This title almost makes me sound like a foodie. Hungry, turkey, and I could add chilly to the list. It actually snowed in Budapest for about an hour yesterday. It was also nippy at 5:30 am when we got up to get ready to leave; the shuttle was coming for us at 6:30. Going to the airport used to be a rush of excitement, but now it is a drag. Drag you butts there only to wait for two hours before any real action happens. I think this two hour advance check-in was really prompted by the concessions’ lobby. What else do you have to do for those extra two hours, but sit in the restaurant or shop at Duty Free?
We flew Lufthansa from Budapest to Munich, an hour and ten minutes. They had a ‘meal’ service, if this joke could pass for a meal. They served a sandwich or actually a roll with either a slice of cheese or chicken. There was just enough inside to change its classification from a roll to a sandwich, but just barely. Drinks were doled out after the ‘meal’ service was over. For all the skill it took for them to serve the sandwich, you would think the drinks would have come faster, but there were only two flight attendants on the flight. That seemed strange for a full flight.
When we arrived, I had not realized how large Munich airport is. We had a long and healthy walk to our connecting flight and only thirty minutes to do it in. They had our luggage checked through, so we would have heard our names over the loudspeaker if they were thinking of leaving without us. Boarding started thirty minutes late; we cannot condemn German efficiency since it was a Turkish Air flight.
The next flight was over two hours, though I am not really sure how long; I kept falling asleep. Ron was five rows behind me. We did not realize it until we were on the plane that our seats were not together. The guy next to me was chattering with his girlfriend two rows back, so they really shuffled seating. Yes, I could have moved, but I had a window seat and she was in the center, not as conducive to sleeping.
After arriving, we jumped into line for Passport Control. Every flight entering Turkey must come at the same time. The lines were horrendously long and there were a number of agents open. We finally were standing in front of the agent with Euros in hand. He flipped through my passport and then asked if I had a Visa. I said no and was ready to hand him my cash, but the Visa desk is off to the left. We had to go get our Visa and then do this routine all over again. We went to the baggage carousel where the Munich flight was listed. We waited forty-five minutes for our baggage, but it never showed. I went to ask an attendant if this was all of the baggage from Munich, but he asked me which flight. I said Turkish Air, but then found out the Turkish Air baggage comes out on the other side of the airport. When we found the right carousel, our luggage had still not appeared. We waited another twenty minutes before we entered the main lobby and looked for our names amongst the four dozen waiting drivers. We found ours, but he still had to wait for two other people. We lost an hour crossing time zones, lost another waiting for our suitcases, which by the way were carry on size, but were forced to check them, and then another hour waiting for the driver and the bus. The guy with the sign was only the sign holder. The shuttle was stuck in traffic. We also were stuck in traffic leaving the airport, so we did not get to the hotel until about 6 pm. Our first day in Istanbul was shot. The consolation was that we have been here before, so we had our bearings immediately.
We are pleased that the Hotel Petrol is perfectly located. Our room has a magnificent view of the Blue Mosque, but I believe any room here would, there are only 18 in the hotel. In five minutes we can be at either the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia. The tram station is outside our door. If you go out the hotel and within spitting distance, there is the entrance to a hamam. Did I mention it is cold here? No, my fingers were too cold to type it. It is colder here tha n in Budapest, yet it is further south. It started to rain too and if it were three degrees colder, it would have been snow. It is COLD!!! We roamed a bit, went to the ATM, Turkey now has the NEW Lira, which translates to the cutting off of a number of zeros. It also means higher prices. Our hotel is 49 Euros a night with a Purple Roofs discount, but the restaurants are considerably higher than they have been in the past making them closer to western European rates. Add to the mix, the exchange rate for the Euro is not all that wonderful either, going for 1.90 Lira to the Euro.
After wandering and reminiscing, we decided on a restaurant. Each dining option has a good looking man outside trying to convince you their establishment is the best choice. We were going to decide by holding a beauty contest, but one restaurant called out to us, though the barker was no where near close to being a runner up in our pageant. As soon as we were seated, we remembered we had eaten here eight years ago. Funny how certain things stick in your mind, but what we also remembered was what a cheap meal it was then, but now that is just a memory.
Ron asked the hotel clerk if there were any places in the city which we should avoid. His unspoken meaning was that there were some riots here just a few weeks ago. The young man responded with “After midnight everywhere except this square, this is sacred ground”. I can oly hope that the corrupt and thieving atheists in the city respect that sentiment as a good will gesture. On the top floor of the hotel, there is a café where breakfast is served in the morning, but it is open until midnight. We went up there for a late night tea to go along with the pastries we bought on the street at a sweet shop. The view of the Blue Mosque lit at night is stupendous. My camera does not do night shots, not even with a tripod. The only thing I hate about it. Well indoors is not great either even at 800 ASA, but I am not about to cart a tripod along everywhere either.
Though we were being serenaded by someone at the mosque, we hit the hay by 10 pm. We were serenaded again at 11:00 and then midnight.