Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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To Istanbul Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, 06 January 2010 9:05pm

It turns out that it works like this: at 2:30am, the train stops and a Greek immigration officer knocks on everyone's door and calls out "Passports!" and then walks through the train again, collecting them (after everyone's had a chance to scramble out of bed and locate their passports). He disappears with them for a while and then returns them, with barely visible stamps.

The train continues for a little while, then stops again. A Turkish immigration officer knocks on everyone's door and collects passports (not many people went back to sleep, so it doesn't take two passes). He disappears with the passports and then comes back and rounds up all of the people who need visas (on my train it was just me and another American), and leads them off the train. I wasn't sure if my baggage was needed, so I took it with me. It wasn't. At the station, you exchange $20 for a sticker visa and a stamp.

After that, you get back on the train, wait a few minutes for a customs guy to come by and ask you to open a bag that he won't really look at and then your passport is returned and you go back to sleep.

I need to remember the sequence for entering a new country:

  1. Visit ATM to get local cash
  2. Buy something at a snack stand to break a bill
  3. Get cab to hotel
Because when you skip the middle step, you're vulnerable to the "oh, sorry, I have no change" scam from the taxi driver. Even when it only costs me 2 extra lira ($1.33), it's annoying.

I arrived at the hotel at about 9:30am, and my room wasn't ready yet, so I dropped off my luggage, had an unremarkable breakfast, and went to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (some really great inlay pieces) and took some pictures of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.

In the afternoon, I had a doner kebap, took the tram across the Golden Horn to Taksim Square, and walked back along a major pedestrian street. I stopped to pick up some lokum (Turkish delight), have an iskendur kebap, gawk at some $600 glassware at the Paşabahçe store, drink a fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, and climb the Galata tower before catching a tram back across. I had dinner in a restaurant with live music, where half of the tables were occupied with backgammon games and apple water pipes.

All in all, a successful day.