It was still dark when I got in to Istanbul at 5:30 am, so I hung around the bus station for an hour before hiring a taxi to take me to the appartment of some friends I would stay with for a day. After looking at the address, they said the address was in a different neighbourhood than I had thought. They said they'd take me there for 45 lyra, and then they knocked it down to 40 lyra when I hesitated. I accepted, and the driver I bartered with passed me over to another driver (who spoke very little english). So we set off, and as we drive further and further, I start feeling really horrible, thinking this can't be right. The instructions I had been given indicated that the bus station was really close to my friends' appartment. I kept praying that we were headed in the right direction. After 20 minutes of driving, he started stopping and asking locals about the address. No one seemed to recognize it. That wasn't a good sign. Eventually, the driver indicated that I call my friends and since it was only 7 am I was really hoping they were up already. My friend immediately told me that we were indeed in the wrong neighbourhood, and that the neighbourhood we had started in was the correct one. I then passed the phone to the driver, who was very frustrated to be told that he had driven 30 minutes away from the address, and would need to drive 30 minutes back just to get into the right neighbourhood. After ending the call, he complained to me in Turkish, and although I just kept nodding my head, I did understand when he told me (in Turkish) it would have taken only 5 minutes to get to the address from the bus station. As frustrated as he was, he didn't seem to be angry with me, and I think it helps sometimes to look younger than I am, since he may have taken pity on me for that reason. When we finally arrived at the right address, I gave him the 40 lyra, the last of my cash, and felt a little bad that I couldn't give him more since the trip was worth a lot more than what we had agreed upon at the beginning. But then, it wasn't my fault, nor was it my friend's fault; it was the fault of the taxi driver's friend who sent him to the wrong neighbourhood.
I was very thankful to arrive safely at my friends, and I spent an absolutely fantastic 28 hours with them. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving at their house, I had to sleep for a couple of hours thanks to my sleepless night, but the rest of my non-sleeping hours was spent in lovely conversations with them.
On Wednesday morning, my friends gave me directions on how to get to the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, where my hotel for that night was. I had a very early flight (5:55 am, needed to be there for 3:55, so left at 3:30 and up at 3:00) the next morning, so I had decided to stay in a hotel my last night in Turkey and catch a taxi to the airport.
After taking a bus, a ferry, and a tram, and a good 20 minutes of searching on foot, I arrived at my hotel. I had a quick rest before heading out to do last minute shopping. I had left some of my shopping for the end so as not to have to carry it throughout my travels. I left the hotel around 3, and hoped I'd get it done quickly. One shop did very well with me buying some pillow covers and table runners, among other things. Definitely my most exciting purchase was my baglama, an Anatolian/Turkish folk instrument, which I bought at a music store. I also briefly explored the busy Spice Market, avoiding the main bazaar which would have been even busier. I had made some heavy purchases at the first shop so I left the stuff there before I hit the Spice Market and on the way back I returned to the shop to pick up my bag. If I had taken the tram back to my hotel, I likely would have escaped Turkey without buying a rug, carpet or killam. I didn't take the tram, and as a consequence got hooked into entering a carpet shop and purchasing two smaller sized killams. It is a difficult feat to leave Turkey without buying a carpet, partly because the carpet salesmen are so insistent and seem confused if a tourist hasn't bought one.
After my shopping was done, I had a quick supper and wandered around taking pictures of the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome and other buildings around the Sultanahmet. By 11 o'clock, I was all packed up and in bed.
5 hours later I was up. I enjoyed the business class lounge at the airport (though the many juice boxes I took for later in the trip weren't allowed to pass through the gate security) and the short flight to Frankfurt. What was supposed to be 6 hours at Frankfurt unfortunately turned into 8 and a half hours (and would have been plenty of time to leave the airport to go into the city). Flying into Reykjavik, I nearly shed tears seeing Iceland for the first time. The airport felt like I was stepping into someone's home complete with wooden floors and a creaky wood staircase. Needless to say, I already have a desire to return to Iceland; the airport giving enough of a taste to get me hooked it would seem. After 2 hours there, I climbed aboard my third flight of the day to fly into Halifax. 28 hours after I had woken up, I was finally able to go to sleep, back in my own bed.
I'll have at least one more post after this, describing some of my reflections on the trip, so do come back to continue reading! And thanks so much to those who are reading, and have kept me in their thoughts and prayers while I was in Turkey!