Normally the country you are travelling to for your holidays will be at the front of your mind for the week before you go. Instead all we could think about was Iceland. A country in the opposite direction to Turkey. Another unpronounceable volcano had erupted and there was literally a cloud hanging over our heads. An ash cloud. Luckily some south westerly (or was it north easterly) winds came and moved it along. It wasn’t until our plane had lifted off that we would believe it wasn’t going to play havoc with our journey. Speaking of journey’s, who was it that said “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?! As most will admit, the worst part of travelling is the travel itself, which makes the above quote a bit redundant. I hate the journey. The journey is full of people that you have to share more than a few hours with. Ninety percent you wouldn’t spend time with, but because of the journey, you have too.
It all kicked off on the bus first. After myself and Michelle waved goodbye to Carmel, who had kindly escorted her to the bus station, we found our seats on the bus.
There is only one thing worse than getting on a bus where you have no choice but to take the only available seats, its when you can have the pick of seats. This is a very tricky thing to do. Pick the wrong seat and you are doomed beside some person or people. Anyone who gets on after you can choose the sit beside you. People who talk out loud about themselves, ones that chew their lunch with their mouths open, the drunk one, the smelly one, teenagers, the one who tries to find the perfect ring tone and worst of all a young Latin couple. What is it with young Latin couples and buses? What comes over them? They hug, smooch and tickle each other like the bus journey was to be their last chance at romance. Some would say what is wrong with that? Nothing really, but when you have an audience who can look nowhere else its just a bit rude. You look out the window and in the reflection Don Juan’s flowing Latin locks are being caressed by Nadia’s gentle hands while infused with the green fields of the Irish landscape. It ruins the scenery. It
ruins the journey. Only high volume and super boost on your mp3 can cut out the noise of smooching and the smacking of lips off each other.
Airports and aeroplanes bring a new dimension altogether. Queue’s go out the window, not literally though. It’s 50/50. The ones who queue right and the one’s who don’t. When the airhostess calls out seats 20-35 first and everyone gets up and joins the queue. What’s that about? I see it every single time. The airhostess will politely point out to the offending passengers that their seats were not called but eventually gives up as nobody listens. Please tell me, if you have an allocated seat what’s the rush? Then you have the one who’s hell bent on pushing her seat the full way back as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off. I pointed this out that it left me in a rather uncomfortable position to which she didn't even reply too. So here I am, knee’s against my chin and my nose against her headrest. The ideal position for a four hour flight. Meanwhile she has her legs stretched, knee’s up and pressed against the seat in front of her. The
flight served no food, and when we got to the airport they were looking for crazy money for a tea or coffee. As we had landed first in Bodrum at 3am, we took the next flight out at 8:30am to Istanbul. We tried to sleep in the airport but a girl arriving to start the early shift in the café, decided that the sleepy airport needed a bit of life. Queue Turkish MTV or it’s equivalent. I had resigned myself to going without sleep until we got to Istanbul.
A small little round man awaited us in Sabiha Gokcen airport. His taxi was to be the final piece of the journey. A kind man, he had water and juice waiting for us in the car. He pointed out some landmarks and didn’t try to push conversation on us. Maybe he sensed we were on our last legs. We arrived at Marmara Guesthouse in Sultanahmet, a suburb of Istanbul. Unfortunately it was very too early to check in so we dropped our bags and got a recommendation for breakfast. We both had the Turkish breakfast which was made up of olives, cheese’s, bread, eggs and jams. We struck up a
conversation with our waiter. He started with asking where we were from. Ireland we said. Ah, Irlanda he said. We all nodded and agreed. The conversation soon moved to politics and he said he voted for the Kurdish party. He would have voted for the no.1 party but they had enough votes anyway. They didn’t need his. He produced two apple teas for us. A present he said. I could sense the Journey was over and it was now about to become about the destination.
We got back to our guesthouse and our room was ready. We got settled and had a quick snooze. We hadn’t time to waste. We only had three days in Istanbul. Luckily our guesthouse is minutes away from all the attractions. The streets here are narrow and lined with green trees and expensive restaurants. Middle aged men sip tea from small glasses while trying to sell you a piece of magic carpet. Well it must be magic. One guy offered me a carpet. I said I had no house for it. He said “you buy carpet, I give you free house”. I thought to myself it sounded like the terms and conditions the Irish
banks were offering in during boom times. Soon we were at the Blue Mosque. A must on the Istanbul itinerary. Always aware of a countries beliefs, we took time to read the do’s and don’ts at the Mosque. You’d be surprised at how many didn’t. Michelle wore a head scarf and we both took off our shoe’s as we entered. The crowds were huge. It reminded me of the Vatican, with little old ladies willing to stab you in the back just to get a bit further up. That’s where the similarities with the Vatican stop. The Blue Mosque although excellently designed, it doesn’t display all the pomp of the Vatican. There are no riches on display. The walls are designed with mosaic’s but after that it is the carpet underneath your feet that’s the most expensive thing in the building. It’s the architecture of the building that is the draw.
Next we visited Aya Sofya. Originally a church, later turned into a Mosque, it now serves as Istanbul's major tourist attraction. Aya Sofya was completed in 537. It is the interior of this building that is the draw. Once you step inside your jaw drops at the sheer
spectacle of what’s inside. There are mosaic’s everywhere and the ceiling must be 20-30 metres high. Lights only 3 metres above the ground are huge from the high ceilings. There is a stairway which switches back and forth on its self to reach another level. From here the view is even more spectacular. After visiting here we wandered the streets and treated ourselves to a local ice-cream. Dondurma. A chewy ice cream, it seems to have a high resistance to melting and can be stretched.
We wandered again a little more before settling into a café for some lunch. We got a nice sharing plate of starters and treated ourselves to some apple tea which we were already becoming addicted to. It was here I reflected on my earlier comments, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. Of course its all about the journey. Everything that happens is in the journey. This though, is the destination.
In a bit. DH
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