|Istanbul has been a city filled with daily adventures. We've met great new friends. Toured sites
from antiquity. Imbibed wonderful meals. And barely escaped from wily natives. And so starts
our adventure around the world.
|Hotel Poem. Arriving after 18 hours of flying and transit lounges, even hard benches started to look
comfortable. So, upon arrival, we were surprised that the first three rooms that the desk clerk showed us
were all being painted. I stopped lugging 50 lbs of luggage after he showed us the second room. Lucky
us! All three rooms were small and some without either view or TV. Instead, we were given the Best
Room of the 17 rooms. Room name: "All of a Sudden". Balcony, view, and TV(working too). And of
course free internet (but on a Win98 machine with 56K dialup). Only later did we discover that all rooms
had been advertised on Expedia with balconies and TV's. And that the owner, a very sharp ex-Anderson
Consulting employee, had strong ties with the Expedia Travel people.
|Our room at Hotel Poem would have been fine except that the room we received had been booked by
another couple: Mike and Antonella. A couple of very fun Brits who were on their 20 anniversary holiday,
and wanted to make their trip special. They ended up with the room just below us with no balcony,
limited view, and sans TV. Luckily, Mike brought his laptop to watch DVDs that they purchased. What
really burned everyone, was that just 100 feet down the road, the Best Western Acropol offered the
same rates as Hotel Poem, but with rooms twice as large, and with working TVs.
|Despite our encamping upon their territorial room, we all became friends. We all travelled together
along the well worn tourist routes of the Bosphorous Ferry, the Grand Bazaar, and happy hour drinks at
the Four Seasons Hotel.
|The one common theme in travelling with Mike and Antonella was that we were always eating. Or
drinking. Or having some snack between meals. Mike loved his Baklava and Turkish coffee. One
evening, we had agreed on buying some wine and food from a local market and getting take-out from
one of the restaurants on our street. We ordered a few items from the menu at Best Western, but they
refused to sell the food as take-out. Instead, they offered to deliver the food to our hotel with Hotel
plates, silverware, and serviettes. Talk about service with a smile! And thanks Mike, I must have
added several pounds because of your craving for desserts and coffee.
|The one narrow escape was when Evelyn wanted to buy a gold necklace at the Grand Bazaar.
Everyone in Britain says that the cheapest gold can be bought in Turkey.
After what seemed like an hour of haggling and selecting, Evelyn finally found the right gold necklace
at what seemed a good price. 115 YTL($90) still seems a little high, but the seller had agreed to
charge Evelyn only $80 on her credit card. Only? Twice the credit card was rejected when used.
We figured, new CC; so, probably not working yet. Only when she tried to verify the card balance
online without results, did Evelyn call CapitalOne to find out the problem. Seems that the seller had
been trying to charge $8000 on the credit card. Luckily, CapitalOne stopped the transaction as
fraud, and we escaped our first disaster.
|When travelling, we are constantly on our guard for scams or danger, but we are also dependent on
locals for needed services. In our rush to pack and ready everything for our trip, a few things got
forgotten. Needless to say, Evelyn needed to overnight a package back to the states after our
arrival in Istanbul. We were quoted $60 & $65 by the local DHL & UPS shops. More than Evelyn
wanted to pay. Next stop: post office. Our travel book stated that the Post Office was closed for
lunch hours, giving us about 20 minutes to find the place and ship the package. The little kiosk
pictured was great for stamps, and letters, but not packages or overnight delivery. Our map
indicated the main post office was about a 40 minute walk down a number of winding streets (note:
all streets in Istanbul are winding). While looking at our map trying to determine which crooked
street to take, an eager youth came up to us, saying that he was a college student and offered
assistance in finding a post office (PTT). I believe in the saying that "There ain´t no such thing as a
free lunch". Evelyn happily took off in search of a post office. I figured that they would find the post
office, but that it would be closed. But Evelyn and the youth were happy to race off in search of the
PO. And I kept a respectful distance behind to watch their meandering. I caught up after their first
stop in a small PO. Evelyn was gripping that the PO was too small and didn´t offer overnight
shipping. And away she and the youth zoomed in search of the main PO. This time, I lost sight of
them after 10 minutes. One too many left and right turns. At this point, the only thing I could do is
pray to the god of post offices that she would have an uneventful PO experience. I headed back to
the hotel to wait for her, and was surprised to have her show up 45 minutes later. She found the
main post office, and it was open. First one line to obtain forms, then she needed to run to the bank
to get money for the package (the youth stood guard while she pulled money from the ATM - what´s
wrong with this picture?), then to stand in another line to ship the item overnight (about $30 for
shipping). Then came his hook. Would she mind visiting his brother´s carpet shop to maybe look at
some of the carpets? How could Evelyn say "No"? Evelyn acquiesced, enjoyed a nice hot apple
tea, but didn´t buy any carpets. There must be thousands of carpet shops in Istanbul. Who buys so
many carpets to support all these carpet shops?
|Most people think of Turkey as hot and humid. These people have not travelled to Istanbul during
Winter. Most of our week in Istanbul had cold weather or rain. On our day of departure, it snowed.
A full foot within 3 hours. Istanbul rarely receives any snow. So, we were worried that the locals
wouldn´t know how to drive in snow or that the airport would close. A missed flight would mean
staying in Istanbul for several more days, rebooking flights, and missing hotel connections in
Madrid. Fortunately, the snow was limited to delaying our flight to Madrid by a couple of hours. The
snows did continue for a few more days, the airport did close a couple of times because of
blizzards or an aircraft sliding off the runway. So, luck was on our side this time.
|TALL WORLD TALES