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Published: March 12th 2013
Day 28 - Friday 10th March
The choice for breakfast included eggs, which made a nice change. We had decided to fly to Istanbul and so the first task of the day was to head into the centre and buy the tickets - £6.60 with Turkish Airlines and due to leave at 1.30pm. Unfortunately there was not enough time to do anymore serious sightseeing. We were given a pretty thorough search by staff at the airport and then we told that the flight would be late due to adverse weather conditions in Istanbul. Now if you have never flown before, this is a very strange experience - the extreme acceleration, take off and then nearly always the plane turns on its side and heads off in a different direction - mentally you are wondering how much is normal and are trying to control the panic. The mental anguish is quickly overcome as you watch the beautiful scenery below - the city of Athens and then the mountains and coastline. Luckily we had nice views before reaching the thick clouds from the adverse weather systems around Istanbul. Then stage two - the plane bounces all over the place as it hits an air pocket and then the pilot reduces speed as we approach landing. Luckily it was a smooth landing and some of my fellow passengers applauded the landing - clearly I was not alone in my relief !
There was no hassle at the airport and we caught the bus into Istanbul. We walked through the Blue Mosque area in search of the Youth Hostel - however it was too shabby looking to consider staying there for a few days. Next stop was the Hotel Gorgon but alas this was full. The hotel staff recommended the YMCA and this was excellent - 12TL (£1=36TL) clean, hot water, a small cafeteria and friendly staff.
Once we had settled in, we walked to the Post Office but Poste Restante was already closed. We walked down to the waterside and to the Galata Bridge. Everywhere was bustling with activity. Staff were outside most of the shops and restaurants trying to entice us inside. We carried on walking for quite a while before retracing our steps albeit we seemed to be lost and in a very dark and grubby area. However no drama as we eventually found the main streets again and went into a restaurant - very nice meatballs served with rice. (It is interesting as you move east, the amount of meat declines and percentage of rice increases). The final stop of the day was the Pudding shop for some cake. The Pudding shop was one of the addresses which we had been given in London - it was a place for collecting information on the so-called Hippy Trail to India and it was very useful. We had a chat with an english guy who was en-route to Afghanistan but then he intended to turn back. And yes the puddings were awesome.
The cafeteria was still open at the YMCA and was being run by a very friendly Armenian man, who showed us a few tricks and gave us information on sightseeing options for tomorrow. Would you believe it but at the YMCA you not only had clean sheets and a clean bathroom but the staff made the beds - luxury indeed !
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