Archive for November 25th, 2008

Going to Istanbul

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Our first long-distance trip on a bus in Turkey was remarkably painless, mainly thanks to Mehmet, who was going to Istanbul for a job interview. We were able to tag along with him, which made navigating the ticket purchase, shuttle bus, and transfer very easy. Mobile phones are banned on long-distance busses in Turkey, which made for a quiet and relaxing ride. They use an excuse similar to airplanes – that they interfere with the brake system, which we find amusing. We can’t imagine what the ride would be like with everyone chatting on their mobiles – it seems to be a very common Turkish pastime, so a good thing they aren’t allowed. Because Turkish buses have assigned seating, loading is a much more civilized activity. There is no need to rush to ensure you have a seat next to your partner or friends. If per chance, your assigned seats do not match, you can always ask the bus attendant to re-assign seats, and he will oblige if it is possible.

The bus attendant serving drinks - civilized bus travel.

The bus attendant serving drinks - civilized bus travel.

Once we got to Istanbul, Mehmet got off at the first Asian stop, but we were going to Sultanamet, on the Europe side of Istanbul, across the Bosphorus. We had two choices: stay on the bus until the Europe-side bus terminal (Enesler Otogar) and take the Metro, or get off at Kadikoy on the Asian side and take a shuttle. We opted for the shuttle, but it got us only as far as Taksim. It’s on the correct side of the Bosphorus, but across the Golden Horn from Sultanamet. From Taksim we took a taxi, but the driver apparently didn’t know Sultanamet very well, and we weren’t able to convince him to look at our map, where Scott had clearly indicated the location of our hotel. Finally, after asking for directions twice, we just paid and got off – near the other Mavi Guesthouse which Becky had spotted as we passed. We confirmed our directions there, then walked the last 500m.

We’re staying at the Mavi Onur Guesthouse, which is inexpensive, has a simple ensuite bath, and has both heat/AC and hot water, and we are able to use the kitchen – nice features in this weather. Unfortunately, it has had enough water damage in the past that our room is quite mildewy. The mildew is not ideal for either of us, and it’s also not as clean as we’d like – Becky noticed that there was something in the garbage can, indicating that it was not emptied, and the towels that were hung in the bathroom looked used (there were clean folded towels in the room as well, which are the ones we used). We’ll need to be a bit more careful when inspecting rooms.