You said you want to share and tell us a lot about scenery, people and countries.
Can you do it day by day. That way it will automatically be country by country as well.
I’m glad you asked! Lol I actually tried to maintain a nightly journal which I updated at each hotel. It’s really just notes. Here are the entries up to Istanbul, Turkey. Please see below:
Hamburg to Istanbul 2017
- I arrived 7 am on Sun, Jun 25th, 2017. Should have arrived Sat night but earlier flight delay by Turkish Airlines meant I missed connecting flight to Hamburg. (Had to spend Sat night in Istanbul's Wish More Hotel, paid for by Turkish Airlines).
In Germany, Dad had already arrived 3 days earlier, picked up Toyota Sequoia from Bremerhaven port and had stayed at a small apartment room for 3 nights I booked on airBnB.com.
Dad had a hard time following GPS to get to airport to pick me up on Sun morning. It was slightly rainy. I had to park in narrow parking area next to dorm to attach cargo bin in early morning. Went wrong way a little and had to make a U-turn but no scene. Caught the mistake in time. Road system is a bit like USA. With a few roundabouts. Highway to Frankfurt and then Bern. Lots of cars hitched to campers and trailers. Was rainy but not bad drive.
Bern- We just drove thru it due to time constraints
Metropole Hotel (My brother had reserved and paid for us online as a gift! Very nice hotel.). Arrived at night on Sun, Jun 25. Hotel was in very upscale shopping district. Drive to Interlaken had lots of twists and turns. Went out on main street late at night to eat dinner but found nothing to eat. It was late and all restaurants except Hooters were closed. Went back to hotel and just ate chips.
Monday morning: Best part of trip. Gorgeous! In morning, took bus to cafe on lake. Had veggie sandwiches and apple juice as lakeside restaurant was closed for hot entrees. Did some souvenir shopping.
- Arrived Mon afternoon. Checked into Park Hotel Suisse and Spa. Very beautiful hill station.
Shops after shops. Some pricey. Lots of pharmacies as well. Dunno why. We ate at Annapurna Indian restaurant in shopping center (Mon evening). Small and cozy. Was one of two Indian restaurants in all of Chamonix .
Tues morning: ski lift up L'Aiguille du Midi mountain. Very scenic. Lots of tourists. Esp from Asia. Was cold up on peak. Had to wear jacket.
Dad accidentally had left his document binder on top of Sequoia hood for over 4 hours on Tues morning while we were on ski lift. Fortunately, nobody took it. It had all his paperwork, passport, carnet, etc!
By switching out memory cards, we lost all Akaso camera footage of ski lift to L'Aiguille du Midi (and footage of entry from French Alps into Italian Alps) as it was all overwritten by Dexors camera, which kept turning off for some reason.
Got some chocolate from rest area shopping center in French border area. Called Marche? Don’t remember name.
Milan, Venice, and Trieste- Italy
Tues afternoon. We decided night before to skip Cortina d'Ampezzo plans as it would be rehash of Chamonix (hill station on Alps, this time in Italian side).
Beautiful view of Italian Alps on highway to Italy from France. Quaint little houses on sides of mountains. Lots of tunnels. One was over 10 km, well lit with signs.
Got lost in Milan. Aggressive drivers. Turned into wrong way at roundabout and head-on traffic due to confusing GPS instructions. Had decided to eat in Milan but then changed our mind and to get the hell out.
Tried to go to Venice. Two large nice hotels (one Holiday Inn) right before Venice were full. They said most hotels in Venice would be full. We decided to cancel Venice plans.
Highway had a lot of 18-wheelers that also drove in left lane.
Supermarket on highway was like US Krogers. Got pizza from deli but it was cold and we couldn't heat it so we left it. Ate ok pizza at rest area restaurant in evening. When dad asked for crushed pepper (treats everywhere like it's USA), they gave bottle of olive oil with diced red peppers in it!
Later that night, around 9 pm, after getting out of most of Italy, we had to take a "hard right" per GPS into port city of Trieste, almost a U-turn, in pitch dark, downhill. Did same thing again by accident and got stuck in narrow downhill dead-end. I hit the Sequoia against wall on passenger side. Only slight scrape against rear tire and some scratches. Dad had to get out and guide me in order to get out of this downhill cul-de-sac. I'm not a good driver in Sequoia in narrow spaces and downhill roads.
Then looked desperately for a hotel or BnB. Even booked BnB on hotels.com. Then saw there was no parking in Trieste and roads were impossibly narrow. Cancelled bnb.
When we got out of sea-level Trieste, and drove out of the town uphill again, we found and checked into Hotel Pesek along side of road. Late at night. We got lucky with this find. Nice, old-fashioned. Family-operated.
Good breakfast on Wed morning. Usual buffet plus the owner’s wife made us omelettes.
- entered Wed morning. Crossed very small section only. Currency is kune.
- Entered Wed, Jun 28th. E65 scenic highway. Highly recommend. Wide, two-lane highway. Mountains on both sides. Lots of toll. Ate at rest area cafe. Veggie pizza. But with corn and peas!
Wed night after 3 failed hotel tries. One "hotel" guy said they had no vacancy at side-of-mountain-road hotel, but offered to take us down narrow downhill lane to another hotel. I said hell no. I smelled a rat. GPS kept failing us here. Maybe not updated to new roads. Another rest area hotel (shown on map) was shut down. A third larger, nicer hotel was full. But finally found Hotel Jadran by chance late at night on "Coastal Highway" M8. Nice American style hotel room. Great view of sea.
Breakfast buffet on Thurs morning had good variety. Was not included in bill though. Breads, jams, meat paste, meats, eggs, cereals, fruit, juice, coffee, tea. All Halal.
- Thurs morning and afternoon. Slow one-lane highways on mountainsides. Almost died from 18-wheeler truck coming at us head-on who was passing other slow cars in his lane; couldn't even swerve to avoid him as there was cliff on our right side. He missed us by about 5 feet by changing into his own lane at last minute. Asshole driver wasn't too bothered by it as he probably does it a lot, or he severely miscalculated.
Dad bought fruit from roadside stall.
Tractors and construction vehicles and trucks carrying timber and fruit would slow down entire lane on single-lane roads.
- (GPS [or wrong turn] took us back up north to Croatia). We had earlier decided not to go to Turkey via Albania and Greece but via Serbia and Bulgaria. Wasted three hours. Which is why dad had decided to drive earlier. I made two mistakes here. I broke Sequoia backdoor handle by pulling too hard at border crossing. Customs official laughed at me instead of getting angry. He didn't get to see what was in our Sequoia as there was no other way to get access. He let us go. While panicking and trying to figure out how to empty SUV so official could see what's inside, I got one of the folded carseats jammed and stuck.
Thurs evening. June 29th. Drove through Belgrade. Nice, historic buildings. At night, Stari Hrast motel on side of highway; large restaurant and reception were open 24 hours. We ordered kabobs as waiter immediately gave us Turkish menu, when he saw we were looking at their Serbian menu, but the kabobs were bland and not fully cooked.
Sequoia hatch handle had been broken by me at a border earlier; very helpful hotel staff called mechanics at 11 pm! They came right over and fixed the hatch handle, the stuck seat (which was very labor-intensive and took most of their time and energy), and the broken LED light. All for 50 euro. Not bad.
Stari Hrast motel was so old it had old-timey toilet where you pull rope to flush!
But very helpful staff. Receptionist spoke decent English.
Friday morning we decided to pass on their breakfast as it wasn't included and it wasn't a buffet. So we just grabbed fruit-filled croissants and coffee from nearby gas station.
Friday, June 30th. Border guards had detained Haider's (dad's friend who was making similar trip) car due to "wrong color"; gave him lots of trouble, he had to go to police station and court and it was a huge hassle. Still couldn't get his car as they were going to hold it for 30 days. He decided to fly back to U.K. He said this country was more corrupt than India and Pakistan!
Border guards gave us no trouble. But reputation as very corrupt country. We drove through city of Sofia. Made wrong turn somewhere but quickly corrected.
In afternoon, had KFC at rest area, which made us pay 50 of their cents for 2 ketchup packets! Cashier didn't speak even a little bit of English. Was hard to communicate. Chicken was very tasty and spicy.
Friday evening. Border guard made us empty out the entire Sequoia for x-ray. Took over an hour and then we had to re-pack car. Made us very tired.
Fake "guards" at border "final step" who ask for 20 euro for soldiers fund. Fake vignette sellers after border as well. (Vignette is like EZ-Tag, which lets you use their country's highways, but this wasn't needed in Turkey.)
Good foreshadowing of what's to follow in Istanbul.
Reached western suburb of Istanbul late at night. Istanbul very tricky and hectic to drive in. Had to stay impromptu at a Hotel Sancak as I didn't want to go looking for our reserved Grand Hotel Avcilar at night. Sancak Hotel was kinda shady and low-quality. We were the only guests that night as parking lot was empty except for one car. Hotel receptionist had locked doors as it was midnight. Room was very old. Bathroom sink too close to toilet. Kept hitting my head on sink.
Saturday morning hotel breakfast was actually good. Instead of buffet, hotel staff had entire table ready just for us! Breads, jellies, butter, bologna, fruit, coffee, cheeses. No eggs though. But halal bologna.
Saturday, July 1st. After breakfast and checkout from Hotel Sancak, drove to and checked into Grand Hotel Avcilar. Decent spacious rooms. One Twin bed and one Queen bed. Nicer bathroom.
Took taxi to Blue Mosque, Hagia (Aya) Sofia, and Topkapi Museum (where we saw what was claimed to be several possessions belonging to Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Ali, Bibi Fatima, and others).
We were ripped off by two different taxi drivers that day. First one who dropped us off at Eyup (Ayub) Sultan tomb took 100 lira with sleight of hand. And also 50 euro. Dad caught him on the 50 euro. And kept asking him to give it back. He denied taking it. Dad made a scene by shouting "police". Because of onlookers, he quickly "found" dad's 50 euro. I actually saw him take the 50 euro bill from his door and throw it by passenger door and pretend to find it. He kept saying stealing is haraam while actually stealing from us!
Second driver ripped off 100 lira by ”making” a 100 into a 20 with haath ki safaai. Lots of hawkers and opportunists.
Went to Ayub Sultan tomb and Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. Bought lots of souvenirs. Dad paid for many things here.
Boat ride on Bosporus from 7-9 pm. Europe on one side; Asia on other. Great view. Lots of video and photos were taken. Seafood at Karisma Sen seaside restaurant was amazing, esp Garlic Shrimp. And Fish Adana Kabab. Best fish I ever had! Mackerel was ok.
Robbery attempt on our car at 5 in the morning Sunday at Grand Hotel Avcilar. Two guys pulled up to the Sequoia in their sedan, got out, broke the passenger side rear small window. And opened door. Alarm went off. They drove off. Hotel receptionist went outside and it was all caught on camera. But receptionist only told us at 6:45 am. We saw damage and camera footage and went back to our room.
Sun morning, July 2nd: full breakfast buffet at hotel. Very nice. Eggs, omelette, meats, fruit, jams, breads, cereal, tea, juice, coffee.
We didn't even feel like doing anything touristy anymore. Just fix window and get out of Istanbul. We also had too much to do. Fix car window. Re-organize suitcases and prep for my departure back to USA next day.
Police were called around 11 am. Plainclothes cops took forensics and gave us a form to file at police station. Lead cop got angry when Dad offended him by asking why he wasn't in uniform. (Via receptionist translation). He cooled down later and said sorry to us after taking down all information and fingerprints and photos. Hotel said they would try to call car repair next day (Monday) as nothing can be done that day (Sunday). Hotel would also check Mon with their insurance to see if they can pay for the repairs. We argued they should satisfy us as customers first and then deal with their insurance hassles later.
They still would not guarantee reimbursement and finally said they would agree to pay for extra night if needed.
Sun noon. We ate at meat shop in neighborhood behind our hotel. Kofte kababs were great. Dad then decided to go to Shia section of Istanbul in afternoon and ask that community for help. Cab driver to Zeynibiye tried to rip us off by asking for 160 lira after trip instead of 60 he mentioned earlier. This was the third of 5 taxi drivers who tried to rip us off/steal from us!
He estimated fare from hotel to Zeynibiye neighborhood would be 50 lira before we got on. During the ride, he brought up traffic and increased it to 60 lira. When we got there, he punched 160 on his calculator. Dad got angry and threw 60 lira at him. Driver laughed it off and left. Bloody thieves all of them. If we knew the city better, we’d drive Sequoia through it ourselves. But too risky.
Lots of people in Zeynibiye offered to help. I used Google Translate to tell them what happened. Help included three 17 year-olds: Saeed (talked to us via Google Translate), Muhammad (good driver), and Tuan (spelling?). Met with imam of Zeynibiye neighborhood. Saeed's uncle helped us out. Referred us to nearby car window repair shop (on Sun evening). They couldn't do anything until Mon morning. We parked Sequoia overnight in Zeynibiye garage, owned by friend of Saeed's uncle. Then uncle gave us ride back to hotel. The boys were very happy to ride in Sequoia. Kept taking selfies and blasting loud music.
Sun night. Spend most of Sun evening/night re-organizing and re-packing as dad and I would go separate ways next day. I explained to dad how to transfer memory cards from cameras to hard drive, and then delete memory cards.
We tried to go back to meat shop to eat kofte but it was around midnight and they were closed. We had to get mediocre snacks from next door bakery. A guy called out to us in dark alley from meat shop to hotel. Probably hawker or robber. Nobody good. We ignored him and kept walking.
Monday morning, July 3rd (same day as my flight back to Houston): breakfast buffet at hotel. Saeed's uncle picked us up from hotel at 8:30 am, took us to garage in Zeynibiye, I got into Sequoia, he drove his Ford Tourney while I followed in Sequoia. Auto shop did good job on window. They charged 200 lira. (Or $50.) Finished by 10:30 am. My flight was at 1:55 pm and I wanted to leave for airport by 11.
Back at hotel, they said receipt from auto shop wasn't enough. Needed invoice. Dad left angry. Then he told receptionist that once hotel's insurance processed claim, if they approved, 200 lira to repair window can be paid to "uncle" who helped us, who can donate it to Zeynibiye Mosque.
We gave the uncle and the 3 boys some gifts (cap, shirt, snacks).
Checked out of hotel around 11am. Left for airport. Uncle led again in his Ford Tourney. Dad dropped me off and left to continue East to Iran.
Flight out of Istanbul to Houston, Texas delayed by 4 hours due to tailwind and heavy cargo. Met Tracy (aunt) and Desiree (niece) on flight. Talked about our vacations in Europe.
Landed in Houston around 11 pm Mon, July 3rd. Brother had car service drive me home. _