I have always wanted to visit the historic and cosmopolitan city of Istanbul and this was the year to do it. It is 10 time zones ahead of the Pacific Coast and jet lag was a major hassle. But it was a great visit. I arrived on Dec 24 and left on Jan 2.
Christmas is not a holiday in Islamic Istanbul and that was fortunate for me because the ATM at the airport ate my card when I arrived on Christmas Eve. If banks had been closed on Friday the 25th, I would have been destitute till the following Monday.
Although I brought my Turkish phrasebook, in the end I did not use much of the language. If I had traveled farther into the hinterlands of Turkey maybe I wold have needed it, but not much in Istanbul. I never left the city in the 9 days.