Spellbound

OK, come on – you can do it.  Just one more bus trip.  One more city.

Please don’t get me wrong – I have enjoyed this journey so much and been to places I knew nothing about and got an absolute kick out of them.  It’s just all the long days on buses to only spend a night in each place that is getting to me now.  As you would know, I am the kind of person who likes to make the most of out of each place.  I am always rushing to fit one last thing in my itinerary.  But I can feel I am running out of steam and I am kind of glad to know I only have one more night to go before I fly home.

We arrive by taxi to the bus station in Plovdiv for our trip into our last country – Turkey.  We are heading to Istanbul to end our tour.

All I know about Istanbul is that the Canadian band The Tea Party filmed the music video to their song “The Grand Bazaar” there (cue clip…)

I was meant to have two nights here, but a travel agent stuff up means that I’m flying out tomorrow afternoon.  But as I just said, I’m not sad.

It’s a non-eventful journey and we seem to get through customs with no problem (with the exception of there being no one in the booth to process us when we arrive – he nonchalantly wanders out of a building some distance away in no hurry at all and oblivious to the fact he’s keeping two bus loads of people waiting) but there’s still a significant ride until we arrive in Istanbul.

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There is a queue of trucks miles long waiting to get into Turkey – it’s quite an incredible site.  A little digging tells me that these queues are not a one off hing.  Back in March the queue approached 11km long and was blamed on the slow speed of processing entry because many workers were on holidays.  It seems this couldn’t have been the reason, because here we are in September with massive queues once more.  Others believe its because the new centre is too small to cope with the amount of trucks.

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Hours later as we start to arrive into the outskirts of Istanbul, I feel a buzz.  An array of dazzling lights on the horizon leads us to magnificent tower after tower of shopping centre and apartment buildings.  It’s not just that thought.  The closer we get to the centre of the city, the more electric I feel.  In fact I feel like a kid at Christmas – I just don’t know where to look first.  It has the feel of an exciting city for some reason.

We alight our bus at the station and trade the safety of the large bus for the horror of driving at street level in a taxi.  The city has obviously spiked my drink because despite the dangerous weaving in an out of traffic, I feel exhilerated by the ride.  Amanada and Susan are in my taxi along with Marco.  Amanda, who doesn’t trave long distances by road very well unless she’s ‘drugged up’ is losing it too.  We are laughng like maniacs.

The taxi keeps weaving along the roads.  It’s hard to tell whether there are three or four lanes of traffic because all of it is madly weaving in and out of each others way, in an eager race to get somewhere.  But we finally make it to a point close by to our hotel, all safely.  A brief walk through the train station and we have arrived.

Our hosts greet us with free lemon cordial which is a welcome relief after all those thirsty hours on a bus with no toilet.

It then dawns on us that this is our last night together.  We head through the alleyways not far to the restaurant for our final dinner.  The laneways and restaurants are decorated with colourful lights and lanterns and it has a festive feel to the area.  Restaurant workers call flatteringly to you in an attempt to get you to come to their restarant.

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Most of us have been together for almost three weeks now and have formed nice friendships.  The new travellers to our group have added a nice dimension to the group and we have all got along incredibly well.  Everyone has been so well travelled on this trip and its exciting to add so many must see destinations to my mental calendar afte chatting with them.  It’s the closeest I’ve felt to my fellow travellers than on any other Intrepid tour I’ve done and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the time I’ve been away.  To think I knew nothing of some of the countries I chose to visit and that Romania and Bulgaria were not even on my list of countries to travel to – let’s remember I only picked these two tours because I wanted to go back to Budapest and they just followed on from each other –  it’s just been magical.  And it’s reminded me that you really, truly can’t judge a book by its cover.

As dinner winds down, and we head slowly back to the hotel, the mood is quiet.  Most of the group is hanging around for a few days but Marco is off tomorrow to reunite with his family, as of course am I.  There are goodbyes in the foyer and everyone moves on.  But the world is getting smaller and who knows when we may bump into each other somewhere again.

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