The Washington Post

All aboard for Istanbul, Baku and Budapest on the Fourth

The Blue Mosque, in Istanbul on Friday, June 14, 2013. (Lam Yik Fei/BLOOMBERG)

Then, to paraphrase Saturday Night Live’s ex-city correspondent “Stefon,” you must quickly sign up to join a fine congressional delegation (codel) heading out Friday for a fascinating nine-day trip to Turkey, Azerbaijan and Hungary.

First stop is Istanbul for the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Last year, Loop fans may recall, it was in Monte Carlo — and only a couple folks went because, well, jetting off to Monaco didn’t sound like a good idea in these troubled financial days.

(They blamed us for the attendance fall-off, but we’re confident they would have done so anyway.)

This year it’s business class-only military jet, stunning service and three Navy escorts to smooth the way. There’s also a physician on board just in case you’re not feeling ship-shape.

Disclosure: The tentative schedule — for those lawmakers who choose to follow it — calls for a few too many substantive meetings to give this jaunt a full Loop Four-Star rating.

Still, Istanbul is a fascinating place. And for spouses — all women so far — the schedule includes a visit to the Sabanci Vocational Institute of Design, “to include a fashion show of the students’ and teachers’ collection” and an “opportunity to buy designer samples.” That evening everyone’s off for a boat tour on the Bosphorus.

Monday’s “Accompanying Persons” schedule is breathtaking: The stunning Blue Mosque, the St. Sofia Museum and wonderful Topkapi Palace. Lunch is at the Yilidiz Restaurant, where there will be an opportunity to buy handmade porcelain.

Tuesday night, July 2, there’s a pre-Fourth of July dinner hosted by Ambassador Frank Ricciardone. If the fireworks aren’t exciting enough you might want to head down to Taksim Square to see if things have settled down. (Take wet handkerchiefs for the possible tear gas.)

The next day, July 3, after a lovely evening at the Four Seasons in Baku, Azerbaijan, which has a sketchy human rights record, there’s a second pre-Fourth of July dinner at the embassy and then on the actual Fourth of July there a “cultural tour of the Old City” for everyone before our hardy band heads off to a day in lovely Budapest — where the Hungarian government’s been slacking on democracy — before heading home.

An early manifest had GOP Sens. Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Michael Crapo (Idaho) and GOP Reps. Christopher Smith (N.J.), Robert Aderholt (Ala.) Doc Hastings (Wash.) and Tom Cole (Okla.) signed up to go, with all but Cole taking a spouse.They were taking seven staffers as well.

Unclear what size plane they are taking. Back-of-the-envelope estimate would put airfare cost at around a half-million dollars. But seats may still be had. And, some of those who initially signed up may drop out — making room for you!

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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