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Need help with Black Sea Cruise ports of call, including Batumi Georgia

Need help with Black Sea Cruise ports of call, including Batumi Georgia

Old Jun 22nd, 2014, 03:02 PM
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Need help with Black Sea Cruise ports of call, including Batumi Georgia

We leave in July for a Black Sea Cruise. Almost 2 years ago, we went on a Mediterranean cruise and especially enjoyed it because we found independent tour guides for private tours (just the two of us) in each destination. (For example, Dubrovnik, Positano, Sorrento, Rome, etc.)
This is what we would like to do again!!!
We are in our mid-sixties, love history and the beauty of the country and the people, enjoy sampling the foods (being careful about hubby's garlic and hot pepper food allergies), love wine, just relaxing without the crowded cruise line tours.
We would very much appreciate suggestions for what to see and do in each area, as well as possible tour guides (do think we have a guide in Istanbul and Romania).
Our ports of call are: Istanbul, Nesebur Bulgaria, Constanta Romania, Batumi Georgia, Trabzon Turkey, Sinop Turkey, Ephesus/Kusadasi Turkey, and Athens Greece.
Would very much appreciate any help!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2014, 12:54 AM
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I hope you will be lucky with the weather because the Southern Black Sea coast receives a great deal of precipitation. It will also be quite a bit cooler than the Med.

1. Cannot say about Bulgaria and romania.

2. Was in Batumi 7 years ago. Found it to be a pleasant city with a rather boring museum with mostly nationalistic, historic paraphernalia and a nice church/cathedral. The mountains are lush green and lovely. We did not have time to see anything outside the city but would have liked to visit a waterfall or two and done a simple nature trek. (I was 63 at the time)

3. The main tour you should take is to Sumela monastery past the town of Macka, about 40 minutes out of Trabzon.

Your guide should know to take you to the last location accessible by car. Walk slowly after that. The uphill climb becomes difficult only at the last stage of wooden/metal steps. But it is all well worth it. Ask your guide to stop the car at various points during your climb up and down the route, at excellent vantage points for photographic opportunities. A decent zoom will be very useful as well as wide-angle and panoramic shots. Just hope there is no fog or mist.

Trabzon city itself also has a few sites but you will not miss much if you have no time for them after Sumela, so do Sumela first thing and enjoy it as much as possible.

The Hagia Sophia church of the Pontus empire is unfortunately used as a mosque now and that means that some ornamentation, frescoes and mosaics may be covered up.

Drive through the city to see the difference between Batumi and the other Black sea ports.

They have some special very thin and delicate silverwork called "telkari" in Trabzon and possibly some tatting.
If you like teas, buy Caykur's "Altin Bas" and "Tirebolu No.42" or, if not available and you like a strong tea, "Rize Turistik". These teas are usually loose and need to be seeped. Adding a few apple (or if you can find it, quince) skins in the pot will enhance flavor.

3. Sinop has a castle, a museum, some old buildings with local women's weaving and stitching are also sold. We found it a more laid back and pleasant city but not a touristicly exciting one, except for their version of what looks like Italian Ravioli, "MANTI" in capital letters.
By all means have "Sinop Manti" especially at a little restaurant called, "Teyzenin Yeri"
https://foursquare.com/v/teyzenin-ye...815ab0de5439bf

They make, pack, close and cook their own dough/pasta by hand, in your view.

Have it the traditional Sinop way. half with walnuts sprinkled and half with tomato sauce and.or yoghurt. Please SPECIFY NO GARLIC OR RED PEPPER.

4. Other than the manti, you will not be exposed to spicy food, but one of the Turkish Black Sea specialties is "Akcaabat Kofte, meatballs with garlic. So be careful. Another food to avoid is their special bean pickles which is also contains garlic.

If available, the area specializes in fresh anchovies, grilling, steaming, frying it and even making a pilav, a casserole or corn bread with it.

They eat a great deal of corn bread and "pide" which is a little like a long rather than round pizza without the tomato sauce. You can have it with cheese, ground beef, diced beef, spicy sausage, mixed, with eggs, etc.

If you like cheese, "Mihlama" can be quite tasty.

The most popular local vegetable is something like Collard Greens, (smells terrible when cooking but quite tasty) called "Kara Lahana". You should taste it in at least one recipe.

Their Great Northern White Beans are also quite good and may be recommended.

Trabzon has its own famous rather strong butter, used with many of their meals.

Finally, This area is the world's number one hazelnut production region. This means that you should probably check dessert containing Hazelnuts.

5. I am tired now - and hope that some of the many travelers to kusadasi will assist you for food and ideas for that stop.
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Old Jun 25th, 2014, 10:31 AM
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Thank you otherchelebi! Wow! Great information and advice. I really appreciate it - especially on advice re foods to try (and addressing hubby's food allergies.)
I checked your profile and see that you are from Istanbul. . I also read some of your comments on other posts. You are certainly well-traveled! Will appreciate any suggestions you might have re Istanbul or any of the other stops we will be making on our trip!
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Old Jun 26th, 2014, 04:58 PM
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I have been to Nessebar aka Nesebur, which I found to be extremely touristy. You don't need a guide for the town, which is quite small. I am surprised your cruise is stopping there and not at Varna. For more see: http://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com/...-and-tourists/

I have also visited Batumi. It has a couple of eminently missable museums, a neglected fortification to the south, and a large, worthwhile, botanical garden to the north, reachable by bus (or, presumably, taxi). See: http://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com/...around-batumi/

Friends of mine were in Constanta in May and were not impressed: "The historic Old town is Surreal as it both crumbling and renovating simutaneously. The History Museum was open but the Roman Mosaics, a highlight for sure, were not. The port is huge and busy. The in-town beaches are not appealing - we did not visit the out-of-town resorts and beaches."

You might take a look at Rick Steves' guidebook for Mediterranean cruise ports for info on Ephesus. The book is mostly about visiting the ports on your own, but recommends a tour for Ephesus.

Istanbul is a fabulous dstination, I hope you're spending extra time there.

Athens is not a popular stop but I enjoyed it (admittedly I was there before the season started). It has a number of excellent museums besides the most famous. Are you spending extra time in Greece?
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Old Jun 28th, 2014, 07:01 PM
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Thank you thursdaysd! Sounds like the best ports will be at the beginning of the cruise and end!
I do have the Rick Steve's Mediterranean cruise ports book, and will check out Ephesus. We will be arriving in Istanbul 3 days prior to our cruise and have heard both good and bad, but mostly good! Prefer to believe the good!!!
Will also be staying in Athens and hope to check out one of the islands. Any suggestions?
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Old Jun 28th, 2014, 07:43 PM
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Can't imagine what people are saying about Istanbul that would be bad!

If you want an island close to Athens I'd suggest Hydra. Further away the obvious candidate would be Santorini, although I went to Crete instead. See: http://wilhelmswords.com/eur2006/index.html
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 04:23 AM
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July is Ramadan, the Moslem month of fasting this year. (follows the lunar year)

This means that there will be fewer locals in the standard busier areas, but more tourists, especially Arabs who escape the more rigid rules of their countries and can have more fun here in istanbul.

The major upscale Bosphorus locations will be crowded in the evenings and at night as usual and with heavy traffic.

You will probably staying somewhere in or close to the old city. So, I strongly recommend that you take a commuter boat from Eminonu up the Bosphorus. They are usually 3-4 which leave sometime between 17:30 and 19:30.

Pick one which will let you land at Cengelkoy (Asian side), Bebek or Yenikoy.

This will save you time and give you great photographic opportunities since you can have very good lighting.

It will also allow you in a part of the local culture you would have missed otherwise.

Cengelkoy will be interesting and provide some decent eating opportunities.

Yenikoy is almost as good.

Bebek is the "IN" place. I love the Divan Brasserie but there are many other alternatives.

If you walk about a mile back towards town from Bebek or take a cab to between Kurucesme and Ortakoy, there are two very popular supper clubs with 5-8 restaurants each, Sortie and Reina. Further, Ortakoy has cafes, restaurants, clubs and a street market as well.

If you are not staying in the old city, these commuter boats usually stop first at Besiktas and you can pick them there rather than face the horrendous Bosphorus traffic.

check schedules at www.sehirhatlari.com they also have it in english
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 03:20 PM
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Thank you both so much for the information.
We will be staying at the CVK Bosphorous Hotel in Istanbul and the O&B Boutique Hotel in Athens.
I will definitely check out the links both of you gave me. Although we're feeling a little little disappointed in the ports of call our cruise will be stopping, we are very excited about our 3 extra days and nights in Istanbul and Athens.
Thank you both so very much for taking the time to help us!!!!
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 04:18 PM
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You're welcome. Have a great trip!

[It's a pity you're not stopping at Yalta or Odessa, but I understand why!]
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 07:39 PM
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Thursdaysd, you're so right! We were looking forward to the Ukraine and Sochi, but decided not to cancel cruise (had already booked flights and hotel in Istanbul). But know we'll have a wonderful time!!!
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Old Jun 29th, 2014, 09:43 PM
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Your hotel in Istanbul is very close to where we live (have lived sınce birth) My mother's grandfather (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehmed_Nam%C4%B1k_Pasha )
had his house built here in the 1860-80s and my grandfather, after returning from political exile in 1909, the same year that my wife's great grandfather had.

There are yellow vans called "dolmus" with stations just a few minutes walk up towards Taksim square from your hotel to Besiktas (on your side of the street) and to Tesvikiye/Nisantas (a little further up and across the street)

You can take a ferry from besiktas across the Bosphorus and then a taxi to Cengelkoy.

Also, take the dolmus or a short taxi ride one evening to Tesvikiye for upscale cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and people watching. Visit the Pasabahce glassware store at Nisantasi, eat simple fare at Saray pudding shop; sit with the young and young at heart at Kirinti Cafe or have a drink at Midpoint, check the latest Turkish fashions at top turkish designer Vakko, at Abdi Ipekci Street parallel to Tesvikiye main street.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 02:28 PM
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shorebee.com or rome2rio.com can help with ports.
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Old Jun 30th, 2014, 02:28 PM
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shorebee.com or rome2rio.com can help with ports.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:02 PM
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thursdaysd, thank you for your links! Looks like you have had lots of adventures in your travels! I admire you getting out on your own and exploring. Great tips about where we will be going. And photos/info about other areas we would Love to visit! Thank you!
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 07:23 PM
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otherchelebi, I can't tell you how much I appreciate the information you have shared with us!!!! This will undoubtedly help us so much, especially in Istanbul! And the fact that you live in your family home.....the link to your family heritage....all so very impressive!!!! (In fact, I shared your last post with my husband and just ordered two books on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire!)
Looking forward to our trip more and more!
Thank you again!
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 09:13 PM
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ebvacationer - you're welcome. Cruising is not my thing, but I hope you have a great trip and come back and tell us about it.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 12:06 AM
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thanks ebvacationer,

I am afraid my great grandfather's mansion is long gone, but the house I was born, now belonging to a cousin still survives.We live in the apartment building (wholly a family building) my mother built on her share of its garden in 1953. The street next to our building is named after Namik Pasa.

You may also be interested in the following books after you read my Amazon reviews (under my real name):

http://www.amazon.com/Human-Landscap...cm_cr-mr-title

http://www.amazon.com/An-Ottoman-Tra...cm_cr-mr-title

Both books can be savored without having to pore over them for long periods.

The epic has terrific insights into characters of people, some universal, some very local and with an excellent style that comes through in English. The author successfully refrains from use of adjectives and adverbs.

The historic traveler, on the other hand, excells in descriptions of places, cultures, customs, times, and so forth, using value judgements galore. But that also makes his travelogue more interesting.

Hope you enjoy your trip and if you have any questions during your trip you can ask them here. We shall be around this month although we leave in August for about 50 days in Chicago (and vicinity)
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 04:14 AM
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Thank you otherchelebi!
I've ordered both books (the second one on my kindle). I'm sure a great deal of this will be "over my head", but if I can retain just a portion of it, it will be very insightful!
Thank you for your offer to be of future help on our travels! Just a little more than two weeks!
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 06:22 AM
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One more quick question: are euros readily accepted? Or do we need to get some Turkish
liras as well?
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 08:34 AM
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Euros are accepted at hotels and major restaurants or touristic shops and restaurants but with bad exchange rates.

You can either withdraw Turkish Lira from ATMs (use only Bank ATMs stationed next to banks) or exchange EURO or USD at exchange offices. (the ones inside the Grand Bazaar (not Spice Bazaar) will give the best rates. The buying and selling rate margins should be very, very narrow, and they should not charge any commission. Bank margins are higher and they will charge commission.

Pay restaurants and hotel with credit card. Make sure the restaurant brings the post machine to yor table for you to enter your code or to sign.

You will have to leave your apprximately 10% tip to the waiter as cash, since the addition or bill does not have a tip area.
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