Monday, 13 December 2010

Istanbul - Escape from Prince's Island

I should warn you. The following entries are relentless rambles regarding the pitfalls of visas and parcel collecting. Written as much for myself, as entertainment for others. If you lunch hour is short, perhaps it's better spent looking at friends of friends on facebook, or bidding on job lots of economy lightbulbs on ebay. Otherwise, read on.


I escape island life and head back to the chaos for a few days. I have chores to do and the hostel is a better local from which to do them.

Once back at the big apple I ditch my gear, grab some quick lunch, and head out to get "task 1" under my belt. That being, collect my parcel of goodies from customs. I take all manner of public transport out of the city to the airport. Atakoy airport is a fair size, and walking around the terminals is a tad impractical, not to mention time wasting. I ask for directions, most folks are very helpful and before long I'm in the right place.

From this right place I'm told I need to head across town to the DHL depot to buy my customs papers for the release of my parcel. Said papers are a steal at 150 Lira. I head back to the cargo terminal. I walk through a maze of corridors which lead to endless tiny grim offices. More asking reveals I need to be in the next building along. The whole area is filled with couriers and delivery drivers. As I pick my way through the cargo loading area dodging pallet trucks I notice I'm the only tourist in sight. A pushy guys tells me to follow him "come come". I smell a fishy whiff in the stale office air - but given lack of English speakers and countless identical offices I don't see that I have another option.

At high speed we weave through the press of sweaty smoke belching bodies. The big basement office is filled with people. The perimeter of the room is lined with desks, on top of which sit hundreds of relic computers from the 80's. My guide pesters several men before one of them agrees to sign my papers. I can't quite fathom the purpose of this stage of the operation - but figure it to be something like job creation/time wasting. Clutching my (now filled in) forms we run up eight flights of stairs to an office. A lone man, with a most spectacular moustache, sits at a desk. He gives me two stamps and scribbles something illegible on my papers (I think it was something like "rip this chump off").

My guide takes me to one final office. The place where I hand over my dosh. Before parting he demands 50 Lira! My first reaction is "what the fuck!!". But I don't convey this. The reality is I should have know better. In such circumstances help doesn't come cheap, let alone free. I cough up and smile, making a mental note to know better next time, all while visualising putting my fist through his pudgy face.

I'm yet to feel any closer to actually getting this package in my hands. The next step is to actually get to the same building as said package. The guys back at the DHL office are just leaving and offer to take me to the depot.

I guess if there is one area where I feel changed by travel its this. I now don't think twice about getting in a car with a bunch of strangers who don't speak my language. Blind trust, guide me well.

I expect this will all be rather dull reading. I hope it serves to portray the boredem and frustration of my day. We arrive at the DHL depot. My new guide takes me to the relevant offices. More paperwork, more surprise fees. Having paid almost everyone I've met today I offer to pay the friendly fellow for his help, but he refuses. I'm handed my parcel.

Metro, tram, hostel, beer, bed. Fin!

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