Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Greece and Turkey: Day 1

When we last left this travel story, I was in Greece and getting ready to board a night train to Istanbul. Our last day in Thessaloniki, we split up and Kent went to the Allied Cemetery and I climbed a steep hill trying to find (and eventually succeeding) a monastery. We met for lunch and then split again to pursue separate exploring. He tried to get to the Military History museum and I spent most of my time on the internet. He missed his window, unfortunately. We went for a drink--beer for him, fancy coffee shake for me--and tried to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean at one of the many harbor-side cafes in town. It was lovely, but just as the sun approached the sea, it was hidden behind a think bank of clouds. Sigh.

We walked back to our hotel and picked up the luggage. We walked the ten minutes or so to the train station, stopping for a bite to eat along the way.

It was my first ride in a real sleeper car. Well, that's not exactly true. When I was in college, I went on an eight-week tour of Europe that included two weeks in the USSR (that was). On that trip, we took two overnight train rides in six (or was it four?) berth sleepers. Even back then in my late teens I don't recall getting much sleep, possibly due to being on an upper bunk and the worry of rolling out.

On this train, we had a two-berth compartment all to ourselves, complete with a sink and non-functional mini-fridge. This time, I got the lower, but I still didn't sleep well. It didn't help that we were awoken at 2am for passport control (Greece) then at 3am (Turkey) and around 3:30am I had to get off the train and pay 15 euros for my Turkish visa. I knew this would happen--I didn't know that Kent, being from New Zealand, would be exempt. I don't begrudge him that since he woke up too, but he did get to stay tucked in to his berth. Oh well.

This meant that when we arrived in Istanbul around 7am, I was exhausted and grumpy (my normal morning state for most of the trip). I was a bit frustrated when I realized that Kent had the name of the hostel where his friend, Tom, was staying but no address other than the general neighborhood, "It's near the Blue Mosque." We got a free tourist map at the station and some directions to the hostel area and started walking. I tried hard to hide my annoyance but I didn't succeed. Luckily, Kent stayed calm and I was able to relax eventually. Getting coffee helped.

We decided to stop coffee on the way since there was no need to rush. The first two places we checked looked open but were closed. Confusing. Finally, we stopped at a very touristy place with some men drinking beer on the patio. At least we were sure it was open.

We took some outdoor seats as well and ordered coffee. That helped.

We continued walking in the general direction of the hostel neighborhood (and it turned out to be the area where almost all of the hostels, of every imaginable level of quality, were located). We passed a stand selling tourist-type goods: carpets, pottery, little glass beads to ward off the evil eye and a young man asked where we were from and where we were going. Kent stopped and talked to him. The man asked if we had a reservation and then Kent asked him where the hostel was…and the fellow gave us directions. I have to say that even though the selling in Istanbul was very aggressive people were also very helpful and friendly.

The directions were good and we found the place easily. Tom, however, was no where to be seen. We checked into a dorm, put our stuff down and hopped on the computer for a few minutes. Still feeling sick and tired, I lay down for about half an hour. Kent came to get me when he was ready to go exploring and we had lunch then took a walk all around the area. Kent took plenty of pics of the buildings and I took pictures of cats.

When we got back to the hostel we asked about Tom again and learned that he was probably still asleep. Somebody mentioned that Tom might be down the street at nearby bar--so we walked over, had some soup and a beer and waited. About an hour later, Tom showed up.

Now, Kent hadn't exactly explained to Tom who I was or that we'd met before. I met the two fellows in Warsaw--something like two months ago now. When Kent introduced us Tom gave me a look and said, "Don't I…didn't we meet?"

I said, "Yes." A few moments passed.

Tom said, "Warsaw?"


I knew he'd remember me when he saw me. I always thought it was odd that Kent hadn't been a little more forthcoming. Tom and I proceeded to give him plenty of crap about it over the next few days.

I could not match the pace of these two fellows when it came to the beers but Kent actually got a lot drunker than Tom even though he didn't drink more. He blamed me--and his lack of heavy drinking over the past many weeks. I didn't feel too bad for him. He felt pretty bad the next day, though. It was no surprise at all that these two spent their first evening together drinking…it was a relief to finally catch up with Tom. The only problem was that he was ready to get the hell out of Turkey but Kent and I were determined to do some sightseeing--and we did.

Grateful for
: old friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments will be rejected. You don't have to use your real name, just A name. No URL is required; enter your name and leave the 'url' line blank. Thank you.