Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How I spent one night at Istanbul Atatürk Airport

In one of my business trips to Sevastopol, Ukraine I had to fly through Istanbul Ataturk Аirport -  to Simferopol - Ukraine. 
I landed at Istanbul airport shortly before midnight. Just at that time there were the demonstrations against Government at Taksim Square and my initial plans for a midnight stroll through Istanbul failed. My flight to Simferopol was after less than 7 hours and I decided to spend the night walking through the airport instead of sleeping in TAV airport hotel, although there are many hotels around the airport , also. Ataturk Аirport is not as big transfers airport, but as it is at the crossroad between Europe and Asia, I found it is an interesting idea to look around and watch the hurrying people who obviously were from all over the world, from all races and religions. Dressed in traditional clothing typical for its own culture, people bustled among the numerous free shops, gates and information desks. 
Istanbul Ataturk airport
Istanbul Ataturk airport


After passing the security check, waiting in a long queue, I found myself on the so-called - InternationalDeparture Floor.

Shopping

If you are hungry, you can find many restaurants and fast food which offered in addition to all typical for airports food also local Turkish cuisine. There is a terrace for smokers (L3 on layout of the Departure Floor), to which it is very difficult to get at, because it is crowded. In this part of the airport I managed to kill about 1.5 hours. I continue to the shopping area . Quite a large area filled with all kinds of goods that you can find at any airport. Starting from Turkish souvenirs, Turkish delight and baklava to luxury cellphones made ​​of precious metals and decorated with precious stones. It is worth to stop at the store for typical Turkish souvenirs and food. Here you can taste all kinds of delight and so choose the most appropriate for you (somewhere between shops 3-13 on layout of the Departure Floor).

Ataturk airport duty free
Ataturk airport duty free

Luxury cellphones at Ataturk airport duty free
Luxury cellphones at Ataturk airport duty free

Food & Beverage

After another hour and a half walking around the duty free area, I began to feel tired. I decided, despite the late hour to freshen up with a Turkish coffee. Choice of bars is great, and since I was looking for something more secluded I stopped at Starbucks (I think number 19 from food & beverage on layout of the Departure Floor). Besides the traditional for Starbucks coffees, here you can find traditional Turkish coffee for about 2 EUR also. I sat comfortably and began to search for WI-FI. It turned out that to use free internet, you must either have a Turkish phone number or facebook account. After about 15 minutes of struggle - I managed to connect to Internet :).

Relax

After an hour, I felt that I started to get sleepy, but there were more than 3 hours to boarding. I decided to continue my walk to get to the other end of the airport. In many places there are located vending and coffee drinks machines, but unfortunately only accept Turkish lira. It was a pleasant surprise, I found open gates areas with no people inside (somewhere between 220 and 223 on layout of the Departure Floor) and unlike the shopping area, there was calm. I decided to lie down on the empty seats, watching the planes taxied through the glass walls. I fell asleep and at five in the morning, I was awakened by an employee who politely asked me to leave the gate as there were already passengers for one of the early morning flights (I think it was Lufthansa ones). While waking up and move towards the other end of the airport (as my gate number was already announced and it was at the other end - somewhere around gate 111) it was time for Boarding.

Istanbul Ataturk airport by night
Istanbul Ataturk airport by night

What I like and don't like

So imperceptibly I spent a little more than 6 hours at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.
As an advantage I like to mention the numerous shops and restaurants that run almost all night. It is also positive that there are calm and quiet places where you can relax for a nap.
As a minus are slightly higher prices compared to other European airports.

Istanbul Ataturk airport
Istanbul Ataturk airport

 Turkish Airlines

I understood why and +Turkish Airlines  are number 1 company in Europe. Services aboard are at much higher level than other companies flying short distances. 

Istanbul Ataturk airport
Istanbul Ataturk airport

  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer trip from Govedartsi (Говедарци) to Malyovitsa (Мальовица) hut,Bulgaria


If you are in Sofia and have a free weekend, you love the mountains, and it's hot summer time, you could go very easy  to Maliovitsa in Rila Mountain (map).
The place is about 90 km / 55 miles away from Sofia and by car it takes about an hour and a half driving. My first stop on the route was Samokov through which actually passes the road to the ski resort Borovets  . For an hour I visit two places that worth seeing - The female monastery “Shroud of Holy Mary” (Samokovski devicheski manastir "Pokrov Bogorodichen") (map) and  Mitropolitska church – "The Assumption of the Holy Virgin" (Mitropolitska Tsurkva “Uspenie na sv. Bogoroditsa”) - (map).


The path to Malyovitsa hut
The path to Malyovitsa hut
Mitropolitska church - churchyard
Mitropolitska church - churchyard
Mitropolitska church - churchyard
Mitropolitska church - churchyard
Mitropolitska church
Mitropolitska church 
Mitropolitska church
Mitropolitska church
Mitropolitska church
Mitropolitska church
 Then we continue to our final point of the day - Govedartsi village (1170 m/3838 ft) . Accommodation options there are pretty, but we were chosen family hotel Iskar , but there are other lodging opportunities around


Govedartsi
Govedartsi
Govedartsi
Govedartsi
Govedartsi
Govedartsi
Yastrebetz Gondola Lift
Yastrebetz Gondola Lif

Govedartsi cow
Govedartsi cow
The hotel is small and cozy and the hosts were very friendly people. Since we were a big company, we had requested in advance a roast lamb for dinner. Believe me, our stay there turned into a real gourmet delight because after the lamb , we had homemade cake and a real sheep's yogurt.
 
Govedartsi - view from my room at Iskar hotel
Govedartsi - view from my room at Iskar hotel
Govedartsi - view from my room at Iskar hotel
Govedartsi - view from my room at Iskar hotel
Govedartsi - view from my room at Iskar hotel
Govedartsi - view from my room at Iskar hotel

It is a good idea to have warm clothes because despite the hot morning in Sofia, here daytime temperatures did not exceed 25ºC / 77ºF, and at night fell to 12ºC / 54ºF (it is August at all :) ).

The next day we went on the picturesque route to complex Malyovitsa. Along the way there are some great looking small hotels and a breeding-pond, where for 5 EUR per kilogram, you can fish for trout. I stopped for a while at St. George hotel, which have a nice open air restaurant.
You can rent SUV in Govedartsi, by which at about 13 EUR per person, you will transported to the 7 Rila lakes.
River next to the path to Malyovitsa
River next to the path to Malyovitsa
Flowers
Flowers
 Complex Malyovitsa ultimate point to which you can reach by car. There is a paid parking which cost 2,5 EUR. 
 orienteering map
Around the parking there are several hotels and small cozy restaurants. We passed through the large sprawling lawn, called “Bears lawn” (1700 m / 5577 ft) and took a path parallel to the river, which brings us Malyovitsa hut (1960 m / 6430 ft) The trail is not very steep but rocky and it’s nice to walk even for unprepared people. After about an hour walking we reached Malyovitsa hut. There you can find soups, grill (“kebabche” and meatballs for 0,75 EUR) , beer – 1,2 EUR, milk – 1 EUR, tea and coffee for about 0,75 EUR. You can take your lunch, sitting at the tables outside to enjoy great mountain landscapes – rocks and even Malyovitza peak (2729 m / 8953 ft).  If you are prepared you can climb to the very top in about 2,5 hours.
tents near Malyovitsa hut
tents near Malyovitsa hut
Malyovitsa hut
Malyovitsa hut
view from Malyovitsa hut
view from Malyovitsa hut
Malyovitsa peak
Malyovitsa peak
 Walking back to the Malyovitsa complex is slightly faster.
Later I found out that the temperatures in Sofia have exceeded 30ºC / 86ºF, but at Malyovitsa was no more than 15ºC / 59ºF - a real escape from the heat.
As advantages of this route we could point out - the beautiful mountain landscapes and the easy trail. There are very good conditions for outdoor sports such as orienteering, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, fishing and of course skiing in winter.
Minus is the lack of good marking that would be useful in bad weather and the bad level of cleanness around the hut. The road is from Govedartsi to Malyovitsa is in poor condition at some section.