The bus arrives to Istanbul. I almost did not sleep. The trip was under very heavy rain. On the first stop, we were 4 passengers, the bus disappears while we are in the toilet. A little moment of panic before it comes back 5 minutes later.
On the border they ask where I go, if I’ve an hotel reserved in Istanbul. My answers were accepted.
I decide to take an earlier train to Ankara. After some complication buying the metro ticket – luckily, I had some Liras – I arrive to the train station where the train depart. There is nothing in the station. No tickets, no café. I go through the security and ask a young guy for help changing my ticket on the phone. I feel an old person. Fifteen minutes later they open the access to the platform and check the ticket. In my first class seat I try to sleep a bit more.
In Ankara I put the backpack in a locker and go explore the city. First, I walk to the monument dedicated to Atatürk the founder of Turkey. The city is big but there is space and it is easy to walk and get coordinates. The monument is a huge space, protected by armed guards. There are school groups and many Turkish tourists visiting, with Turkish flags and carfs. Exposed are the 3 redone cars that Atatürk used. There is his tomb and a museum. And a view over the gigantic Turkey capital.
I go further to the other side of the town. I find the bazaar, still with streets having each its speciality – men clothes, women clothes, big appliances, small appliances, heaters, pans, silver…
I found an hammam. I do not remember well anymore the ritual when I’ve been in Istanbul years back. There are two prices for tourists: entry + scrub + foam massage for 280 Liras and with oil-massage add on for 300 Liras more – about 10 €. I only have left money for the small program. They point to what I’ve to go and do. First sauna to sweat. The other client leaves the hammam soon after I get in. The hammam is all for myself, but I’ve no one to copy. I do some steam bath and then comes the masseur that points me where to lay down for the exfoliation. Turn, seat, shower, then back for the foam massage. He creates foam by dipping a pillow cover in soapy water, some air inside and then removing the air over me, creating huge amount of foam. The massage is short but hard. I do some more sauna and steam before going to rest in my cabin. I give 30 Liras tip to the masseur, for a work priced at 80. His face seems that is less than what tourist give, but I find it is quite good percentage of the price.
I look for a bank to get money without extra fee and a döner to eat. I feel I’m tight in time and decide to take the döner as take away, but I would like to seat in the restaurant in the middle of the market. I end up start eating in a park and finishing in the train station. My train is ready for boarding.
Two retired Turks (55 and 57 years old) from Istanbul that go spent 3 days in Kars and a 31 year-old young from Wales – Tom – that visits Istanbul and Georgia. With Google Translate I speak a bit with the Turks and much more with Tom, I miss speaking with anyone. We go all for tea in the wagon-restaurant. There are other tourists speaking English in the train.
One of my Turks cabinmate gets out the electrical extension and multiple sockets from the bag. The other gets a Bluetooth speaker and puts music. I take from my bag a Toblerone chocolate and offer. Two times he asks me if I don’t want to go to bed, I look tired.
I return to the restaurant to write and a woman – Maria – from London asks about my trip. She is doing the Silk Road and is about 65 or 70 years old. It will be a nice trip. When I return to the cabin, they prepared their beds and are lay down. I do my bed, brush the teeth and follow them.
Next stop: Turkey (part II)