Monday, July 16, 2012

Turkey Jerky: Getting There

I am going to try to post while in Turkey from my iPad. It may suck, sorry. Also, that means no pictures yet. I'll add them later.

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

Day 2: Lost and Broke in Turkey - I was also lost and broke in Ireland once so maybe it's a good idea not to travel with me. So the days starts in the clothes we slept in. Breakfast, which is included, was nice. We knew the hospital had a bank so we walked up to change some money (not technically broke, just no usable money). The bank was closed. We went to the front desk and asked were we could go to change some money. The desk guard called someone to translate. We asked them to get us a taxi to take us somewhere to change money. What we got was a cab driver who would take American dollars. We tried to explain that we wanted to go somewhere to change money.he just kept saying that he had to have an address. I showed him a ferry/train station that while not the closest, I thought would be substantial enough to warrant a bureau de change. When we finally got there ($45 Cab ride), we had decided it might be worth it to pay ATM fees in order to get enough to get I to the city and find a proper Bureau de Chnage. Luckily my book had a picture on an ATM, which FYI is a bankomatic. While we looked at 2 side by side to see if one had English (my book said they all should) we noticed one had an exchange button. It only took Euros but I had Euros! (Quick thank you to my mom for bringing back extra Euros from her cruise and giving them to my husband for some weird reason) So that got us enough to get the train.

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

After we changed some money, we decided to go to a tour company that I had seen recommended online. After lunch, We got a nice guided tour of Hagia Sofi and the Basikica Cistern. (picture) We then walked around the outside of the Blue Mosque. We weren't going to go in because we knew it was closing soon and wanted more time. A man came up to us and said, "Ladies, the entrance is on that side but you better hurry because it is closing soon. Do you have scarves to cover with? They have some inside to use and you will have to take your shoes off or put plastic bags on them." We told him thank you and then he said, "I have a carpet store just over there." We were actually thrilled that we had first had experience of situation #2.

Hagia Sofia Outside

Hagia Sofia Inside (as seen in the new James Bond film)

Basilica Cistern - this is where the Ottomans stored water

After walking around a bit more we slowly made our way back to the ferry looking in shops and grabbing gyros to take back to the hotel. The dock is near the Spice Market so we looked inside for minute. My last day, I am hitting that place up for Turkish Delight and Helvas to go. No souvenirs for me, just candy.

Haydrapasa Station, where we switched from a ferry to a train

We got there ferry then the train. An elderly man on the train became concerned where we were going. We must look lost. I think it is because not many clearly very foreign, women tourists take the suburban train. We tried to tell him that we were confident about where we were going but he insisted on seeing our map. The train line has been shortened so we took it to the last stop. We thought about taking a bus but there never seem to be any bus maps so we decided to take a cab. Our new friend was concerned that a cab would cost too much and that we needed him to tell the cab driver where we were going. This is extra funny because he spoke no English. We showed him that we had the exact address of where we were going written down and he felt better and went about his way.

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.

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