Greetings from Istanbul,
What a 60 hours this has been. Three long distance flights separated
by long sleepless layovers: 6 hours in Las Vegas (Yes, I got to the
airport way too early for the 1AM flight), 4 hours in Chicago, 8
hours through the wee hours in London. So tired from walking on feet
sporting several blisters about to burst, I faced the hotel hunt on
arriving in Istanbul around noon Wednesday, 31 October. The city shuttle bus
obvious at the departure area connected to an area on the Asian side
called Taksim, and in no mood to argue I hopped aboard, paid my ten
Turkish lira ($5.50) and settled down to enjoy the half hour ride
through the city and across the Bosporus channel.
In the Chicago terminal restroom I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. As I approached the wash basin a large advertising video mounted over the sink suddenly became a normal looking mirror. I immediately thought of the wicked witch scene in the Disney film , Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all?"
London Heathrow takes the prize for most confusing and aggravating airports this time. Arriving at Terminal One sometime after eleven PM I discovered my Istanbul flight on British Air would leave at 6AM the next morning from Terminal Eight and after searching around for an hour learned the shuttle had shut down at midnight. Dashing around to anyone who might know how to extricate myself from this dilemma I finally learned the city bus system had a night line that stopped at both my present terminal and the needed Terminal Eight. I spent three very anxious hours wondering how I'd ever make it over to my departure building in time for the 6AM flight... in the process further aggravating my already blistered feet.
Hotel hunting/shopping usually is an enjoyable cultural experience, but this time with body screaming to go horizontal and feet burning with anger, the high room rates available everywhere I stopped made prospects look impossible. When Faruk offered me the "rock bottom" lowest rate available in his luxurious boutique Hotel La Villa, I forked over my credit card to pay the $120, "but only for a single night." The plan, if there was one would be to try for an express recovery from my critical decline in body energy and move on the next day to... where I could not be certain in that current state of mind/body. A quick shower, a change into more presentable clothes and an examination of my bleeding blister covered feet convinced me I'd need a lot more than a single night to become "normal." That night I slept like a hibernating bear being pestered by an irritated colony of termites.
The next morning I attempted to use the hotel WiFi without success. Following a breakfast of dried fruit that had become too hard to chew, some smoked salmon, a handful of olives, a tiny pork cutlet, and several cups of actually decent coffee, I determined to cooperate with my resisting body and reluctant pecuniary mentality and let the hotel know I'd stay another night.
At the desk while trying to make the current receptionist understand I wanted to stay another night at the lower rate negotiated with Faruk the night before, the general manager stopped by to see if he could be of any help. Mr Turan Celiker, a forty something guy with moderately good English offered to assist me with my computer connectivity problems and transportation options. When the receptionist presented the VISA charge for signature I noted he had charged me for two nights and I decided to ignore the mistake and just plan to rest the full two more nights and left with Mr. Celiker for some conversation over coffee in the hotel's dining room.
As we chatted I learned he is not only the manager of the La Villa Hotel, but also the owner of a small eight room boutique hotel not far from the La Villa... and the room rates there are a more affordable 50-60 Euros per night! We agreed to meet at noon to check out bus services to Cappadocia and then to walk over to his place. As there could be a question about his skimming guests from the La Villa, we conspired to meet a block from the La Villa. Of course, as I needed to leave the La Villa and its high room rates in any case, there really was no question of impropriety here, but appearance is everything so we met away from the La Villa.
As we walked I considered various possibilities and he phoned the manager of his hotel to learn they already had a full house for the weekend nights in question, but he knew of a friend's place and checked with him to confirm the availability of a weekend room.
This is a national holiday like America's Fourth of July and there are many tourists in town. Passing his house, the Bahceli Suites Hotel on the way to his friend's place I noted how well maintained and modern it looked from the outside. His friend's place at $55, an apart-hotel might have been adequate, but just barely so. Mr. Celiker and I walked on to the nearby bus ticket agent and learned I could travel to Gorome as soon as Saturday, the day after my currently booked nights in the La Villa Hotel ended, with a bus leaving at 18:30 for an overnight eleven hour trip into the heart of the Cappadocia area.
Pondering for all of two minutes I decided this would be my best option and booked two seats as is my habit for long bus rides. The single seat fare of sixty Turkish lira meant I'd pay a total of about $66 for my two seats through the night. That will make for cheap lodging certainly, but I'll have to wait to report just how comfortable it is.
During pre-trip planning I'd expected to spend a longer time in Istanbul checking out my options, so three nights is less than anticipated. As it turns out, Mr. Celiker has a high level contact/friend working for the military in Erbil, Kurdistan and wrote me an introduction by email. That might well make the Kurdistan exploration more feasible and having someone to talk to when I get there should make it more interesting.
Believe it or not, this is supposed to be one of those quickie postcards, so I'd better stop driveling. No photos to share so far.
PRESCRIPT: 30 October 2012
Fred L Bellomy