So, I am in Turkey with my friend Laura. We just got here two days ago and it's already been a real adventure. Let's begin.
Day 0&1: Getting Here Due to weather in Chicago, our first flight was delayed. We landed in Chicago just in time to run to our flight. Turkish Airlines had actually already bumped us, but rebooked us at the gate. The gate attendant told us that our bags would not have had time to make it on the plane with us. We did still manage to get seats together.
We arrived and went through the long customs and visa lines. We then went to the Turkish Airlines lost luggage office where we had to wait our turn. There were several other passengers from our flight there. Chicago's delays had created a lot of tight connections. We finally got that sorted and went to find our driver. He didn't speak any English but still scolded us for being late, like we could control that. It was our intention to change currency at the airport but the driver grabbed our bags and took off for the car.
The view from the cab
Our hotel is at least an hour from the airport. It's southeast of Istanbul on the Asian side. It's affiliated with a hospital (next door) and thanks to insider connections, let's just say that you can't beat the price. However, it's location is the reason for much adventure.
We got to the hotel, showered and put on our one change of clothes each (yes, we slept in them too). We walked around the hotel which is small and up the pretty path to the hospital to be nosy. We had dinner at the hotel. Laura had a kebab and I had a salad. I also ordered a "classic hors d'oevres plate." We expected a mezze plate but what we got was some hot dog pieces, onion rings, taquitos, and two fried mushrooms. (picture) After dinner, we turned in.
Our hotel - Anadolu Titanic Comfort Inn
We easily found the train to the Haydarpasa ferry station. While we tried to figure out where to get the ferry and young lady in hijab approached us and asked if she could help us. She worked as a tourist liaison at the Blue Mosque and could tell we needed help (the blue Ask Me shirt people, seriously nice kids so ask them if you visit Istanbul). Since we were going the same way she escorted us all the way to a Bureau de Change in the neighborhood of the Blue Mosque. She told us several sites to see and gave us this advice.
1. Water costs .50, they will try to sell it to you for 1.00 but say no. It is .50
2. A man will be nice and help you or tell you where to go and then he will try to sell you a carpet. (this gave us a good laugh)
My first lunch and the best meal I had on the whole trip
Hagia Sofia Outside
Hagia Sofia Inside (as seen in the new James Bond film)
Basilica Cistern - this is where the Ottomans stored water
Haydrapasa Station, where we switched from a ferry to a train
There was plenty of shopping near the Pendik station. Laura found a sun dress and we both bought pjs. We also found a small supermarket and bought some jugs of water and liquid antibacterial hand soap for our sink washing (everything else was too big). We went to the taxi stand and showed them the address. The next driver acted very unsure of where we going even though his buddies tried to explain. He asked if we spoke German, when we said only English, he said No problem, let's go. I said, how come if we speak German there was a problem. We tried to say several times that it was next to the hospital but he kept shushing us. I also tried to get him to call them but he said "after" which I think means after we got lost. Luckily, I saw the hospital from the motorway and said there. He insisted that I was crazy and there was no hotel but we still turned around all the way he was saying "this hospital, no hotel." I guess since its really for families of patients (big oncology department from the looks of the directory) not many locals no about it. Once we got to the hotel, he admitted that he was wrong and apologized and also told us that next time tell the driver the hospital and it would be easier.
While I showered Laura took her lost baggage info to the front desk and asked the nice young man to call and see if he could get an answer. He was on the phone for almost 1/2 an hour and did find out that our luggage is here but it wont be delivered until sometime tomorrow. So I'll be doing laundry in the sink.
We are going to sleep in tomorrow (hopefully my sink washing will dry) and try robe a bit more leisurely since we know the lay of the land. Tuesday we want to get up early for a boat tour.