The Ottoman Empire may conjure up images of elaborately mustached men decked out in fez hats while women recline seductively behind floaty veils in the sultan’s harem, but there is much more to this exotic empire than first meets the eye. At the height of its might, Ottoman territories expanded across the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. Istanbul, known then as Constantinople, was wrestled from the hands of the Byzantines in 1453 and remained the capital of the Empire until its end in 1923. Situated on three bodies of water with a literal treasure chest of historical gems, the Ottomans further capitalized on Istanbul’s breathtaking beauty to ensure it maintained its reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Although Istanbul has modernized at a startlingly rapid pace, some of the most glorious remnants of its past are everywhere to be seen. From centuries-old wooden mansion hotels to ancient shopping malls, mosques, palaces, bathhouses and much, much more, it’s possible to spend some time in Istanbul shopping, eating, praying, relaxing and sleeping much like the Ottomans did!
Chances are that you have never visited an auto dealership purely for an afternoon of fun. That may change once construction is complete on a new car showroom megaplex.
Said new car showroom megaplex is not located in the United States, China or Germany, as you might expect. Instead, the Autopia Europia is being built in a suburb of Istanbul, Turkey. The massive building will be the world’s largest car dealership. Though we’d argue it will be much more than that.
Spot Cool Stuff’s single favorite piece of travel writing, the David Foster Wallace essay A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, is a humorous accounting of the absurd side of taking a cruise—that part of cruising in which overweight Hawaiian shirt-wearing passengers are herded between crowded shuffleboard tables, bad buffets and overpriced tourist-trap shore excursions.
Your next cruise needn’t be like that. Your cruise can (and should!) be a fun thing you’ll want to do again. And that fun, interesting cruise can also represent an excellent travel value. Our tips for finding cool, yet affordable, cruises:
Conjure an image of what’s it is like to go on a cruise. Are you picturing buffet dinners? On-deck spinning classes? Retirees playing shuffleboard? Many cruises really are like that. But if you’re looking for a different sort of cruise scene consider traveling by cargo ship.
Cargo ship travel is the un-cruise. There’s nothing fabricated about it. Every day thousands of freighters ply the high seas. Some of them have extra state rooms and accept passengers to tag along for the ride. This is as “real” as travel gets.
Of course, cargo ship cruising is not for everyone. Cargo ships don’t have swimming pools, evening entertainment, rock climbing walls or organized mixers on Lido decks. Go on a cargo ship cruise and there might be as many as four or five other paying passengers like yourself. Or, you may be the only one. And while cargo ships often have comfortable sleeping quarters they’re unlikely to be luxurious.
To book passage on a cargo ship you can go directly through some shipping lines. But we recommend working through a travel agent that can vouch for the quality of the food and accommodations and can make sure your itinerary includes sufficient shore leave time. One of the best agents for cargo ship cruises is Intrepid Travel. Here’s a look at their five cool cargo cruise ship itineraries: