Sorry, but it’s another one of those ‘getting lost’ stories. This time it was the bus driver and a taxi driver who got lost, with me at their mercy.
But, first, let me tell you about the awesome Bosphorus Cruise and tour from a boat sailing the Bosphorus Sea and the Golden Horn and a portion of the Black Sea.
While on the tour we crossed over from the European side to Asia. We observed the walls of Constantinople and other architecture and high end homes close to the water.
“Now we are in Asia,” he told us at the moment we crossed from one continent to the next.
The expert English guide told us fish from the Black Sea is the best for the cold water that makes the fish fat and very tasty.
Every time we had to meet back with the guide, he’d holler, “My group. My group.” Some of us nicknamed him My Group.
I sat near the back of the bus where there were several Arabic people entertaining themselves, joking and singing.
From the boat we also saw the Blue Mosque and the six towering minarets and the Hagia Sophia, all that I had seen inside on another tour weeks ago.
We disembarked to head off to three places, one to a leather factory, and one to the 14th century Grand Bazaar and the last to the inside and outside view of the tours’ highlight: the Dolmabahce Palace.
Inside the bazaar, our guide took us to a spice kiosks, where we were served hot pomegranate juice and a sample of Turkey Delight candy. We were given a pep talk about the spices and the fact that Martha Stewart was there and purchased some spices. I found them in very small jars and very expensive. But, hey, if you’re Martha Stewart, it would be a kitchen staple for her, I assume.
We toured a leather factory where we got another sales pitch and a fashion show. We were herded up to the showroom where we were met by many salesmen. The salesman that hit me up made me feel the soft sheepskin jacket. I loved it, but do not appreciate taking a tour when one third of the time is spent on trying to sell the touring people goods. Not nice. Of course I looked and admired and then walked back down stairs and waited for lunch.
Our group went inside Dolmabahce Palace, where photos were prohibited. It was once the home of the Ottoman Sultans. The building features the world’s largest breth taking Bohemian crystal chandelier. It was a gift from Queen Victoria and has 750 lamps, weighs 4.5 tons. There are other chandeliers in several rooms that also impressed me. Each room had a standard look: a chandelier from the ceiling over a large table with a large vase on top and in the center of the table.
The building has 285 rooms, 46 halls, six baths and 68 toilets. The carpets were made in the famous Hereke Imperial Factory in the city of that name. Antique and historical paintings adorned all the walls.
I was especially interested in a hallway that had a decorative fancy cut out piece that was placed over a window and above the massive hall below. This was where the harem or many wives of the Sultan could peak at the business going on in the hall. Otherwise, women were uninformed.
Now, the getting lost story: I was picked up at 8 a.m. and finally made it back to the hotel around 8:30 p.m. when the tour was over at 5 p.m.
After the tour, and a ride in several buses and a change in personnel, I was told to get in one bus that would take all of us to our various hotels.
Turkey traffic is a monster on the loose. It was a hectic ride, stopping once for an ambulance picking someone up, and then when a car parked partially on the sidewalk and partially on the street blocked us from getting through.
The driver and the guide tried to find out who the guilty driver was, but after several minutes, he backed out and was on another route. The streets are narrow. The first guide told us the narrowness was from the chariots that rode in the streets. They never would have guessed way back then that automobiles would be operated by many of the 15 million people living together in Istanbul.
The driver negotiated everyone to their hotels, and I was last. He even dropped off the guide who told me not to worry that the driver new exactly where the Fatih Hotel was located.
He finally stopped the bus, got off and stopped traffic until I could disembark from the bus, cross the street and follow his directions to the Fatih Hotel.
I walked through a neighborhood that didn’t look at all familiar from the two days I’ve been in the hotel, but I kept walking. Finally I asked at another hotel for the directions and that gentleman told me a different way. I tried to tell him that the neighborhood looked different.
“I’m telling you madam that is the way to the Fatih Hotel”
“Okay, jerk” I said under my breath, and began the way he told me to go. By now it was dark and raining buckets.
I saw a man closing up a shop and I asked him if he knew where the Fatih Hotel was located and he was so kind. “I’ll walk there with you.” He took me to the Fatih Hotel all right, but not the right one.
Inside we talked with the reception manager. I handed him the address of the hotel I knew to be the Fatih hotel. He called the number and spoke to the reception man at my hotel, and told them he would make certain I’d get a taxi and arrive there soon.
About 45 minutes later an energetic man came in and told me he had a taxi waiting for me. “He’s a friend of mine.” The manager assured me.
He nearly ran down the rain-slicked side walk and several steps to a waiting taxi. He kept saying to me, “Come on. Come on. Come on.”
I did my best and arrived to the taxi and a taxi driver. I thought the come-on man would be the driver. He whispered something to the driver and we were off.
I felt confident, as the driver negotiated the back streets like an expert and knowledgeable of the area. And we arrived at the Fatih Hotel….the wrong one.
So now I’ve learned there are not only two Fatih Hotels but three of them.
The good driver had to stop and ask where the one with the address I gave him was located.
We eventually got there. I paid him a hefty price and hope the touring company will reimburse me. After all, wouldn’t you think that the same company who picked you up would know where to drop you off?
I sent them an email, and we’ll see where that takes me. Meanwhile, I woke up with a cold.