I should have known this would be a great trip. At the last minute I got a very low miles FF business class ticket on Delta. My flight crew was amazing and when we got to Ataturk Airport they invited me to take the van with them since they too were staying at the Polat. Although I have not taken up one of the suggestions made by many of the flight attendants -- a Turkish bath, maybe next time -- it was a great start.
Although I was initially hesitant to stay at the Polat because it's far out of the city, I am SO glad I did. It is a wonderful hotel with shuttle service hourly to and from the airport and shuttles to the city center. It would not be best for people who like to be in the thick of things and love night life (I do not).
Besides three restaurants (expensive, but good, especially the Marmara), the hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool. It is right on the Sea of Marmara, and as I took a long walk along the promenade by the rocks I almost felt like I was not far from home on the coast of Maine. You could walk, jog, run, sit, go to the beach, etc. -- all in a beautiful and peaceful setting.
The staff here is wonderful!
Thanks for all of your posts -- as you can probably gather from my posts, it is spectacular -- the hotel, the city, the excursions, everything. Everywhere I've gone (except in the vicinity of the bazaar, where they are very persistent even when the bazaar itself is closed), the people have been lovely -- very friendly and helpful. When I arrived at Izmir airport for my Ephesus excursion, the tour van was not yet there. An incredibly helpful airport staff member called Istanbul on his cell phone to find out for me that it was on its way.
It's always a bit of an adventure going to a new country where you don't speak the language (I've learned a few words), but it is also a great joy! I can't recommend Turkey enough -- in fact, to some degree it's easier than Greece since here they use the Roman alphabet.
I've a small favor to ask. Two neighbors have a long standing debate about the origin of a chemical formulation - gunpowder. Historians presume the Chinese invented it. But, a neighbor insists that gunpowder technology was first perfected as a propelant for rocketry by the Turks. Historically, this connects to the military ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire which by the way connects to Ataturk, Marmara and the Renaissance Polat! Historians love to probe - do you mind?
The best academic answer I can come up with quickly is that the Chinese invented gunpowder in the Han Dynasty, but it wasn't much used. It was taken westwards by the Mongols, who controlled much of the kingdoms of China in what Westerners call the Middle Ages. While gunpowder and rudimentary armheld devices and cannons were used during the Hundred Years War (to great effect in siege warcraft which was preferable to open battle), it seems that the Ottomans perfected the use of it in military devices.
This précis of a book contains references to almost every military historian I have heard of, so it sounds like the definitive work to date on the subject:
Let's hope this doesn't result in some sort of siege among your neighbors! When I'm back I'll ask one of my former students, who is now a grad student and knows a whole lot more about the subject than I do.