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Published: March 12th 2013
Day 29 - Saturday 11th March
Hurray a non-travel day. First stop as usual is Poste Restante - a letter for me but seven for Heather - I guess that I must write more letters myself ! We went into a museum and then to the Basillica Cistern which was beautifully decorated. A group of Turkish girls befriended us and asked for us to join in their photographs. There were going to a discotheque tonight but alas it would be too expensive.
We walked through the park to view the Bosphorus and here started a disasterous few hours. One of the pleasures of travelling is meeting new people but one of the dilemmas is the desire to be friendly whilst maintaining a level of distrust because every now and again there are fraudsters - how to find the dividing line : the happy median. Whilst in the park enjoying the views we were joined by a friendly Turkish man who worked for the Turkish Student Union. He was very well travelled in Turkey and seemed to know the cost of fares for the various alternative routes - all very useful and detailed information, which is often difficult to find. He explained that it was necessary to buy Turkish student cards to obtain the student discount fares but alas the office was closed at the weekend. However our Turkish friend as a jolly nice bloke and an employee could obtain the cards today and I collected our three UK student cards and followed him to the student office - allowing Mike and Heather to continue sightseeing. When we arrived at the office, it was based in an office block and of course, I was not allowed inside and so he needed the cards, new photographs and the payment (not enough to worry though) - now I have a little suspicion in my mind but at the same time felt guilty for not being trusting when someone was going out of their way to help us ! I needed to get the student cards etc out of my bag and somehow he managed to steal half of my travellers cheques - I still do not know how but who else understands the art of the pickpocket. Our student union friend entered the building and that as they say was that ! After a long wait, I was shocked to find that my travellers cheques were missing and realsied that the friend was in fact a fraudster ! I returned to find Michael and Heather and expected a real roasting but fortunately they were quite understanding and supportive. We returned to the YMCA to seek some advice from Coco - our Armenian friend.
The American Express office was closed until Monday - so nothing could be achieved on that front. Coco drove us to the Police station (because Amex rules seemed to suggest that they would not reimburse the cheques without an official police report made within 24 hours - how embarrassing this is going to be !). The local police station was very dank and threatening and like the movies, there was a stove in the middle of the main room. I explained my story with Coco translating to three policemen including a quite aggressive leader. I signed my official statement and was sent to the main police station in Istanbul to view some photographs. The station was old, dismal and very uninviting and we understood it was also the site of a prison - fortunately the policemen here were reasonably friendly. Alas I did not recognise the man from any of the photographs ( he sort of reminded me of an actor in the Maltese Falcon) and all of us were relieved to leave the building. Thanks Coco for looking after me as it would have been very difficult without your support and translation.
It was time to recover one's poise. We found a nice restaurant and enjoyed kebabs and of course some cakes - a bit extravagant but hey if I cannot recover my lost money, I will have to give up my journey. When we returned to the YMCA, Coco entertained us with some tricks including one where I managed to get black over my face - caught out again ! There was some good news as Coco could get us some tickets for the Red Cross culture event due tomorrow night - Heather and myself were keen to attend for 10 TL each.
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