Correction to This Article
Previous editions of this article in print and on the Web incorrectly referred to Saint Nicholas as a 4th-century Turkish bishop. He was the Christian bishop of the city of Myra. Although this area of Asia Minor would eventually become Turkey, it was at the time a Greek colony within a Roman province. This version has been corrected.

A Bazaar Holiday in Turkey

By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 29, 2007

Q. My daughter and I are heading to Istanbul for winter break. Do you have suggestions for things to do that would appeal both to a middle-aged mom and a teenager?

Tamar Abrams, Arlington

A. Spending Christmas in a Muslim nation sounds like a fascinating travel choice indeed, although if your intent is to completely avoid Santa Claus, crass commercialism, etc., you may be out of luck. (Let's not forget that St. Nicholas was the Christian bishop of the city of Myra.) Still, according to several locals and expats we contacted via the Web sites Turkey Travel Planner ( and Merhaba Forums (, Christmas is a distinctly low-key affair. "Most Turks do not celebrate Christmas, but many give gifts for the New Year," says Rina Svensson of Insight Travel, an agency on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. "If the ladies will be in Istanbul between Christmas and New Year, it is fun to visit the Taksim area and Istiklal street, which is all decorated with lights."

It can also be rainy and cold, with temperatures averaging in the mid-40s. But don't be surprised if the city is blanketed in snow, as it has been for the past few winters, giving visits to the Sultanahmet neighborhood -- Old Istanbul -- an even more otherworldly quality.

Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque may be tourist guide staples, but they rank high on the list for Instanbullus as well, who also insist that you not miss the Grand Bazaar, bizarre as it can be. The sensory overload of the spice bazaar in particular receives high marks, especially the vendors who, for a price, will concoct a perfume unique to you.

Finally, of course, there is Istanbul's legendary food to consider, and we received no shortage of suggestions, from the fish restaurants just across the Galata Bridge to a coffeehouse praised by one longtime resident, David Campos, for its incomparable view of the "traffic of ships on the strait" -- also known as "the best Starbucks location in the world."

We're driving from Syracuse, N.Y., to the Mall of America, with the majority of the route on Interstate 90. Is there a Web site with info on sights and attractions along the way?

Roberta and Joseph Porpiglio, East Syracuse, N.Y.

Having driven much of that very stretch of I-90 last summer, I feel honor-bound to disclose that you are in for some monotonous patches. Maybe that's why no dedicated Web site exists. (Think car games -- lots of them.) But if you're up for something a bit more exotic, consider driving across Ontario and Michigan until you reach the shores of Lake Michigan. There you can board the S.S. Badger car ferry in Ludington, Mich. (800-841-4243,, for a cruise to Manitowoc, Wis., just 319 miles from Minneapolis and its famous mall. Ultimately, you will save yourself 155 miles of driving, enjoy a four-hour cruise with free bingo and movies, and -- most crucially -- avoid the Chicago area.

But if I-90 it must be, then by all means take a detour up Route 4 in Ohio to Sandusky's Cedar Point, a roller coaster lover's paradise on Lake Erie (419-627-2350, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (216-781-7625, has a special exhibition on the Doors featuring original manuscripts (who knew they had manuscripts?). And between Chicagoland and Minneapolis, don't miss funky Madison, Wis., whose Dane County Farmers' Market (608-455-1999, was recently hailed as one of the five best in the nation by Eating Well magazine.

Send queries by e-mail ( or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.

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