Sitting on the plane to Belgrade, I catch myself looking down at my visa. Surely that’s not right. Surely…my entrance stamp says the 18th? No today is the 18th. My exit stamp says the 18th. But what…is…that…number? The 13th? No, not possible. How is it that the days just glide by like this?
Ahhh, the 16th. I entered on the 16th. How was it only the 16th?!? I feel like I’ve been here for a week.
Or perhaps it’s just the combined deja vu of this being round 2.
I arrive in Istanbul again after the 10-hour flight from EWR, which always seems to fly by watching back to back movies. I swear I love long flights sometimes because it’s an opportunity for the mind to go quiet. No interuptions. No phone calls. No connections. I’ll be sad the day wifi becomes commonplace and free. The airplane is my sanctuary, and one day it’ll be gone. Perhaps that’s why I’m so addicted to going anywhere, any place. I’ll do anything to force myself to disconnect.
Alongside a couple and a man who is en route to Dubai after a weekend in Istanbul, we quickly gather liras from the Citibank ATM (among many in a row at the airport) and head to the metro. I vaguely remember taking it with An-an almost precisely two years ago and knew that Sultanahmed would bring me to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, and a transfer would take me across the Bosphorus by tram to Beyoglu, from the Galata Tower to Kabatas. I’ve always felt safer on metros. No traffic. No surprises.
Leaning up against the window is also deja vu, and stepping out into the street at Karakoy, the air is crisp, the sky cloudy and the traffic thick. This is how I remember the city, although staying in Sultanahmed last time really helped ramp up the beauty/exotic factor.
We take a cab from Karakoy, where I am to drop off my new friend at his hotel–the Mermera Palace. I cringe visibly. I have yet to have a positive experience with taxis, thinking back to when An-an and I took one from Kabatas to the W hotel and were taken around for 40 minutes and charged nearly $50 only to find the drive should have been about 5 minutes.
When the cab finally pulls up to the Mermera, it is 40 minutes later and we have gone from Karakoy to Taksim three separate times. The driver apparently also pulls the 50/5 switch on my friend [when my friend gave him 50 liras for the 45 lira cab drive, the driver switched the 50 with a 5 and insisted he was not paid]. My friend ends up paying 95 liras when it’s said and done. What can he do? One word against another.