Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Turkey: Days 7 & 8

We arrived at the Istanbul bus station about an hour before schedule, at 6am. After checking on the bus schedules for Sofia (to make sure the guys could get there easily to catch their flight to London), we took a long, crowed tram ride back to the hostel.

Even though, the bus ride was easy, I was still beat. The bulk of the day was spent resting. In the evening, Kent, Tom and I had dinner together. We carried on drinking for a little while, though I stopped after my second beer. I went back to the hostel a little earlier than the guys…but it wasn't a very restful night. I was leaving the next day for Paris and I was sad that our trip was at its end. Even though I knew I'd see Kent again--at least one more time--it really hit me that this was the end of a great adventure. (And that I'd miss him--a lot.)

The next day, we started slowly, but I insisted that we get some sightseeing in before I took off for the airport. Kent half offered to accompany me there but we agreed it was too much (and would have actually interfered with his timing for catching the bus).

We spent a few hours walking around the Grand Bazaar, eating lunch, drinking coffee and going over the last week's events. I haven't mentioned this, but Kent is something of a diarist. He makes an entry for each day, though not necessarily every day--meaning he often plays catch up and makes several entries at once. Sometimes, I'd go over events with him, helping him remember what we'd done or seen on a particular day. His diary is more a record of what happened each day, in contrast to the writing I do, which, while it is also reportorial at times, is more likely to delve into my feelings about what I did or who I encountered. Still, I admired his consistency and I wished I had a little more of that ethic about my own writing. On this day, though, Kent helped me make a few notes about what we'd done each day in Turkey since I hadn't written anything since we left Greece.

After walking around, we went back to the hostel. I was packed and we just hung around a little with Tom up on the top floor, drinking coffee and chatting. Kent worked on his diary and I read a little. Eventually, I had to go catch the tram to the airport (as is my wont, I'd opted for public transportation over a shuttle). Kent carried my bag to the tram stop (the first time I'd let him!) and he waited with me until the next one arrived.

(Aside re: trams. The trams are unlike any I've seen elsewhere. They operated on a "closed" system. That is, in order to get to the slightly elevated platform where you catch the tram, you have to go through a gate that requires a token. You don't pay on the tram.)

Kent waited with me outside the gate and we said our goodbyes. When the tram came, I quickly got through the turnstile and squeezed on--Kent watched and he waved goodbye. I waved too.

The trip to the airport was uneventful, though I was a little worried at the transfer stop. I had to get onto the one subway line, which involved walking a little over a block away--but there were no signs directing me for most of the walk. Still, I knew it had to be near, I'd asked and in the tram the stop was marked as a transfer point. I did ask myself why I had to do it the hard way and why couldn't I just spend four euros on the shuttle? But, I found the subway soon enough and even though the ride was long, it let me out at the airport--no more transferring or shuttling involved.

Security was interesting. The first check point was before I entered the terminal. I'd brought a small paring knife on the trip and they dinged me for having it. I promised to check my bag and they let me through (and I got to keep the knife).

Once I checked in and checked my bag, I still had some time to kill. I spent it mostly spending my last 20 lire--on food.

Going through passport control I was asked if I were going to keep traveling or stay in Paris. I was also asked if I'd been traveling alone. Odd. On the Paris side, no questions were asked.

The trip was fine and full meal service was provided. I even took advantage of the free alcohol and had some wine with dinner.

Getting back to Paris meant another long journey on public transportation--the suburban train (RER) to the Metro and then a ten-minute walk home. But I made it, no problem, and was here, safe and sound by midnight.

Grateful for: home base.

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