my two-week trip to Norway in late November. Although I visited Norway ten years ago, I had seen only Oslo, and now I was able to schedule three long-awaited events: to visit my great-grandmother’s homestead (Håheller on Lysefjord near Stavanger), to take a coastline cruise (made possible by a half-price sale on Havila), and to see the Northern Lights (finally!).
Ankara International Puppetry Festival
In October, I attended an international puppetry festival in Ankara, which is the capital of Türkiye. I spent five days attending performances (some for children, others for adults) and workshops. This was my first visit to Ankara and, fortunately, I was able to take in some of the sites as well.
In mid-September, I was delighted to host my sister-in-law Sandy on her first visit to Istanbul. Sandy is a painter, and she immediately fell in love with the city and its many visual treats. (She also loved the food!) We pounded the pavement hard for nine days and packed in as many sites as possible. She loved her visit so much that she convinced her husband (my brother) to visit, which he will this coming April!
I spent the last week of August 2022 in Lebanon. I flew from Istanbul to Beirut, the capital city, where I was based for five nights. I have taken many international trips, and this one proved to be one of the most challenging, largely because of the country’s ongoing economic crisis. Upon arrival, I discovered that ATMs were not operable, and I had to wire myself US dollars and then exchange them on the black market. The highlight of the trip was a day trip to the ancient city and ruins of Baalbek (Heliopolis to the Greeks and Romans).
The Move Overseas
I left the USA on July 4 headed to Munich via Istanbul and Frankfurt, in order to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau (Germany). After the play, I trained to Vienna and then Budapest before taking a final flight to Istanbul, where I plan to base until at least Christmas, or longer if I can obtain a short-term residency permit. This has been a most unusual trip in that poor health (bronchitis) and extreme heat (over 100°F) have prevented me from doing most of the things I had planned. So it goes. All we can do is play the best hand with the cards that we’ve been dealt.