Thursday, December 20, 2012

The long journey to Turkey - Part 1

I have been quiet for some days now due to a tiresome journey to Turkey that took much longer than usual and left me more jet-lagged and exhausted that ever before.  Along with a day at the hospital yesterday.  There is a lot to tell…I'll post the full story in several posts - please stay tuned!

It all began with a good deal I just could not pass up…

Earlier this fall I got an email from Turkish airlines advertising a good ticket price, $690 for a flight from New York to Istanbul.  I jumped at the deal and booked a ticket for Monday, leaving some time for getting to New York from my home in the Midwest after I finished my finals on Thursday.  I spoke with a friend that lives in Manhattan, NY and we decided to make a weekend out of it - I would stay with her and her husband and we could spend some time together before I flew out to Istanbul on Monday.  So after a crazy busy week and an incredibly exhausting day on Friday…at 4:30AM on Saturday, I awoke to the sound of rain splattering the window and the worry that my travel plans might be a little complicated.  I threw on some comfy clothes, dragged my way-too-heavy bags to the car and got on the road to the airport.  As I drove, I thought how fitting that it should rain on the day I have to travel - it hadn't rained much for months as my part of the country had been in a major drought since early summer.  It seemed like bad luck for it to be raining on a travel day, but then again, the rain was much  needed, so I took it as a good omen. 

My flights to New York were on schedule without any problems.  At the airport I grabbed my bag without an issue and caught the M-60 bus into the Upper West Side.  It was sunny in New York that Saturday afternoon and we had a great night of food, wine and conversation at a Greek restaurant.  We made big plans to hit up all the outdoor Christmas markets in the city on Sunday.  The sound of rain in the morning was again an indicator that things may not go as planned.    It seems I had brought the rain with me from the Midwest.  The wet day dampened some of our plans, but we managed to visit the Christmas market in Bryant Park for an hour or so.  In fact, I was surprised to find a Grand Bazaar store and a stall selling Gozleme and Turkish tea and coffee - Turkish culture is alive and well in New York it seems!

The Grand Bazaar New York stall at the Bryant Park Christmas Market
(Photo by Turklish)

 Despite the rain, I still had a good time in the city with my friends.  Since my bag was already at its weight limit, I limited my shopping to only a few small gift items that could still be squeezed into my overflowing luggage.  For the first time in a while I stayed away from my laptop for several days (even though I was still connected through email on my phone) and it felt nice to leave it tucked away and turned off.

On Monday I made my way to the airport on the other side of New York in a still dreary landscape.  No snow, just yucky, drizzly rain that didn't seem to do much to cleanse the city streets and sidewalks but instead left a sickening stench in the air that I was happy to escape from.

A Turkish food vendor in the New York (JFK) airport near my departure terminal. I had a nice cheese gozleme to hold me over until my flight left.
(Photo by Turklish)
I arrived early morning to a dark Istanbul, but once the sun came up it was a beautiful day.  As my 8-hr flight from the US to Turkey left at 1pm - I never felt tired enough to sleep on the flight.  Instead, I watched 3 and half movies and tried out the free games on the console.  Though when I arrived in Istanbul, just about at my proper bedtime, I felt the exhaustion kick in.  I waited two hours for my bag to come so that I could go through "customs" (which is really a joke because nothing is checked and not even one tiny piece of paper is required).  I finally asked around with my meager Turkish and found that they had put my bag somewhere else, as it was marked to be transferred to my next flight.  (Yet, everyone told me again and again I still needed to pick it up in Istanbul.)  Annoyed, but relieved - I picked up my bag and re-checked it in the domestic terminal.

Finally, exhausted, I crashed in the waiting area outside security.  Kicking myself for forgetting my Turkish Lira at home and not wanting to wander around and find an ATM to get some cash, I stumbled over to a store to buy a coke and some crackers to head off my caffeine headache before it caused my head to implode. 

I collapsed again on a chair in the waiting area, using my backpack and coat for a pillow, and fell into a troublesome half-sleep where I could hear everything around me, but felt unable to open my eyes or move.  Finally, I jerked fully awake and I decided to make my way through security and continue my half-sleep at my gate.  Yet, after moving I was unable to rest again.  I sat alert waiting for my flight to board, the boarding time passed, then the scheduled flight time passed and still no flight.  First it was delayed 30 min and then 1 hour due to weather conditions in Kahramanmaras, where we would be landing.  Unfortunately, just as the weather followed me from the Midwest to New York, unknowingly it had also followed me to Turkey.

Eventually the time came and we all crowded on the plane.  I found my seat, strapped myself in, and fell into a real sleep this time,  where I occasionally awoke with a start as my head lolled forward too far or my feet jerked (as they often do) filing me with a sensation that I was falling out of my chair.  I occasionally heard the dull, scratchy hum of the pilot's voice in the background - "landing would be difficult", I thought I heard … and I fell asleep again.

To be continued...


  1. Wishing you safe travels! The weather here in Turkey has been awful...well I'll say I'm tired of the snow already. Hope you enjoy your trip at least!

  2. Hi Joy! Thanks for the well wishes. The weather is pretty bad - much worse in Istanbul now from what I hear on the news. I guess I was lucky that I got here when I did and not a couple days later. I hope you stay safe and warm and have happy holidays!


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