A Turkish Journey remembered from an armchair
First impressions are not always lasting ones, thank goodness. Reaching the head of a queue at Ataturk airport in Istanbul expecting to pay the US$20 tourist visa fee only to find it is now inexplicably US$60 and the clerk is uncommunicative and uninterested is not likely to do much for inner peace. So after a frantic dive into the secret cash stash next to my body we proceed to the passport control counter where our passports are tossed contemptuously back to us by another clerk whose upper lip curls into a slight sneer and whose eyes remain averted. Maybe Turkish government employees are not paid very well, or maybe they don’t experience a sense of vocation in their work? I thought momentarily about thanking him with a dollop of sarcasm but decided not to push things. Not a good start, but thankfully it all gets better.
We walk out of the arrivals building feeling definitely like prey, facing outwards, assessing all approaching threats, and keeping our hands firmly on our luggage. We walk toward what seems to be the head of the taxi queue and show a driver our written destination address. He nods and helps us load our luggage. We flop into the back of his taxi and breath out. We have heard stories about unscrupulous taxi operators but so far so good. He speaks no English but I am pleased and surprised that his German is as good as mine (not all that good) and we talk about Istanbul and the traffic on the way to the hotel in Sultanahmet.
As we approach our hotel (The Arcadia) the streets become very narrow and twisty. They are not always wide enough for cars and pedestrians let alone cars in opposing directions but it doesn’t seem to faze him and he uses the horn assertively as he bullies his way along. I don’t know how he knows where he is going but I guess he has been here before once or twice.
This is a wonderful place. We are looking forward to exploring it but we think we might need a ball of string to get back to our hotel. However the biggest delight is yet to come.
Opening the fifth floor hotel room window we encounter possibly the most impressive window view ever. The Blue Mosque fills our view in perfect breathtaking proportions.