It’s a tough time for one of the world’s most amazing cities: another terror attack in the streets prompts travelers to quickly turn their backs and head elsewhere. Istanbul, and on a larger scale Turkey, is facing a perilous and challenging time in its history. As these horrific attacks have continued, many cruise lines have made the decision to cancel their calls in Turkey, out of an abundance of safety. While I certainly don’t ever want to see innocent travelers harmed, I feel the decision to cancel calls in this world class city is simply wrong.
I recently traveled to Istanbul to embark Viking Ocean Cruises’ new Viking Star. Including one night at the Park Hyatt and one night aboard Viking Star, I had three full days to explore the streets of this foreign city. I had never been to Istanbul, Turkey, or anywhere remotely close to the Middle East. I’ll admit I was nervous, but at the same time, I was simply excited. I had no idea what was in store and for weeks before, I found myself marveling at photos of the city and all the wonders it had waiting for me. Before I knew it, I was preparing for landing at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, counting the number of mosques that dotted the landscape below my Lufthansa Airbus A320. As we landed, I couldn’t take my eyes of the city appearing before me. For a moment, it looked as if I were landing in Tripoli. Soon, however, I was riding across the city towards the Park Hyatt, gazing out the window at a city that can be best described as a clashing of Europe and the Middle East. After arriving at the Park Hyatt and refreshing, I immediately set out to explore. It struck me how safe and secure I felt that I would just walk out the door and start walking around on my own. Everyone had warned me about Istanbul and how dangerous it was. I never once felt like I was in any danger. Walking from the hotel down to the Bosphorus, grabbing a bite at a small cafe, awkwardly watching locals go about their business in a nearby park, and later dining at a traditional Turkish cafe – not once did I feel in danger. The next day, I ventured further into the city with some fellow passengers from Viking Star, exploring the Grand Bazaar, the former palace of sultans of yesterday, and finally one of the city’s most prominent landmarks, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. During my three days in Istanbul, not Constantinople, I never once felt the fear that so many people thought I would. I never felt I shouldn’t be there nor that my life was ever in danger. To see so many people continue to think this way makes me truly sad.
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