Day 60 - Saturday, July 23, 2011 - Bucharest to Istanbul by overnight train
I had paid for a private sleeper. It had tripple bunk beds (2 were made up). When we arrived at the Turkish border crossing I waited in my cabin for the Passport/Customs people to come on board and check my passport, etc. like they had done at all the other borders. There was a knock on my door. It was the conductor. He told me I had to get off and go to Passport Control. It was 4 AM. I went out and got in line with about 50 other kids all in there 20s. I was the only "senior citizen". It was quite windy and bitterly cold standing out on the platform waiting to go into the Passport Control office. I was freezing!!! I had to go back and get a jacket. After standing in line for what seemed like an eternity I handed over my passport only to be told I needed a Visa!!! I had to go to the far end of the terminal to the Visa office which I had trouble finding. There was a very little sign hidden behind a pillar. I paid 45 E for 3 Visa stamps (like letter stamps). I returned to the Passport guy and he stamped my passport. I got back on the train in a hurry and waited some more. About 1/2 an hour later the Passport/Customs officers came on board and checked our luggage and passports. My ticket said that we would be arriving in Istanbul at 8:55 AM. At 8:30 I started getting ready. Eventually we arrived in Istanbul at 11:00 - 2 hours late. I was surprised to see that it was a much smaller and quieter station than Bucharest which was a good thing from my point of view. I got my bike and bags off the train with some help from the conductor. It was quite hot. I took my sleeves and leg warmers off and loaded my panniers on my bike in a shaded area. I went over to talk to the Alaska guys. They were still assembling their bikes in the hot sun. They were staying at a Pension 5-6 kms from the station and offered to take me there. I said I couldn't ride my bike because of the rear wheel rim being cracked. We said goodbye, etc. I found what I thought was an ATM, stuck my debit card in the slot and nothing happened. It turned out to be a ticket machine. DUH! I found an ATM and was able to get 200 Turkish Lira. As I was leaving the station I saw an Information Office. I went over but it was difficult getting over the curbs and around parked cars. It was closed. Gone to lunch. Back at 12:45. I spotted a Burger King across the street so went over and had some lunch while waiting for the I.O. to re-open. There were a couple people ahead of me when I returned. A very pretty, yound blond, in a full black leather motorcycling outfit ahead of me asked about hotels. She was told there were many hotels to choose from behind the train station and along some street which I didn't quite catch the name of. She was also told that the I.O. was not in the business of recommending hotels or keeping a list as there were to many of them. My questions had been answered. I went off to look for a hotel. Geez it was bloody hot and crowded. Thousands of "tourists". I found the hotels behind the train station. There were dozens to choose from including a Best Western. I asked about a single room for 2 nights but they only had a room for Saturday at 90 E. I checked several other hotels but they were fully booked. At the last hotel I checked the desk clerk said he knew of a hotel not far off that had rooms available. I asked if he could call and reserve a room for me which he did. He then had one of the staff take me there. It was a nice hotel at 45 E/night for a single room with b'fast, A/C and Wi-Fi. I checked in for 2 nights. After removing my panniers, a young lad took it downstairs to secure it. I took the elevator up to the 1st floor with my bags. Decided to have a shower before lying down for a nap. The water pressure started off OK but by the time I had gotten all lathered up with soap it was down to a mere trickle. Reminded me of a trip to Pakistan a long time ago but that's another story. I got up at 6:30 and went out to a pharmacy to get something to relieve my constipation. I was told to see a doctor about my bladder infection. I also bought some water and some fruit and went back to my room. I took 1 of the constipation tablets and about an hour later was able to get some relief. I took another tablet before going to bed at 8:00 PM. I managed to get some rest.
This blog was posted at the Hotel Fahri in Istanbul on Sunday, July 24, 2011