A Travellerspoint blog


sunny 90 °F

This was not on my list of must see countries but Mitch wanted to go so I acquiesced and was so happy I did. It started with the taxi ride from the airport to our hotel. The most scenic, picturesque drive - with the ocean, the parks, the high rise modern buildings, definitely not what I expected. Then we hit the “old town” and we were even more amazed. Yes, the town is amazing but the taxi drivers with the way they maneuver their vehicles is cringeworthy. They get within inches of parked cars and don’t even slow down.

We stayed five nights and I feel comfortable stating the we were in the best location. A two minute walk and you were surrounded by some of the most beautiful historic sights in a park like atmosphere. You never felt the crowds hovering or fearful of your surroundings, which was one of my apprehension about coming here. Of course, all you had to do was walk to the Grand Bazaar to get that feeling so we went there to experience it but didn’t stay long. We journeyed mostly on the European side but did venture to the Asian side for a few hours one day. The Asian side is mostly residential but it is kind of cool to take the metro from one continent to another in less than 5 minutes.

There are long lines to see the historic sights so either be prepared to wait, or buy a museum pass to skip the lines. There are also a lot of free guides to help you if you are willing to listen to their pitch of buying a carpet. The carpets are beautiful but do your homework before buying or be prepared to be taken in by their sells pitch. One thing we did come to realize is the truth has very little meaning when it comes to making a sell.

We enjoyed our time in Istanbul, mainly due to where we stayed (The Magnaura Palace). Every staff member was kind, friendly and very helpful. The owner (Mehmet) was gracious and exceptionally helpful explaining all the sights, how to get there and he even taught us bargaining 101. I’m convinced that our visit to Istanbul wouldn’t have been half as fun if it wasn’t for his guidance.

The flag of Turkey

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum. Built in 537 AD at the beginning of the Middle Ages, it was famous in particular for its massive dome. Took 5 years to build


This circle on the floor of Hagia Sophia is where the Byzantine emperors were crowned.

The Blue Mosque (Called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish).. The mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design. Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 years, during the rule of Ahmed I.


German Fountain, together with its magnificent dome. This fountain has quenched the thirst of Istanbul residents throughout the last century, and also stands as a symbol of many important historical events from the 20th Century. The German Fountain was presented as a gift to Sultan Abdülhamid II. It was first unveiled at the beginning of 1901.


Dolmabahce Palace
The palace was is a blend architectural styles including Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical and modern Ottoman, dripping in luxury. No pictures were allowed of the inside. It has an area of 45,000 m (11.1 acres), and contains 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths (hamam) and 68 toilets.


The Galata Tower, Galata Kulesi in Turkish is a medieval stone tower just to the north of the Golden Horn's junction with the Bosphorus. It is one of the highest (206 feet high) and oldest towers of Istanbul (formally Constantinople) built in 1348.


Views from the Galata Tower

Obelisk And In the background some minarets

The Grand Bazaar, is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world housing over 3000 shops. Every day locals and visitors are haggling to get the best bang for their buck.


The Spice Bazaar

The Valens Aqueduct is a Roman creation dating back to the 4th century.


The Basilica Cistern, is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey. It is a chamber able to hold near 80.000 cubic meters of water, with the roof supported by 336 columns made of marble and arches in between.


Making a living

Terrible fish sandwich, but had to do the tourist thing

Three different escalators to get to the subway that goes across the continents (Asian and Europe)

Asia side fountain and walkway

The famous Maiden’s Tower has also been the subject of a few legends, this is the legend we were told on our tour: A soothsayer told the king his daughter would die of a snakebite. To protect her, the king constructed a castle out at sea where she could live safely; however, a snake hiding in a fruit basket made it onto the islet and the princess died after the reptile bit her.

Beautiful night for a walk in Istanbul

the Obelisk of Theodosius. It’s Egyptian, was built around 1400 BC, and was erected in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the 4th century.

Before you ask, no, we did not do the Turkish bath

Odd architecture in Istanbul

You have to earn your Turkish ice cream. ?

Posted by 123Joanne 07:36 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)


sunny 90 °F

Hmm, a good power wash of this city would do it well. Don’t get me wrong, the history behind the sights are amazingly frustrating. The people have had a hard time dealing with the aftermath of the corruption of the Ceausescu regime but even today, corruption is rampant. While Romania’s anti-corruption legal framework is in place, enforcement remains weak. There is a lot of potential for this to be a great tourist destination, but a little money needs to be invested.

The Palace of the Parliament was my favorite sight mainly because we had a fantastic tour guide who filled us with many facts. Plus, when we asked her opinion on any topic, she always gave us an answer which I appreciated because that’s how you get to know what the people are going through.

The “old town” is probably the newest “old town” in Europe. It is a nice cobblestone pedestrian walkway but the buildings are falling apart, and the portable air conditioning units take away from its charm. Our Airbnb was directly across from the old town which was a great location and very convenient. It seemed that most American tourist stay around the revolution square area which has the most complex history, but hanging around American’s isn’t appealing to us while vacationing.

The subway system is fantastic, the trains are new but the platforms are showing age and are a bit grimy, but given the choice I’d take better trains than aesthetically pleasing platforms any day.

The food was good, the people were friendly and the cost was very reasonable. Overall if I had to rate this city on a scale from 1 to 10, I would give it a 6 with the potential to be an easy 8.

Below is some history about the Ceausescu’s

Nicolae And Elena Ceausescu were arrested on December 22, 1989 and put on trial on December 25. They were accused of genocide, armed attacks against the population and the powers of the State, destruction of State buildings and institutions and undermining the national economy. Nicolae started huge expensive constructions like The People’s House and had this ambition to pay all Romania’s external debt. The people got poorer and their life became miserable. The Romanian people were starving and had no link to the world outside the Russian borders. The secret service of the communist regime, was watching everybody’s moves and punished everything they considered to be a threat to the regime. Even a joke about Ceausescu and his wife was considered “a threat”.

The trial lasted only 55 minutes, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were sentenced to death for committing the crime of genocide.

However, debatable as he may be, his wife was and is still despised by everybody. Some say that she was the one who actually made him take the wrong turns. She became a national renowned PhD scientist while her husband was dictator of Romania. But everything was a hoax. In fact, she barely knew how to write.  She compelled other Romanian scientists to write scientific papers for her. At international science gatherings she used a translator who would give the right answers regardless of what stupidities she was saying.

Bucharest's Arc de Triumf was raised in 1922 to commemorate Romania's World War I dead. The original Arc was made of wood, replaced by the present, Petru Antonescu designed concrete structure only in 1935.

The Memorial of Rebirth is a memorial in Bucharest, Romania that commemorates the struggles and victims of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communism. Many artists stated that the memorial, especially its central pillar, was devoid of any symbolism, being too abstract, and thus didn't adequately represent the suffering and magnitude of the 1989 revolution, which claimed nearly 1,500 lives. The locals have given this monument a few unusual nicknames. It’s most commonly referred to as the “Potato on a Stick” or “Potato on a Skewer” monument, though some others compare the giant blob being pierced to an olive or a brain.

The statue of  Iuliu Maniu was one of Romania’s foremost politicians, serving as the Prime Minister of Romania for three terms during 1928–1933. He was an adversary of Russian influence and for this reason he was imprisoned in 1947 when the communists came to power. He died in 1953 in Sighet prison.

The Monument to the Heroes of the Air was built between 1930 and 1935.

Charles de Gaulle

The Palace of the Parliament is the seat of the Parliament of Romania. Located on Dealul Arsenalului in the national capital city of central Bucharest, it is the second largest administrative building in the world after The Pentagon.
Architect: Anca Petrescu - she was 28 years old when she designed this palace.
It has 12 floors above ground and another 8 underground

Ceausescu was executed before the Parliament was completed so he never gave a speech from the balcony but in 1992, Michael Jackson (first person to address an audience) stood on the large balcony overlooking the Romanian version of the Champs Elysees and addressed the large crowd outside by saying to them, “Hello Budapest!” Oopsie

Kretzulescu Church -Statue of Corneliu Coposu
The church was commissioned in 1720–1722. Originally, the exterior was painted, but since the restoration work done in 1935–1936 the facade is made of brick. The church, damaged during the November, 1940 earthquake, was repaired in 1942–1943. More renovations took place after the Bucharest earthquake of 1977 and the Revolution of 1989. To the side of the church now stands now a memorial bust of Corneliu Coposu.

Nicolae And Elena Ceausescu House - the people didn’t realize how big the house was, rooms were added so they couldn’t be seen by the public. Plus the Ceausescu’s had 89 other homes.

His chess set where no one was ever able to beat him

Where Nicolae And Elena dined. The children never ate with their parents, they ate in their own rooms (each child had their own apartment within the mansion).

Street performers

Old Town

Nice new subway trains

Our Airbnb - looks can be deceiving - the apartment was very modern

Wonderful old architecture

Posted by 123Joanne 01:49 Archived in Romania Comments (0)


80 °F

The bus ride to Chisinau, Moldova

The absolute worst bus ride ever! The bus had 25 seats and every seat was taken. No seat belts which would be acceptable if the driver wasn’t so crazy, but then again, all Ukrainian drivers seem to be a little wacko (maybe impatient is more accurate). Seats were as hard and uncomfortable as any park bench, although there was a sliver of fabric on them that kept you from slipping. The lack of air conditioning or the fact that you couldn’t open any windows made you glow with sweat and drip with perspiration. The border crossing was equivalent to sitting for 45 minutes in a sauna. The roads were bumpy to the point that you wondered if you were on dirt or pavement. The only stop we made was at the border so if you wanted to freshen up, you could use the WC which consisted of a hole in the ground - thank goodness I sweated out my liquids. But the most appalling part was when I went to eat my Lviv handmade chocolate bar and it had melted! oh my god, that’s it, never again will I take such a bus again.

Chisinau, Moldova

Every review we read suggested to skip this city because it doesn’t have any historical sights, but we wanted to visit all the countries in the area and we were pleasantly surprised by its charm. They use the Latin English alphabet so getting around was very easy. There isn’t an “old town” but it’s a nice place to recuperate from the hustle and bustle of traveling. We spent 2 nights here and that was enough, but another night would have been fine too.

$1.25 ?

31 August 1989 St, Chisinau
On August 27, 1989, the Popular Front of Moldova organized a mass demonstration in Chişinău, that became known as the Great National Assembly, which pressured the authorities of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic to adopt a language law on August 31, 1989 that proclaimed the Moldovan language written in the Latin script to be the state language of the MSSR.

Nativity Cathedral, Chișinău
The Cathedral of Christ's Nativity is the main cathedral of the Moldovan Orthodox Church


The Chișinău Water Tower is an architectural monument of Chișinău, Moldova, located at 2 Mitropolit Bănulescu-Bodoni Street and built at the end of 19th century after a project by Alexander Bernadazzi. It was a main part of Chişinău's water system.

Stephen the Great Monument

Triumphal arch, Chișinău

Ştefan cel Mare Central Park is the main park in Central Chişinău, Moldova. Formerly known as Pushkin Park, it is the oldest park in Moldova and spans about 7 hectares.

The Alley of Classics is a sculptural complex located in the Stephen the Great Park in Central

Valea Morilor Park and Lake

OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe


Posted by 123Joanne 03:03 Archived in Moldova Comments (0)


85 °F

We had a great time in Odessa, so much nicer than Kiev. The city is definitely a tourist town catering to everyone. Of course we still had our personal tour guide Alona so once again not much thinking on our part of where to go and what to see. She has definitely spoiled us, something we can easily get used to. One of the things I liked about this city is how they are renovating the old buildings keeping the beautiful architecture instead of knocking them down and rebuilding which would be much cheaper and faster. Walking along the pedestrian walkway at night was reminiscent of an amusement park with the carnival games and the street performers who were very talented. There aren’t too many historical sights to see so this was more of a laid back, relaxing part of our vacation which is always a happy time for me. ?

The weather was fantastic and the food was great and reasonably priced.

In my last post of Kiev, I purposely didn’t mention the crazy driving habits, but after more scary episodes I felt it was time to tell all. Was I scared? Yes. But I was more amazed that I didn’t see more accidents or cars with dents.

You know what red lights are in Ukraine? Suggestions (courtesy of C.P.S.)
You know what pedestrians are in Ukraine? Targets
You know what traffic lines in the road are in Ukraine? Abstract Art

We part ways with Cody and Alona for a few weeks as we travel in different directions but will meet up with them in Montenegro. It’s fun traveling with family so we are excited that we will see them again soon. We are also excited that Chad has a week off of school and will spend time with us in Florence, Italy. Yay, the entire family together for a week in October.

The Potemkin Stairs, or Potemkin Steps, is a giant stairway in Odessa, Ukraine. The stairs are considered a formal entrance into the city from the direction of the sea and are the best known symbol of Odessa


Pryvoz Market

Monument to Steve Jobs

Building renovation

Pedestrian walkway

Posted by 123Joanne 10:59 Archived in Ukraine Comments (1)


85 °F

This city has a way to go before it becomes a true tourist stop. Some buildings in the old part of town are nice, but most have been destroyed so what’s left is the 60’s era communist style. We took a tour of Saint Sophia's Cathedral, which was amazing and interesting, but the highlight of Kiev was our visit to Viktor Yanukovych Presidential Palace. The grounds were spectacular but the palace was more of a cabin design which we found a little odd. There were gorgeous chandeliers and the craftsmanship of the woodwork was amazing. The facility included a sports complex (with a 4 lane bowling alley, boxing ring, indoor/outdoor tennis courts), medical facility, spa, movie theater, church, 3 dining rooms, a zoo and much more. Of course that all came at the cost of the Ukrainian people. In February 2014 Yanukovych was removed from office as a result of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. He is currently in exile in Russia and wanted by Ukraine for high treason. Along with billions of dollars that he stole from the Ukrainian people, he also stole the artwork off the walls of the palace when he escaped to Russia.

The food here is excellent and cheap, and that’s always a good combination. We were able to enjoy our visit because of our personal tour guide Alona. You can see and learn so much more when a local takes you around their city explaining everything. A true gift, thank-you Alona.

The day we got to Kiev they were cleaning up from a terrible rain storm the day before (flooded underground, lots of broken tree limbs and debris) but the city was quick about cleaning it up. The day we left we were caught in a downpour as we walked to the train station and got soaked, even our clothes inside our luggage were wet, but C’est la vie. A part of the adventure we could have done without is when Mitch fell victim to food poisoning. So a piece of advice for fellow travelers, don’t assume that the country has a terrible tasting soft serve chocolate ice cream when in fact, that sour taste in the ice cream is just bad cream. Live and learn the hard way. ?

The Motherland Monument

Independence Monument in the background

The People's Friendship Arch


Park of Eternal Glory

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is an outstanding architectural monument of Kievan Rus'. The cathedral is one of the city's best known landmarks and the first heritage site in Ukraine to be inscribed on the World Heritage List

Yanukovych Presidential Palace

Appetizers checkers ?

Posted by 123Joanne 02:03 Archived in Ukraine Comments (0)

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