Arrival: Slept for 1.5 hours on plane – missed meals – never happens – woke up with a jerk to random songs on my iPod.
Landed. Airport lacks ATMs. Does not exchange Egyptian Pounds.
Head to baggage claim – where is Susannah’s checked back – or anyone’s for that matter? It is now almost 7 AM. Going on 25 hours of no sleep (took out one hour for my nap). We ask the Turkish Air staff, they tell us to wait. Belt isn’t moving. No luggage at all. No one is even there waiting. We check other belts, screens for announcements, nada. Finally, after cudgeling and nagging, someone turns the belt on and out comes her bag.
7:30/8:30 AM – Decide to take the subway-metro interchangeable hybrid. Of course, we have no small change to buy tickets, so a cute (philosophical-looking) Turk pays for us with his card. We thank him, relieved, and board. We have to switch trains and discover then that we have to pay to get through the turnstyle again. Shannon breaks a twenty and gets two tokens that look like red checkers. We cross through to the platform, but our train is on the other side. We have to go through a turnstyle AGAIN. However, we spot some rogue Turks casually strolling across the tracks and decide to imitate them. Never has the phrase “when in Rome” resonated so accurately. We board the train. Fifteen stops and another change later, we find ourselves in Sultanahmet, trying to navigate a map to walk to our hostel.
9:00 AM – We’ve been journeying/roaming for an hour. We’ve asked more than six Turks for directions. Our luggage is obnoxiously loud on the cobblestones. We are hungry.
9:30 AM – We find it! Still in surprisingly good spirits somehow, we sit on the little beds and go upstairs for an amazing, warm breakfast cooked by an adorable, smiling Turkish woman. We eat and eat and eat.
10:45 AM – We’re about to venture out to the Bazaar. It’s now going on 29 hours of no sleep. My eyes are burning. But it’s supposed to rain all week and no one wants to haggle int he rain, so…that solves that. Maybe it’s time for another cup of coffee.
11:00 – 12:45/1:00 PM – The Bazaar was overwhelming – lots of goods, lamps, scarves. We tried a bit of haggling, but decided to shop around.
By one, we found ourselves in a little cafe, struggling to stay awake. We cabbed it home, napped intermittently, and awoke around four or five to shower. Shannon and I got dinner at a place near the hostel – we tried Raki, a liquor similar to Ouzo, a mysterious, licorice-flavored drink that burns your mouth and turns cloudy when mixed with water. I had some Turkish beer and we each had phenomenal lamb casserole that reminded me of the locro and cazuelasI had at Cumana in Buenos Aires. The dish was hot and tasty. Exhausted, we headed home via cobblestone streets, wet with rain glimmering with the color of the mosaic lamp “shades” covering the streetlamps. So far, Istanbul reminds me of Croatia – cool, damp, but lovely at night. Now, FINALLY, for some sleep! 36 hours of wakefulness is miserable.