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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 41.0245, 28.9881
Update: Monday 25th July: 1402 Local.
Location: Balcony of Hotel Sultiana Istanbul.
Its been a whirlwind 36 hours! We were picked up at 0730hrs yesterday in Bishkek by the ever faithful Altimbeck our tour leader and guide for the last 2 weeks. He and his team have been exceptional and without their skills and knowledge this adventure would not have been possible.
We bade our farewells and were soon boarding the 1024hr Turkish Airlines (5hr 45m) flight to Istanbul routing due West over Uzbekestan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and finally for the last 2 hours over the Black Sea before descending down into the now familiar Istanbul Ataturk Airport.
We were early.......landing just after 1300hrs Local and planning our afternoon's itinerary in this fascinating City........WRONG!..........we suddenly hit the rear end of a Passport queue from hell! I have had bad experiences at LA over the years where we have been "BALLED OUT" by US Customs officials......"STAND IN LINE.......THS IS YOUR LAST WARNING!"..............then in the background a lone US traveller pipes up........."WELCOME TO LA FOLKS!!!
However they pale into insignificance when compared to yesterday's debacle.......2 hours to clear customs!......... Shuffling along at about 1 foot every minute as we snake back and forth around at least 10
channels full or sweaty foreigners (and I mean foreign)...... argumentative.....pushy.......aggressive......all desperate to get out of this hell hole! Women jostling past with baby's...........I have baby! I must go first! The baby in fact turns out to be a group of four 10 year olds, mother and husband.......people claiming all sort of spurious excuses to be allowed to jostle ahead. Things were getting heated.......at one point a fight nearly broke out........no police or officials anywhere in sight except 4 lone Customs Officials to deal with about 2000 people!
At just after 1600hrs (we landed at 1304) we staggered feint and bleeding through the East entrance of the Airport........pock marked with bullet holes and devoid of a ceiling.......the very place where some 3 weeks ago there had been of a bloody terrorist massacre!!
Was a stop over in Istanbul sensible? We were whisked through The City and things looked reassuringly normal.......sure there were armed police in evidence and huge red Turkish Flags are flying from every building as mark of solidarity.
Our Hotel is like the inside of a Turkish Delight Box.....ornate ....kitsch....... OTT and really really welcome after spending the majority of the last 2 weeks living in very basic accommodation. There is
even a large gold framed mirrow above our bed.........what more can you ask for.......I caught sight of my sock clad feet at one point........a real turn on!
We crash out........finish the last dregs of Vodka and reflect on our experiences over a plate of "TURKISH MEZE" in the roof top restaurant which over looks the Blue Mosque and Bosphorous. Slowly but surely the sun is setting in the West to close the day casting a golden hue over the Minarets and bazaars. Birds circle high a over us before finding their roost for the night.
Today we have managed a decent 1/2 day walk avoiding the major tourist areas......so much so we ended up in the hardware bazar where there was a great range if power tools and lawn mowers......we also stumble upon the "red light zone" by complete fluke where craggy blonde women hang out of upper floor windows touting for business.
It has been a tiring and fascinating journey...........some 3,000km overland from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to Bishkek in Kurgyzstan . We have seen wonderful scenery, experienced the isolation of rural life and have had the privilege of being extended the warmth and hospitality from a people who seemed genuinely pleased to
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