Orient Express

Trip Start Jun 02, 2008
Trip End Jun 09, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Monday, October 6, 2008

Having awakened early on our overnight train, I quietly slip out our sleeper and peer at the landscape of this new country. At first glance, it's Canada. Seagulls pick through harvested corn fields. Sheep and Holstein cattle graze in fields bordered by pine trees. Further in the distance, though, a tall minaret pierces the sky like a sabre, the sun glinting off the dome of its mosque. Ah yes, this is Turkey and we're on our way to Istanbul.

As the sun's glare brings me fully out of my slumber, I recall our (very) early morning border crossing during which we thought our passports were going to be set on fire....

We are startled from sleep by a knock on our door. It's the Immigration officer and he's asking for our passports. We hand them over and he piles them on the stack of two dozen others that he's holding. He collects them from a few more of our car-mates, then dashes out the car and into the night.

Outside, between us and what appears to be the Immigration office, sits a steel drum holding the remains of a fire. On his way to the office, the officer notices the smoking fire. He stops, packs all our passports into one, strained hand and with the other picks up a stick and stirs the fire.

We watch from the window of the train, our mouths agape, stunned into silence, as the officer continues for minutes to stir the now blazing barrel with our travel documents in his overstretched grasp.

Finally he puts the stick down and marches into the Immigration office, returning in good time with our whole, room temperature passports. Phew!
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