Wednesday, April 30, 2014


8Wow! From the ancient times of the Persian Empire which conquered here through the 1970s when I was here last, Istanbul has had a reputation as a place welcoming to foreigners. No more. Donna and I experienced the new Istanbul at the airport and it is an ugly sight!  Our ride to the Bucharest airport was lovely, thanks to our landlord who drove us there. A long wait in the airport (marred only by US$8 for an expresso in a paper cup and no currency exchange that would convert our Romanian Lei to Turkish Lira (Romania is - maybe - 75 miles away) and our Pegasus 737-800 left right on time. We flew into beautiful Istanbul and landed right on time. Then "the wheels fell off" of the lost Turkish welcome. We had 1:10 to transfer from Pegasus to Pegasus. How hard could that be?  This hard only after several dozen PhDs in how to screw things up designed the system.

Expedia had told me we didn't need a visa for this trip I booked through them. I called after my online booking. In Bucharest, Pegasus told us to get a visa in Izmir. Pegasus could not issue a boarding pass for the second leg of our flight with them - "computer problems" (one of those PhDs in screwupology).  So when we exited we faced a line of 150 people or so needing a boarding pass. I called out to an agent who hustled us around the line. (No PhD involved).  Next: passport control line of 200+ people used up 40 of our precious minutes. We spoke to a Danish woman who lives in Istanbul. She assured me that the flight would wait on us - even 45 minutes!  What a business model: let's fly whenever everyone arrives!  At the head of the line the passport control guy - who didn't speak English, French or Spanish (and no doubt had a PhD) refused to let us through. We had to go buy a visa!  With 10 minutes left we turned to find the visa cashier. No signs. Found the same non-PhD Pegasus agent who took us to the visa line. We were #3.  #1 had US$.  No good for visa - so they missed their flight. #2 had Turkish Lira - the currency here;  no good. Euros only. (PhDs abound). They missed their flight. This is exactly the attitude that persuaded me that I don't want to return to Italy. Let's hope it improves.

We happen to have €50 ($67) to buy visas and our non-PhD Pegasus agent is waiting to hustle us through the "flight crew" line.   Once through the PhDs had removed all directional signs but we found our way to another security line. This time (but not in Bucharest) the PhDs had decided my wine opener was a problem. We tossed it and raced to the gate. We needed to  get Lira from an ATM but the 30 or so on the way to the gate had - you guessed it - long lines. We were late - but they were waiting for us and a hundred or so in front of us and 40-50 behind us in another line. All the while the signs say the flight has left and the PA system announces last call. We got on the plane and left the gate a half hour late.

The pilots' announcements are at 100db and the crew won't let me wear my noise-cancelling headphones. In the terminal we find an ATM. Then taxi to hotel. Sleep!

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