It was 1st of April what we have popularly known as April Fool’s Day but this day was not just any ordinary April fool’s day for me. This is the very day I got to see Hagia Sophia ticking it off from my bucket list. If I ever wanted to visit Turkey then it was for two reasons once would be to witness Friday prayers at the Blue Mosque and second would be to visit Hagia Sophia.
The moment the door of the airplane flung open, I felt the Istanbul air. It was windy and the cool breeze was hitting my face like a thousand needles. Honestly, I never expected Istanbul to be so cold in April. It was brief stopover thus I had to make most of it; I hurriedly rushed to clear immigration counter and looked out for the board with my name on it. I had booked my airport transfer shuttle to not lose even a minute trying to figure out my transport options.
How about visiting Turkey for free? I am serious when I say these as it’s very much possible. There are conditions attached to it but with careful planning, it’s very much possible to take a short trip to Istanbul for absolutely nothing. To come straight to the point if you fly with Turkish Airlines to any destination with a transit through Istanbul Ataturk Airport then you can avail their Touristanbul service for absolutely free. The only cost would be to get a Turkish Visa but on the brighter side, you can always apply for e-visa rather than typical visa when travelling to Turkey.
The stage had been set our first family trip together to Europe had suddenly been finalised. While I and my wife had our passport our seven-year-old daughter did not have a passport, with some luck and quick thinking within five days we managed to get a Tatkal passport for her. Once the passport was sorted our next most important decision was to select the best budget airless while keeping in mind some comfort and good service.
Since there were no direct flights from Kolkata to Rome we had to decide upon Mumbai or New Delhi as our departure point. The best option from Mumbai was Turkish Airlines while from New Delhi it was Aeroflot. Somehow for me, Turkey had always been a land of mystery and even though at that point of time we did not plan to visit the city during our transit still I wanted to at least try to look out for Blue Mosque from the airplane window. While Istanbul airport is very near to the main Istanbul city centre the same cannot be said for Moscow airport. So chances of venturing out were very much possible in Istanbul while for Moscow it was near impossible.