No - this blog post is not about xmas dinner. This is about our 08/09 holiday trip to Turkey to visit Ferda's family.
We left work on Friday the 19th around noon and hit the 417 towards Montreal where our first flight awaited for us. Made a quick stop in Hawkesbury to leave our car with my dad, as he was driving us the rest of the way. The rest of the drive was fine, didn't take any longer than normal to reach Trudeau airport. We said our goodbyes to my dad and grabbed our luggage and headed inside the terminal. Madness. That's the one word I would to describe the scene. Apparently when we booked our flight back in August little did we know we would be traveling on the busiest day of the year.
'Snowmageddon' as they called it was set to hit Montreal that night and we were hoping our 7:45pm flight would depart just in time to avoid the mess. Of course, hope only gets you so far, as our first plane from Montreal to Heathrow was delayed by about 2 hours if I recall correctly. At this point, obviously, we were panicked. Once at Heathrow, we were to have 3 odd hours to catch a connecting flight to Istanbul, and then one more to Ankara, capital city of Turkey, our final destination. There was a mixup with our luggage, however thankfully it all arrived (how though I really don't know!) at the same place we did. I will say this though about British Airways customer service department: they need some work. Really all they do is treat you like a little baby who needs their diaper changed; they pat your bottom and tell you it will all be ok. Never once did they actually solve a problem for us.
So of course, as you expected by now, we missed our connecting flight in Heathrow. After waiting two hours in line to be booked onto the next flight to Istanbul, that was scheduled to depart some five hours later, we made our way into the the craziness that is known as Heathrow Terminal 5. We got some lunch in our bellies, made a couple rather expensive phone called to THY (Turkish Nat'l Airlines) to reschedule our next connecting flight and also to Ferda's parents to let them know about our delay. When it was finally time to board, things were not looking good. There was a delay on the tarmac once we were all boarded for some reason or another which got us panicked again. Imagine: we had just bought NEW tickets to Ankara, how horrible would it be if we could not make that flight as well!
The plane touched down in Istanbul with about 1 hour to spare before our next flight departed. We sprinted through the entire Istanbul airport: bought my Visa (60 USD), passed through customs, collected our baggage, ran from international arrivals to domestic departures, checked into our flight and handed off our bags, and finally made our way to our gate. All of this surprisingly only took 40 minutes! We arrived in Ankara at about 1am Sunday morning local time. 30 +/- hours later (plus 7 hours timezone) as compared to our Friday departure from Montreal. We now literally stank of airplane food, BO, and other unimaginable odours - but we had made it, luggage intact.
As I write this blogpost today, Sunday morning one week later, it's hard to imagine that I have been living in a different country and continent for the past 7 days. In reality things are pretty similar to back home. Ferda and Pinar have been dragging me to shopping malls, I've visited Bilikent University where Ferda attended for one year before moving to Ottawa, the downtown section is overcrowded with cars, pedestrians, and street-meat vendors, the tv has turkish versions of familiar shows like Wheel of Fortune and Deal or no Deal, and they even have Burger King and McDonalds! However, there are many differences: 5 times a day you hear the local imam sing out calling for prayer, at night my attempt at sleep is assaulted by gangs of street dogs barking and howling to maintain their territory from rival gangs of dogs, and at the Burger King your whopper comes bacon-less (I guess - haven't been yet).
One amazing thing is the weather. As Turkey is located half in Europe and half in Asia, I wasn't really expecting snow. Of course, mother nature has proven me wrong as it has snowed twice since we've been here. That doesn't slow down the taksi's and local residents on the road - they all drive very aggressively. Its not uncommon to hear a constant stream of honks, almost like some bizarre automotive melody. The rules of the road are quite fast and different, and I don't think I could manage. The food has been what I expected. I've been spoiled a few times before with turkish cuisine and this trip has been no exception. Baklava, döner, iskender, tavuk, mercemek corba... the list goes on and on of all these wonderful tasty foods all so fresh and full of flavour.
One interesting experience I had was on Friday, a couple days ago. Ibrahim, my father in law, took me to a hamam, or turkish bath house. Very different from anything I could have expected (if you really want to know what happened there, I'll tell you in person!).
That's all I will write for now, it's getting later in the day and there are things to see and do! (also my butt is sore from sitting here at the computer!) BYE!