Sept.28.2010, Athens to Istanbul

Turkoman Hotel

Wake up call 0430.  Packed up and checked out at 0515. Over to Syntagma Station and caught first metro to airport at 0537.  At airport a little after 0600.  Checked baggage, short line up and then went looking for breakfast.  !worst meal so far! at the Sbarro, “fresh Italian cooking” at the Food Village in the Athens airport.  The only thing hot was the coffee.  Cool or cold eggs, poorly cooked beans, marginal bacon, no toast.  But – did not find any other places offering breakfast – just coffee and pastries although that might have been a better idea!  Oh well.  Add airport breakfasts to my list of things I don’t like about travelling.

I got frisked again going through security.  My hiking shoes have wire in the shoelace eyes – that’s the only metal in the whole shoe.  I will have to start wearing my sandals across borders.  0800 boarding.

1 hr. flight to Istanbul.  Entry visas 45E each, short line up and quick.  Passport control quick, bags no problem, walked past a guy and said “nothing to declare” and he said “OK”, that was it.  Bank machine on Visa card, no problem.  Then changed a 20 YTL to 10’s, bought some tokens.  Asked a shuttle bus company – they wanted 30 YTL each to get us into Istanbul/Sultanahmet.  Metro and tram cost 3 YTL each!  Ha!

~25 C, partly cloudy.  Took metro train to Zeytinburnu then switched to a tram.  But there were 2 tram tracks at this station so it took a while to figure out that both of them went to Sultanahmet.  There is much less English spoken here than in Athens which makes getting assistance more difficult.

Took the next tram and boy did it ever fill up with people, many needing some freshening up.  We thought we would have problems getting a seat to begin with and a bigger problem trying to get off the tram!  Sardines at 1200.

When we got off the tram at Sultanahmet, I was looking at the map and going through my backpack looking for the address of the hotel.  A fellow came up and asked if he could help us find our hotel.  I said Turkoman and he said first that it had closed down and second that it had changed its name whereupon he offered to show us to another hotel.  He produced a card.  I told him I didn’t need his help and he seemed offended.  Then as I was still looking at my map, Debbie said he ran away.  He returned, asked me if I didn’t trust him.  I said I didn’t need his help.  He demanded his card back.  I returned his card and he left.  By this time I was pretty concerned thinking it might be true.  On top of it – unlike Athens, I couldn’t find any street names.  We headed south.  A bit difficult pulling the suitcases over cobblestone.  Stopped, checked the map, went left and spotted the hotel – lime green.  Still, the question was – would the front door be open?  It was.  Would they have our reservation?  They did.  It’s an old quaint hotel, small but clean and with modern plumbing.  Not sure how the girls or Richard and Kathy will take to it, but we’ll see.

Up to the rooftop patio – complimentary cocktail juice, conversations by Deb with unknown people.  I got on the internet and chatted directly with Chrystal in London – also sent a note to Richard & Kathy about our arrival.

1340 cooling off.  Beer and orange juice on the roof top.  Debbie is bored while I write in my journal.

Had a nap this afternoon, after all we had been up since 0430 am.  Up at 1730 and went looking for a restaurant Debbie had found and liked earlier.  Found it again! after some looking.  Great dinner for 39 YTL.  Debbie had spaghetti Bolognese and I had spiced lentil soup and a plate of olive oil mezes – almost none of the 5 separate items were recognizable.  Strolled around the east side streets of the Blue Mosque after dusk, found a bazaar and walked through, up some stairs and then tried to figure out where we were.  A local pointed us off in the right direction.  We surfaced right next to the Sultanahmet tram stop!  Back along the Hippodrome then returned to the Turkoman Hotel at 2000.  Talked to the front desk guy for a while, then to the roof top for a glass of wine and journal writing.  Call to worship came along – quite loud here near the Blue Mosque.

1st Impressions – not as much graffiti here as Athens.  Unbelievable traffic, a lot of it going backwards up side streets.  Lots of people, especially trams – stuffed.  Food pricier than expected, but we’re in the main tourist area.

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