4 countries in 24 hours

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
1
25
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Trip End Jul 27, 2011


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Where I stayed
Second Home Hostel Istanbul
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Turkey  ,
Monday, November 29, 2010

With our one unplanned night in Wadi Musa / Petra, we now need to get across multiple countries in less than 24 hours to Istanbul. We make it from Petra to Amman without many issues in just over two hours, despite the lack of working GPS. Not so much luck once we arrive in Amman though: It takes us another 2+ hours to find our way to Anael's. By this time, we barely have enough time to pack up, drop the car back at Sixt, get to the bus terminal and on our way to Beirut via Syria to catch our Istanbul flight. Due to my honed complaining and negotiating skills, we get more than half of the money back from the rental agency :) 

We arrive at the Amman bus station just on time to find out that the schedules posted online are not in winter time and our bus had left an hour earlier. This is a bus that only goes once a day. Our flight is at 6.30am the next morning. What now? In a combined charming/bitching effort, Manu and I talk the bus company man into organizing a shared taxi for us, which ends up costing the same amount as the bus. A few minutes later than planned, we are out of breath from the adventures and on our way. 

Sadly, that also means that we don't have any time left to see Amman. Nevertheless, I am in awe at how much we managed to cover in the few days and what an amazing time we had despite everything that went wrong. 
 
The trip through Syria is swift, but the border stops before and after every crossing take forever. This time we notice the difference between Jordanian and Syrian officers even more. In Jordan, they are relaxed and chatty. In Syria all business, serious, not even a twitch of the mouth to indicate friendliness or humour, they are taking several minutes to just look at every one of our passport pages. It feels like they are trying really hard to find something wrong with us and our papers. When asked if we have another passport, we know they are looking for an Israeli stamp. The latter would not allow us to enter Syria (or Lebanon for that matter).

Finally, around midnight, we arrive in Beirut and make our way to another Couchsurfing friend, Joe, who already has another German couchsurfer at his place. By the time we shower and re-pack, we have 1.5 hours left to sleep. Instead of our alarm clock, Joe wakes us saying the cab driver is around the corner. Gotta love it when you can't rely on alarm clocks. What would we do without our CS friends :) With no time to even brush our teeth, we are rushing to the airport.

And finally, in the early morning hours, we arrive in ISTANBUL, sleep deprived, foggy headed and annoyed. When all previous commuting challenges seemed fun rather than a nuisance, we have now reached the end of our patience. For the first time, I am severely bothered and not accepting of the fact that people speak no language other than Turkish. Not even the airport staff. Even the tourist information's English is sparse. Generally, I consider this part of the journey challenge and adventure. Right now, with no more than 2 hours of sleep every few hours that we could fit in naps, I am not pleasant to be dealt with. 

On the bus ride into Istanbul, from the Asian side to the European one, I barely look up, because I am trying to catch up on journaling. But when I do, I see pastel-coloured, very square houses with pretty mosques and minarets in between. Then glassy shiny sky scrapers mixed with ugly concrete buildings, decorated with ads from chains like H&M and such. I think the coffee from the airport is kicking in. I don't feel quite as groggy anymore, for now. Istanbul appears to be openings its arms to us.

A few thoughts from this humongous, impressive metropolis:
- Our hostel has the best shower I've enjoyed in the past 2 and a half months. Spread across 5 floors with no elevator, we also catch up on overdue workouts ;) (Hello Jen!)
- Manu is limping less and less every day. Phew. But we don't want to be bored, so she chips a tooth that she has fixed for a ridiculously low amount of Euros.
- Even though Turkey is less hassly than we expected, our cranky mood makes for unpleasant vendor targets. You don't want to be messing with us. We do not appreciate being spoken to for no reason, being "Psssst-ed" at or bothered with the standard "Yes please" greeting that seems so utterly random. And we make no secret out of our feelings whenever someone dares to.
- We get our fill of mosques and palaces. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand and Spice Bazaars, Golden Horn across the bridge from Sultanahmed where we are staying. Istanbul is impressive! Certainly even more so if you didn't already spent a few weeks checking out Muslim cultures elsewhere :)
- I spend a fun night out with Sirin and Ceren, the two couch surfer gals I met in Rome. I only got a little taste of it, but I think Istanbul has a nightlife that could possibly rival Beirut's. I can hear the groans and scream of several people objecting that right now. No final verdict has been made, since I did not go out enough there to make a fair call ;)
- I book an overnight bus tour to Kappadokia, one of the top destinations on my to do list for Planet Earth.

Bizi izlemeye devam edin (or something like that).

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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