Michaela Merz

London was yesterday, today is Istanbul

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For the first and last time I have been to Istanbul almost 30 years ago. Back then during my studies I earned my money as travel guide. The journey to Istanbul was very special. I had a group of about 40 young people and a railway wagon. More precisely a sleeping car. We always travelled during the night, arrived in the morning in a city, visited the city and in the evening our journey continued. Hotel accommodation we only had in Istanbul. We visited Vienna, Athens and my task was always the same. I had to check that our wagon is connected to the correct train and that the people know where they have to be at what time.

We had lots of fun. We partied, drank, discussed and pretty fast the group was weld together. When we arrived in Istanbul I had to check the train times. I was advised to leave the room of the station master that way that I would not turn my back to him. I was astonished how small the station for such a megacity was and what conventions applied. But I did what was expected and all times were confirmed.

On the day of our departure, three hours before the departure of the bus to the station, I was in the hotel settling our invoices. Then the receptionist called me saying that I have a call from the station. I was informed that they had decided to have our wagon depart two hours earlier. How that was possible at such short notice was not clear to me. I tried to convince them not to do this but I did not stand a chance. At a time without mobile phones it was impossible to gather all people. We stayed next to the large bazaar and so I ran there and tried to collect my people. I had almost managed it. But five were missing and I could not leave without them.

When the last person had finally come, I negotiated with the bus driver. He had to go after the train and catch up with it somehow so that we could change to the train. In James Bond style we raced through the Turkish landscape. Sometime during our travel the driver mentioned that he did not have a passport and if we did not manage to catch the train on Turkish territory, he would not be able to help us. By just thinking of that option I got wet hands. What should I do then? I had no idea.

We managed and at the border we changed to our railway wagon.

My today’s journey was much less spectacular. Apart from the one hour long queue at the passport control, the ordered taxi driver who had not appeared and the next taxi driver who capitalized on me being an unknowing tourist, there were no further mishaps on the day of arrival.

Istanbul is lively, multicultural, exciting and very dynamic. One can really feel success and growth. And there is so much to see. But if you have little time, just climb to the Galata tower. The spectacular panorama view over Istanbul is breathtaking.

During the few days in Istanbul I learned a few things. Due to some intense lessons in negotiating when shopping my return journey to the airport by taxi only cost one third of the price I had paid when I arrived. And the 17 minutes drive from the Taksim square to Atatürk airport, during which the taxi driver overtook on the right and on the left and raced at breakneck speed, I would like to see someone else do that.

Take my word for it, Istanbul is exciting. Adventures are guaranteed and have a happy end. Go to Istanbul.

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