As soon as the passenger next to me on our flight from Dubai to Istanbul popped open his big bottle of whisky he had just bought in duty-free, I knew the trip would be interesting and unpredictable. Johanna and I had bought a small bottle of wine from the flight attendant to celebrate the beginning of our adventure. Our new friend in 10C suggested we join him in drinking whisky. “I already have wine,” I explained, “but thank you!”
“No, really, have some, it’s okay – just add it to your glass,” he insisted. Before we could protest, my friend and I found ourselves drinking red wine mixed with whisky. An interesting concoction, but not really one I’m dying to try again – ha! After straight whisky following the wine/whisky mix, we had to decline the third offer, but still shared pictures of children and grandchildren. We offered him some nuts Johanna had brought along. He liked them so much he ate the whole bag! He munched on them while loudly chatting with friends or family who were a few rows in front of us. What a character.
With warm and rosy cheeks, we gathered our bags and grabbed a taxi. This was hands down the craziest taxi ride I have ever taken. Yes, even crazier than any Dubai taxi ride and for those who live in Dubai – you know that says a lot. In hindsight, the blue neon strip light shining through the back window and blaring Turkish techno music should have been clues that something was awry. How to explain this trip? Mario Andretti comes to mind. Yes, driving with Mario Andretti for a solid hour through congested traffic. It’s funny now, but it was terrifying at the time. Convinced an accident was imminent, I thought of my children and how selfish I was to take this trip. I asked him to slow down twice, but that didn’t stop him from swerving, tailgating, cutting across four lanes of traffic to catch an exit at the last-minute, and driving 160 km/hr (that’s 100 mph – no exaggeration!), all while calmly pointing out landmarks along the way instead of looking at the road. It went on for so long I started wondering if we were part of a Turkish practical joke show.
Luckily we arrived safely. We asked him why he was driving so fast, and he said he used to be an ambulance driver. Huh? I’m not sure if he was joking or not, but one perk was that we arrived at the hotel relatively quickly given the traffic and how far it was from the airport. The man who checked us in saw that I was from Texas on my passport and said he had an internship there for a bit and talked about how much he loved Austin. Such a coincidence! This was just the beginning of a really fun and funny weekend. More pictures of Istanbul follow. This is my last post of 2014. Happy New Year everyone!
Views from Topkapi Palace:
Pics of and from Galata Bridge: