Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On the way to Ashgabat, I stopped in Istanbul

Our final night in Tashkent was another wonderful experience. After teaching a workshop, we went to dinner in a yurt! I had lamb kebobs and rice, a big cold beer, and the warmth of new friends. I wished the evening didn't have to end, but that 5:30 pickup at the hotel the next morning weighed on everyone's mind, I think! Of course, once back in my hotel bed, I couldn't sleep and probably only did for about a couple hours.

Still, I was eager to try the tour my new best friend inTashkent told me about: apparently Turkish Airlines offers free city tours to passengers with layovers in Istanbul of more than six hours (me!) I had about thirty minutes to make the noon (and final) tour. So one friend ran ahead and held my spot in the line for visas while I checked where to go to pick up the tour. Then I got my visa in a nanosecond while he held my spot in the passport line. This tag teaming worked, and I arrived at the tour pick up spot at 11:50. The guy there told me the tour was full, but I begged and begged and finally he relented and let me on.

First stop was lunch. Lentil soup, cheese pastry thing, salad, chicken shish kebob with rice, and honey cookies. All FREE! Wake up, American airlines! I have become a total slave to Turkish Airlines after flying them this trip and now this amazing offer to their customers. I kept thinking of those horrible US Air gate and ticket agents when I got stuck in PHL a few weeks ago. Now here I was, getting meals on every flight (even three hour long flights), cozy socks and eye masks, smiling flight attendants, pillows and blankets--in COACH! And then this free tour, with lunch. Everyone needs to fly Turkish Airlines as much as possible!

We passed the old Constantinople wall from the fifth century (I think?), which kind of blew my mind. I saw the Haga Sophia perched on a hill, and many beautiful mosques with minerets. Then the mindblowing fact that I'm driving along in Europe, and looking across the Bosporus at Asia! How cool is that?

We had a nice long tour of the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire's palace (the crystal staircase! Wow!) and I got back to the airport with a big Starbucks latte in hand by 5:45. Oh, Turkish Airlines, I love you.

9PM flight to Ashgabat, which means I have had a nice long hot shower in the great rent by the hour hotel at the Istanbul airport, and am in my nightie charging all my devices--phone, computer, ipod--and catching up in Words With Friends.

We arrive in Turkmenistan at some ungodly hour like 4AM. And our first event is at 9. So a looooong day tomorrow. But how excited am I to see this country??? I heard that Facebook is blocked there, so I won't be able to post pictures until I'm back in Istanbul airport on Sunday, or maybe even not until I get home late that night. But I will try, just in case.