30 December – 31 December, 2015
We were at our hostel in Stockholm having breakfast when Mustafa, the host I’d arranged on Couchsurfing.com for Izmir, messaged me. Mustafa informed me that it was snowing in Istanbul, so many flights were being cancelled. As we had a 55 minute layover in Istanbul on our way to Izmir, this was a matter of some concern, but when I checked our flight that morning it was still on time, so we didn’t worry about it too much.
We (barely) cleared security, got our passports stamped for exiting Sweden, and had our visas examined before entering the holding area for our flight. It quickly became apparent that our flight to Istanbul was to be delayed after all due to the snow. This meant that we were definitely not going to make our connection.
After being delayed for over 2 hours, we finally boarded our flight to Istanbul. After traveling for 2 days with no sleep we napped for the majority of the 3 1/2 hour flight. Touching down in Istanbul was crazy. I’d visited before, and flying in had been treated to an exotic view of the Bosphorus strait and domed mosques shimmering in the sun, but this time the landscape was unrecognizable and buried in snow. We deplaned around 8 and asked the first Pegasus Air person we saw what we could do about our missed connection. He seemed pretty stressed but put us on a flight for the following morning, and informed us that Pegasus would put us up in a hotel for the night.
Arriving in Izmir a day late was certainly not the plan, but there was nothing we could do, and at least we’d have a place to stay the night. Probably the most valuable travel lesson I’ve learned is to just accept things and go with it, and this was a prime “just go with it” situation. We cleared passport control quickly and uneventfully, except for the diversion of a few small children trying to make a break for it and running from their parents. My passport agent seemed bored out of her mind and stamped my passport almost without saying a word to me.
We went downstairs to the Pegasus hotel desk, and were greeted by a scene of cross-cultural pandemonium. A throng of other people had missed connections and needed hotels for the night, and weren’t forming a line so much as a tightly-packed mass in front of the lone guy at the hotel desk. Similar to what I experienced in Israel, it seems that Turkey is another Middle-Eastern country that doesn’t queue up. After a long time shuffling to the front of the herd, we were given a room at the Work-In Hotel for the night.
It was midnight when the shuttle finally dropped us off the WorkInn Hotel, a fancy business hotel not too far from the airport. It was incredibly modern in design, with bright green paint on the walls, heavy metal door knobs and fixtures, and moody low-lighting. It’s a pity we didn’t get to spend more time there. Our flight was at 7:45 the next morning so the shuttle was due to get us at 5, but at least we both got a shower and a comfortable nap in.
It wasn’t until the next morning at the airport when it hit me that we were actually in Turkey. We had breakfast at a cute little cafe in the airport that looked like an American-style diner but was actually very Turkish. We got to practice our beginning Turkish skills with ordering, and had our first meal in Turkey, consisting of hot, strong çay (traditional black tea) and simit bread with tomatoes and cheese. Simit is awesome. It’s similar to a bagel, but longer and wider, usually dusted with seasame and poppyseeds. What a delicious beginning to life in Turkey!
Our flight to Izmir was also delayed 2 hours, but we finally made it! Our captain hauled ass through the skies, getting us there in a mere 45 minutes. After 3 days in transition, we were about to begin our new lives as English teachers, expats, and travelers in Izmir, Turkey.