Nieuws - 17 januari 2012

14 hours in Istanbul

Finally, I took a long-haul flight back to Holland from China last Monday, but I had to stay in Istanbul for more than 14 hours for the transfer. Shuttling through the relics of Constantinople reign, losing myself in the Grand Bazaar labyrinth, marveling at the greatest Byzantine mosques...I missed all these breathtaking scenes because of the powerless Chinese passport. How did I kill time then? Here we go.

Turkish delight
The aircraft landed on Istanbul quite early. I exhausted all the ways to get a transit visa, but all my efforts were to no avail; whoever I asked, from the passport control police to officers of Deportee Department, gave me the same answer: 'impossible'.

There is no free drinkable water at that airport. (Finally I found a stingier country than Holland!) Occasionally in a corner I discovered a water dispenser next to a police office. Thanks to my accosting gift, I won the favor of the security men on duty and the permission to take the water for free. What was the magic I did? Just a simple word 'teşekkür', Turkish 'dank je wel'.

'Misfortune never comes alone': when sitting down at Starbucks, I found my socket converter was left in the checked baggage and my laptop battery was running out. Luckily a Singaporean showed up in time and lend me one, therefore I could finish watching the latest episode of Sherlock.

I started window shopping. The most famous specialty in Turkey is called lokum. At the airport you can eat it for free as much as you want. After trying more than ten flavors of the lokum, I felt so satiated that I skipped lunch and saved money, which made me think it lived up to its nickname, Turkish delight.

I went back to Starbucks and bumped into two Dutch. We began to shoot the breeze until an Indian called Kiran joined our chat. Together with Kiran, the conversation became serious and soon after the Dutch left for boarding (or boredom?). What can an Indian and a Chinese talk about? Nothing better than Russel Peters.

An Indian kid and his mother came over and joined our talk. I got the 'breaking news' from the kid that the transit passenger staying for more than 10 hours could obtain a stay in a hotel room and two meals for free. 'Why hadn't the Turkish Airlines informed me about it earlier?' At first I was a bit angry, but soon cheered myself up again: 'I would not have met these nice people if I spent my time in the hotel.' I said goodbye to the Indian friends and had a decent dinner at the cafeteria.

As the plane took off at 19:30, I finished my 14-hour airport journey in Istanbul. Wherever I am, I will find my way to have a great time.

Vid of the Week: Istanbul won the title of European Capital of Culture in 2010