I've always wanted to go to Greece. As an art history major in college, I studied the stories of the Greek myths which are referenced over and over again in works of art throughout the ages. When I lived in Florence my junior year, I planned to take a trip across the Mediterranean but just couldn't fit it in. So when my sister mentioned that she was going to Athens for work and then had a few extra days to sight see, I jumped at the opportunity to meet her. Once you're already in Europe, going to just about any other EU country seems so easy and cheap. Well, yes, it was relatively cheap to get to Greece, but it was anything but easy. In fact, this blog post could be called "transportation disasters abroad" (part 1).
I left Josh in Amsterdam on Wednesday afternoon- he had a show there that night and then had to make his way to Germany to start the month long Songs & Whispers Circuit Tour (check out his latest blog posts here). The only (inexpensive) way for me to get to Athens was to take 2 flights on Turkish Airlines, with a 3 hour layover in Istanbul. I've also always wanted to go to Istanbul, so even the prospect of spending a few hours in their airport was intriguing. Turns out, though, a 3 hour layover wasn't enough time for me to catch my flight to Athens!
One thing I will say is that Turkish Airlines has excellent food on every flight- and these days, getting any kind of food on a flight is amazing. They also have comfortable, new-ish airplanes with tv's on every seat. luxury.
As we were "beginning our descent" in to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the pilot came on the speaker and said that the airport runway was very busy and we would have to fly around for a while before landing. fine. It didn't seem too alarming until about 30 mins later, after flying in circles I guess, the pilot came on again. I couldn't understand what he was saying very well, because after speaking in Turkish, he reiterated what he had just said in very quick, sloppy, mumbling English.
"Excuse me", I said to the nearest flight attendant "What did the pilot just say?". . . She told me we were landing in Sabiha- a different city! Yeah, that's what I thought he said. "Um", I tried not to sound freaked out "how can I get to Istanbul to catch my connecting flight? Is there like a bus or something?"
"No, you can not catch a bus" she said snarkily "They are very far apart- Sabiha is in Asia and Istanbul is in Europe!"
Wait a minute! My eyes widened as I took in this news- totally forgetting what little I knew about Turkish geography. "So you're saying I'm going to be stuck in Asia with nowhere to go?!!!"
"Uh", she sighed "I can't deal with this!" and walked off.
Putting aside my shock and frustration at how this flight attendant was treating me, I looked around the plane and noticed that no one was panicking except for one man sitting behind me, who was arguing passionately in Turkish with another flight attendant. Ok, now I'm panicking a little.
We landed in Sabiha, which I finally was told (by another passenger) is actually the other Istanbul airport- just on the other side of the channel that divides Europe and Asia Minor. duh. After refueling, the pilot told us we would be heading back to Istanbul Ataturk shortly. Why didn't the f'ing flight attendant tell me that in the first place?! But we didn't head back shortly, we instead sat on the runway there for about an hour. Then we flew to Ataturk and sat on that runway for about an hour. So we finally got to the terminal about 5 minutes before my flight to Athens left. Needless to say, no one held the flight for me and the dozen or so other passengers who were supposed to be on it. Instead, we all ran around the airport like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to figure out where to go to get on another flight. The airport personnel were useless and downright rude. Finally, I found a huge line at the (somewhat hidden) Turkish Airlines ticket counter. This must be the place.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, I found myself on a bus to a hotel, about 30 minutes across town from the airport, several hours later. I slept soundly for all of 4 hours before I had to wake up, get back on the bus, and catch a 6:30 am flight to Athens. At least now I can say I've dipped my toe in the Asian continent!