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Around some of the world in 180 days

Istanbul - Day 1

TURKEY | Tuesday, 10 July 2012 | Views [1151]

Today, I'm flying from Krakow to Istabul via Warsaw. I'd failed to heed the warnings about trains getting cancelled or delayed without warning and took the last possible train to the airport. The train is delayed by 30 minutes and as I sit there waiting for the train to get going, I realised I hadn't check-in yet. Something which I usually do on-line a day or 2 beforehand. At the airport, I literally check-in on the cut-off, pass security, walk to the departure lounge and straight to the queue to board the plane. Phew.

From Istanbul airport, I just take the metro with one change of metro line to the Sultanahmet area. This has got to be the most touristy area I've been to. Tourists are everywhere. Shops catering to tourists are everywhere. Sales guys trying to entice tourists to buy their stuff are everywhere. More importantly, most of the things I planned to see in Istanbul are here. My hotel, Deniz House is in the southern area of Sultanahment and wasn't too hard to find. When I get there, they tell me that water damage meant that my room was not available and they wanted to move me to another hotel 10 minutes walk away, which I agree to on the understanding that I'd move out if not satisfied. And I was not satisfied when I got there. This is what I had to walk past to get to my hotel. Disgusting, and in the morning, the bin was overflowing with rubbish:

The room also faces a railway track and the regular trains I could both hear and feel. Then to really top things off, the internet stopped working and there was no phone in the room to call the hotel. The cynic in me thinks the hotel was overbooked and they tried to shove me into a cheaper hotel.

It's about 1900 now and there's enough time to scout out the Sultanahmet area in readiness for the next few days. I've only been in Turkey 3 hours and I've already encountered 3 kinds of hospitality. There's the ordinary Turks indoctrinated to help tourists. There's the business Turks, mainly shop keepers and restuarant staff who are eager for your business. Then there's Nikos from Cyprus. A fellow traveller who wants me to take some picture of him with the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque. Such is his gratitude, he invites me to a tavern for a drink. No thanks, I don't drink. I can always drink juice he tells me, I'm not thirsty. He persists and tells me, I can find out about Turkish culture. No thanks, I don't like the smoke filled rooms. And his final attempt, there're girls there. OK! My answer is too awkward to put down and he accepts that I'm not going. Maybe I'm being too cynical, but Nikos is most likely a a scammer who invites unsuspecting tourist to expensive bars charging extortionate rates.

The day does end on a high note when I find plenty of restaurants serving plenty of vegetarian options. I got a vegetable stew, very nice:

Tags: istanbul, scams, turkey

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