Day 13 – Istanbul to San Francisco 

Saturday was a 34-hour day, as we followed the sun through 10 time zone changes.

A few comments on security:

Security was very much in evidence around Istanbul. All of the major attractions that we visited in the city had metal detectors, and a trio of AK-47-armed police patrolled Sultanahmet Square.

On the coast, there were police checkpoints on major roads, but we were never stopped – these seemed to be more for show than anything else.

The Istanbul airport is now probably one of the safest airports in Europe. All cars are checked before you get to the airport, followed by a metal detector and bag check to enter the building, in addition to the normal screening to get to the gates.

Our passports were checked 7 times at the airport – 3 times in a single bag drop-off line (once to enter the line, again before reaching the counter, and at the counter).  Some of this was simple inefficiency, and some was probably due to the desire to stop Gulenists from leaving the country during the post-coup state of emergency.

Notes on the Istanbul airport:

The airport was very busy, and was full of families seeing off people leaving for the hajj. (It took us a little while to figure out why there were so many older men wearing what looked like large bath towels at first glance.)

In Turkey, you’ll see a blue eye-shaped design everywhere you go – in jewelry, hanging over doorways, even embedded in street tile. This is the nazar, a traditional amulet to ward off the “evil eye”. Here’s the nazar that is hanging over the passport control checkpoint in the airport:

We stopped in the duty-free shop to unload our last lira.  It’s clear the tobacco companies don’t have as much lobbying power in Turkey as they have in the U.S., because the anti-smoking warnings on tobacco products are far more serious here:

Unfortunately the warnings don’t seem to make any difference.

One of my favorite sights at the airport were the motorized wheelchairs driven by airport workers to help people with mobility limitations.  They zipped around so fast that it was hard to catch photos of them:

Off to San Francisco:

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