Arriving at Istanbul airport I am thrown into a melting pot of cultures and races. There’s Africans, Arabs, Turks, Russians, Dutch, Americans and Australians all crushed into a single immigration line. Women with impossibly blond hair wear short shorts and singlet tops. Older olive skinned women with big soft bodies wear the coloured dresses and hats I have seen worn in photos of Turkish villagers. There’s a mix of Islamic attire ranging from pretty head scarfs to full black burkas with nothing but narrow eye slits. The range of men’s attire is just as diverse. Younger tourists from Australia and America wear t-shirts and shorts. Asian men from Japan, Korea and China wear slacks with brand name polo shirts. The Dutch men wear button up blouses. While many Arabs wear traditional loose trousers and long dress-like over shirts in white and beige. The way everyone deals with the long queue is interesting too. Westerners and the north-east Asians seem resigned to waiting in an orderly line. Some of the others try to sneak past less observant travelers or prod those who fail to fill the space before them quickly enough as though somehow leaving a gap of 2-3 paces will somehow make the wait take longer. Welcome to the place where Asia, African, the Middle East and the West collide.
My Turkish Airlines flight from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul was comfortable and quick. I was back in economy class where I felt right at home. The flight attendants were pleasant, the leg room better than many airlines and the food quite delicious. I liked that the airline used a four-trolley food system, rather than starting at the front and making those of us in the back rows wait hungrily for an age. Instead, they ran a trolley from the front and one from the back, meeting in the middle.
I make it through customs without any questions; just a stamp in my passport given that I have a valid eVisa. A short walk along an indoor bridge takes me from the international to domestic terminal where I buy a hot chocolate and bakery item in a cafe to use their wifi. The first thing I notice is that service is king here. I am offered a seat, there are power points where I can charge my devices and table service comes standard even in a small airport cafe. You even pay at the end of your stay, rather than as you order. The four hour transit passes quickly and I am soon on a bus to one of the off-bay planes lined up on the tarmac of this small airport that looks like it receives more incoming passengers than the number for which it was designed. Again the Turkish Airlines flight is comfortable and the service efficient.
I spend most of the trip looking out the window to get my first areal impression of the country in which I will spend the next month. It looks dry down there with interesting topography. Low mountains cut across the landscape, separating the various deep blue waterways that make up this western part of Turkey. I see some village dotted around but it’s not the neat farming villages I saw when flying over Hungary a few short months ago. Rather, it’s more like Australia with roads leading all over the place and villages dotted in random-looking locations. It looks at once exotic and a little overwhelming to think we will be hiking in this dry landscape.
It’s late in the afternoon when I arrive in Bodrum. Dad is waiting at the airport to greet me. He’s been here for three days already checking out the logistics of our upcoming sailing trip. We walk to the small international terminal where Mum will be arriving in an hour. She’s been in Holland visiting family for a week and is probably looking forward to the warm Turkish sunshine. You cannot go into the new international airport in Bodrum to wait for guests. But there is a small cafe outside that offers the usual selection of beverages and snacks so Dad and I wait there. We catch up on our respective adventures the past week and compare notes on our immigration experiences at Istanbul airport.
Mum arrives and we take a taxi to the hotel. I am pretty wrecked from the long journey to get here so don’t take much in. It’s 4pm so we arrange to meet at 7:30pm for dinner. I shower, wash my clothes and fall into a deep sleep. Even my alarm doesn’t wake me but Dad’s knock on my door does. I am dazed and confused as I wake and walk in a haze into Bodrum with my parents to have a meal. We eat overlooking the marina with its many masts and pretty sailing ships.. The food is yummy but we get fleeced by the restaurateur (do not eat at Marina Restaurant and Cafe in Bodrum), souring the experience a little. But that happens when you travel and are too tired to make good decisions in a tourist area.
I’m excited to be here but could definitely use a good night sleep before I get a feel for the country. Fortunately, it’s night time so I can let my body get the sleep it craves without worrying too much about affecting my adjustment to the time difference.