After a bit of a flight delay leaving the Netherlands, getting visas at the airport in Turkey (which interestingly, similar to Tanzania, wouldn’t take their own currency) and what felt like a very long time waiting for our luggage, we finally arrived last night in Istanbul. I knew it was a huge city, but nothing prepared me for what we saw once we left the airport.
Skyscrapers abound – with the old and new side by side. Tons of new construction. For miles and miles. I had no idea it was so huge. So we did some googling as we drove – and we drove for a long time because traffic here… in a word – horrendous. It turns out there are 14 million people living here in Istanbul. It is actually the largest city in Europe! So that post I wrote about Tiers of travel and how you should get off the beaten path – apparently Istanbul is the #4 tourist destination in the world. I guess we aren’t as much off the beaten path as I thought we would be. We’ll save that part for Cappadocia later this week.
Anyways, I had a blazing headache before we even left Amsterdam and so by the time we landed, I was already feeling pretty nauseated. We landed on the Asian side of Istanbul so the distance to the hotel was another 30 minutes (plus traffic) than if we’d flown into the European side. Add in the extra long car ride due to the traffic and let’s just say I had Liam’s puke bag out for myself – just in case. Thankfully I didn’t end up using it, but it was a close call. I was incredibly relieved to finally make it here to the hotel – though by now it was close to 11PM.
As it was dark and I felt like crap, I didn’t take any pictures along the way to the hotel, but I was constantly in awe about the massiveness of it all here. But clearly the city has grown and the infrastructure is a bit behind the curve – the driver of our car told us traffic is a major problem here. And given that it was a Saturday night and not weekday rush hour traffic that we sat in, it’s clear that it is. I can’t even imagine what rush hour looks like here!
What was most interesting and saddening on our journey, however, was that as we sat in near stand still traffic, there were people standing along the highway – on both sides of the lanes, many with children. It took me a little bit before I realized it and then asked the driver – “are these refugees from Syria?” And they were. He said that, too, is also a problem here. As he didn’t speak much English, I didn’t ask him to elaborate though I would have liked to have known more – especially about how Turkey is helping them while at the same time, trying to protect their own borders which have been at arms with ISIS.
We didn’t see nearly as many migrants as I would have expected given the proximity of Syria to Turkey, but that does not mean they aren’t there. And it’s one thing to read about it or see it on the news but another to see these poor families with nothing. Most definitely, it is humbling to realize that most of these people have given up everything with the hopes that they will find better opportunities elsewhere and that to have nothing is better than living in a war torn country.
I will admit, Syria and ISIS have been a bit of a concern for me as this trip approached, especially given what happened last week in Ankara. Even Josh seemed a little anxious after last week. But now that we are here (and as it’s now technically the next day and my nausea is gone!), I’m so excited for this trip. We were out and about today for the entire day (a separate post to come on that) and so far we have felt very safe. We’re looking forward to some fun adventures over this next week including our first hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia (fingers crossed the weather holds out!)!
Knuffels en kussen,