Part I (as in Day One)
December 30, 2006
Woke up at 12.30 am feeling quite groggy after only 2 hours of sleep. The clothes I was going to wear were prepared, but my baggage was…pretty much inexistent. Good reason to suddenly feel awake! An hour later it was all ready. It looked like a lot to carry downstairs. But I managed to drag it all in reasonable time. I then went to put on gas in my car. For some reason, I could not fill it :D Yup, too little sleep.
At 2 am I was at Ana and Vali’s place. They were not there, but a pack of crazy dogs that had just remember wolves are their relatives were barking around my car. However, we managed to load everything in the Mushroom (read my car here) and hit the road (of course, after properly filling the car with OMV gas).
An hour later we were at the customs. We passed to Bulgaria facing no real issues. Except for the difficulty we had in finding the right entrance in the Romanian customs. Other than that, no major problems. Well, maybe, the 2 euros tax we had to pay to be disinfected by the Bulgarians. What did the disinfection mean? Driving through water and mud for three meters of course.
Immediately after crossing, drivers switched. Meaning Vali drove through Bulgaria! It was still dark when we started crossing! And we took the wrong way twice :D No, we had a map, we did ask for directions, but you see, Bulgarians have no intuition in what unknowing creatures’ needs might be. So you find revealing signs only after you have struggled and found the way on your own….
When the light was enough to see…It started getting depressing. Houses looking either unfinished, either deserted, really bad roads (the European roads I mean), few people, even in midday…It all made us have a better view on our own country. Yes, at times, it can get so much worse.
The main amusement was this little police “office” we found deserted on our way. It made our day, to be honest! It looked so…modern!
When we got to the Turkish boarder, we could feel the enthusiasm filling every cell of our body. Ana and I mostly, while Vali was looking down on us, with an understanding, parent-like look. The real party started when we actually managed to find a Turkish radio station. Turkish music baby!
Little did we know that it will take us three hours to get pass the Turkish customs. Don’t ask me why, I did not find their controlling the bags that accurate! With little patience left, we passed and entered the highway to Istanbul. 230 kilometers remaining! On the highway (speed limit 120), well less than 2 hours!
About a hundred kilometers to Istanbul, Little Mushroom starting to give us signs it needed more gas. I drove slower, hoping we will make it there. At a certain point, 50 kilometers from our destination, we stopped at a gas station. My car needs 98 gas, they only had 95. So we thought we should take our chances and try to make it to Istanbul. There must be gas stations at the city entrance!
Well, what entrance? There are only highway exits to different neighborhoods of Istanbul! And we had no idea which exactly was the one we should head to! So the inevitable, the thing I swore will never happen to me, happened. We ran out of gas…On the highway, near the top of a hill, under a bridge, at night! I was going crazy at the time, of course!
Vali went to get some gas, while Ana and I remained in the car. Two police cars drove by. None of them stopped to help or ask what was wrong…But Vali the All Mighty managed to convince the guys from the gas station (no one knows exactly in which language) to give him gas in two bottles. So, we went on to fulfill our quest: finding the Grand Anka hotel.
We exited the highway and stopped near a shop selling cell phones. I went in and asked for directions. No one understood, so I showed them the location on the map. They tried to explain, I did not get it. So one of the guys got into the car and went with us, first to the nearest gas station, and then back to the right highway, showing us which way to go. Our destination: Aksaray.
In Aksaray, we stopped again. Asked for directions to some cops. They tried to help in a weird combination of Turkish and English. We were close. Next, I got out to ask to a couple where the hotel was. The guy wanted to take me there personally. But when he saw I was with the car, he just told me: go back, take the second street left. We tried. However, the tram was passing on that street. There were no left turns :)
When we managed to turn left we were too far away. I tried asking a cab driver for direction, he could not understand. A man then asked where I was from. I said Romania. “Ce faci” he asked. That is “how are you” in Romanian! So people, remember, Romanian will help you more than English when in Istanbul. His friends were coming to pick him up, so the drove in front of and helped us complete our task. And there it was! The Grand Anka hotel!!!
We took our rooms (I had a double room to enjoy all by myself) then quickly changed and went for a walk. The first car reseller that we found? Dacia-Renault, of course! Welcome to Istanbul, Romanian Friends! :)
Stay tuned, more to come!
And in the end, the closest mosque to our hotel, Murat Pasa Camii (Murat Pasa Mosque).
Tags: Tourism, Travel Destinations, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Istanbul