I guess we can call today my first day in Turkey. My flight from Boston landed at 4:25pm and my flight to Johannesburg took off at 12:55am. I consider that 8 hours and 30 mins in a new place! Give or take a few hours for getting a visa, dealing with immigration (twice) and figuring out how to get from the airport to the city (and vice versa).
Turkish Airlines actually has this really cool program where if your layover in Istanbul is longer than 6 hours, they’ll take you on a tour of the city…FOR FREE. Unfortunately, they’re super sneaky about this and basically “offer” it, but ensure that nobody can take it. The tour leaves once a day, at 9am. My flight got in at 4:25pm…so that didn’t do much good for me. Except give me the idea that if I had 8 hours, I could see the city! No matter that it was a Saturday evening.
I went to the Turkish Airlines “Hotel Desk” where I had read this tour leaves from (one of the few things I had Googled in advance) and asked the representative for suggestions of what I should do for 8 hours. He gave me directions to a great restaurant…in the airport. After a little bit of miming and reverting back to my “Africa English” in which I don’t use articles or conjugate verbs, we got to…
“Ah…you want to go to the Grand Bazaar? The Blue Mosque?”
These sounded like places. At this point, I had no idea where the airport was relative to the city (North? South? Close? Far?) and how one got to the city from the airport. He started explaining how to take the metro to get to these touristy sites. I thought I understood, but there were transfers involved and Turkish words really don’t translate too well into my ears, so I pulled out my trusty travel journal and I got:
Airport à Zeytinburnu à Beyazid Sultanajamet [Yeah…I wasn’t going to remember those words…]
I’ve lived in NYC long enough to know that these directions mean nothing. I need TRAIN LINES! I need COLORS! I need DIRECTIONS! So I followed the signs to the metro, found a map and embellished my directions a little bit. I wrote down the name of the airport (could be helpful for getting back..), the names/colors of the lines and the last stop for each line.
|Helpful directions! Note parts in blue were provided to me by the representative. I figured it might also be helpful to know the parts in black.|
At this point, I figured it would also be helpful to have the map in its entirety, so I stepped back and snapped a picture. Always on my phone for reference. This started a bit of a fad amongst all the tourists who were furiously copying down “drawings” of the different lines, and I became popular. This is why I love travelling…I make friends so much more easily than I do at home.
|Istanbul Metro System...how hard can it be?|
(Answer: Not nearly as hard as NYC...)
And then…of course…the ticket machine…I walked over to it, assessed the situation, and figured I’d might as well try. Two girls came running up to me as I walked up to one (guess even after all that googling, I still looked like a tourist…) and asked me if I knew how to use the machine.
“Well I just figured I’d put this 10 dollar note [note: I called Turkish currency “dollars” for this entire day because, although I had bought some at Logan, I did not know the actual name for it] in the machine and see what happens.”
I swear, I could not imagine travelling if I was so risk averse as to not try pressing buttons on a ticket machine at the airport metro. Anyways…one coin and 3 plastic tokens popped out.
I put one of the plastic tokens into the gate and it popped open, and I was on my way to explore Turkey!