Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Istanbul 07072008

July 7 2008
Istanbul, Turkey

It’s shortly after 21:30 local time; I am now resting after 48hours with almost no sleep. I arrived in Istanbul shortly after 17:00 at Ataturk International Airport on the west side of the city. After purchasing my Visa I decided to skip taking a cab to the city, and try to figure out my way around via public transportation. A subway runs out of the airport, and with 1 transfer leads directly to Sultanahmet, which is “Old Istanbul”, center of all the land marks, and a god chunk of hotels. Seemed like a logical destination to shoot for to simply grab a few sights and relax before exploring the city the following day.
The subway ride to the transfer point at Zeytinburmu was an ease, and cheap $1 US per direction, however once I arrived I found two options for transfers, I had no idea which I needed, and the limited English of the police officer at the station was of little help, but slightly more helpful than my failed attempts at broken Turkish. I ended up hoping the next train to arrive, just going on luck. About 15 min into the ride, a boy about 10 years old named Ahmed came over and practiced some English with me, asking where I was from and where I was going. Luckily, about 10min into this conversation he realized I was heading in the wrong direction. At the station another passenger had flagged down the police officer on duty, and told him of my situation, the officer quickly rounded up someone who was headed near my destination to act as a guide.
The guide, a twenty something man, was surprisingly excited about helping me out, despite the fact he spoke no English and I only had a cheat sheet of Turkish words to communicate with. He rode with me to the transfer point, got me on the correct train, even somehow talked the attendant into letting me on with no charge. During the 50min ride to Sultanahmet (his destination as well) I was able to carry on some basic conversation, covering hometowns, occupations, etc. I somehow figured out how to say I was flying to Diyarbakir in a few days, which he responded to by miming the firing of a rifle, then pointing to Ankara on my map as an alternate destination.
After splitting ways near the final stop, I began my search for a hotel. I didn’t so much as get 5 feet from the train before I was approached by an employee of “My Fair hotel – Guest House” offering to show me a clean cheap room near by. This seemed very questionable to me, but figured I'd check it out since it was a block or so away, part ways if a robbery seemed in line. The building looked legit without question, not some sort of tourist robbery trap, so I went in for a look. The price was dirt-cheap, on par with the lowest of the low in the area, the room was secure, clean, but a bit rough, no worse than any apartment I’ve ever had. The room mysteriously had 3 beds, for just me, a tv (although broken), and a basic shower and toilet. The deal was sealed with the offer of breakfast, a tour of the area, and a complimentary hour or two at a near by Internet café.
After dropping my bags, I went and quickly shot a few frames before loosing light, and grabbed a bite to eat. A suitable, relaxing, touristy start to this journey, tomorrow I hope to bust out of the tourist center of Istanbul and find some more unique scenes before flying to Diyarbakir.

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