We left the security of the cheapo (and nice) motorway hotel behind with a view to finding a campsite on the outskirts of Istanbul. The Turkey guidebook which we did not have said that the campsites were not worthwhile due to the distance to the city and the availability of cheap pensions in the city for only a few quid more. Not that it mattered though because I had managed to leave the incorrect gps co-ordinates on my satnav which slowly took us to a campsite in the city which had either closed long ago or, never in fact, existed.
As soon as we left the motorway the already poor driving standards deteriorated instantly into pure mayhem. The indescribable cacophony of horns and soot were a sight to behold. The impossible thing to understand is that most Turks are the friendliest most patient people when you meet them. Yet as soon as they are behind the wheel the entire picture changes. The driving is impatient and dangerous at best, if there is a gap at all then a car is instantly wedged into it. Lanes are created out of thin air. Motorcyclists wear no helmets. It was even worse than the driving we had seen in Serbia although we would not have believed that possible at the time.
So pity then the poor fools who are lost in the middle of this with only a google map on a phone with no street-names or campsite POI‘s, on two bikes with no intercoms trying to negotiate a city of some 20 million inhabitants, all of whom seem to be in a big hurry someplace. Hesitance at traffic lights of more than 10ms is met with much beeping of horns. Back home drivers not seeing motorcycles is an occasional occurrence. Out here it seems to be the law.
Coupled to all this Helen was not feeling well. Something she had eaten disagreed with her and her strength was fading fast. In a bout of desperation we stopped at the first hotel available. Unfortunately this turned out to be the Ibis at 90 eur per night. We had no choice but to take it. So we spent the night in a posh hotel but were somehow unable to enjoy it.
Having travelled for a while my thoughts on these “nice“ hotels seemed to have evolved a little. Everything has been created to portray a certain type of image. An image that sells and at a very nice price thank you. it was like an oasis removed from the city around it but felt somehow contrived. It reflected in the type of people staying there, fooling themselves they were well travelled on business or holiday when we were all missing out on the ‘real‘ Istanbul. “can I get the pesto sauce you use in a jar?“ (and then tell all my friends about it back home).
so I was relived when we left. We hammered google into submission on the hotel business centER pc‘s and managed to find out most of the cheap accommodation was in Sultanhamet, a little over 10 mins away. when we got there we felt like complete amateurs because we could have made it there ok and there must have been about 10 pensions there all competing heavily in the slight off-season and we landed a 4 bed dorm with just us in it for 20eur a night.
You really do need the info at times like that, but we discovered a guidebook that someone had left on the trading shelf and it helped us a lot. I’ve since got the electronic versions of Iran and Pakistan which we left behind due to space issues which display on the phone so we should be good now hopefully. Pity we learned the hard way though I am sure there are still a few tricks to come.
Pensions for those who don‘t know are a fantastic thing in Turkey. They are basically like a B&B though are fairly inexpensive and plentiful. Mostly based in peoples houses they seem to be quite regulated by the authorities and work quite well.