Sunday, February 26

Home again - Brisbane, Australia
visited Feb 25, 2006
I'm home again! Jet lagged and still exhausted even though I've been back a day and a half already. I'm off to see if I can remember how to drive (nearly 12 months since I last did) and visit people.

Thursday, February 23

Going home - Vienna, Austria
3 Stars This place was Average visited Feb 23, 2006
I was only in Vienna long enough to catch a bus to the airport this time. I had hours to wait though, but couldn't do much as I had all my luggage with me. I met another australian at the airport though - I sat down next to her on the only available seat in the whole place (apart from the expensive cafe, of course) and noticed her "Student Flights" travel agent wallet. Figured she had to be australian, and as it turned out, she was a UQ student. We checked in together so we would be next to each other on the flight to Dubai. We parted at Dubai airport, as she was spending a week there, while I waited for my connecting flight. This will be the last post in the "while living in Istanbul" itinerary. I'll be in Brisbane for 4 months studying, then off to again at the end of June to work a summer school in England, and then a 6 month contract somewhere else. I'll keep posting here though, even while I'm in Brisbane. It's not strictly travelling, but then neither was living in Istanbul, and I don't have any other blog site!

Monday, February 20

Leaving Istanbul - Istanbul, Turkey
3 Stars This place was Average visited Feb 20, 2006
Our last day in Istanbul was a serious of almost disasters. It actually started the day before when they wouldn't let me into Topkapi palace because it was *just* too late. I lived in Istanbul for 5 months and didn't get to see the best Ottoman palace there is. At least we saw Aga Sofya - on the day before we left! It was amazing, especially when you remember it was built in what was the dark ages in England - 6th century AD. It had the world's largest unsupported dome for a thousand years, until Michelangelo topped it with St Peter's in Rome. It would probably have seemed an even more amazingly enormous space and dome if it hadn't been half filled with scaffolding, but at least it is good to see they are working to keep it in decent condition. So having spent Sunday afternoon doing tourist things, we met all the teachers from school for a last meal at a Meyhane - a sort of restaurant where you eat lots of little dishes (like spanish tapas). My favourite kind of meal. We (well, some of us) drank Raki as well - the turkish version of Ouzo. I had managed to escape traying it until then, but I'm glad I did before I left Turkey. While it isn't something I would like to drink regularly, it was quite nice. After getting home much later than planned, we spent a few more hours packing and sorting things, then got up the next morning and continued packing and sorting. There was lots to do. We planned to post a box of stuff each (despite reservations about entrusting anything to the Turkish postal system ever again). Roger came over - I think he thought we could go for lunch, but we drafted him into helping - finding boxes from the supermarket, buying us packing tape and helping squeeze things into the boxes. We ended up with 5 different boxes of various sizes, which was more than we wanted, but there just weren't any big boxes around, it seemed. We decided to take them in a taxi to the post office (even though it was only a 5 minute walk away, it was all uphill, and time was beginning to be an issue!) At the post office the troubles really started. First, they told us we would need to open all our lovely packed and taped boxes so they could search them for dangerous things that couldn't be posted. Such as glass. It turns out that the Turkish postal system doesn't trust itself with anything remotely breakable, so they wouldn't accept glass or ceramics. the main reason I had decided to post stuff home was because my students had given me a beautiful glass and brass narghile (turkish water pipe/hookar) and a lovely ceramic plate. I also had a set of Turkish tea glasses. Everything else in the box I wanted to post was basically packing for those things. The next thing they told us what that it was illegal to post any boxes that had writing on them. As we had used supermarket boxes they said things like "dishwasher powder" on the side, and other things that would no doubt confuse the poor postal workers horribly. We were provided with plain A4 paper and told to cover all the writing. There was also a small mountain of forms that needed to be filled in. All three of us were working on this, and when the first box was finally ready, I took it to the man who was helping us, and he finally weighed it and gave us a price. Over AU$300, or $133 sea mail. And this was for one of the smaller of our 5 boxes. We had been at the post office an hour, had pulled all the breakables out of their nice safe packing and jumbled them into our backpacks, had used up miles of packing tape opening and closing boxes, and we were due at the airport in about an hour. And they wanted to charge us probably $500 to post everything. We decided that for that price, we would take taxis and pay excess baggage if required. It would work out cheaper. So we walked out of the post office, and carried all the boxes back home. There, we swept everything that was left into our backpacks, gave most of the contents of our fridge to Roger, as a completely inadequate thankyou, and ran out the door, still carrying 5 boxes, and my backpack was full of glass and ceramics. Just as another tiny wonderful moment of the day, as I bent down to pick up my backpack for the last time, my old jeans decided to split in the inner leg. Luckily it wasn't too serious or noticable and I was able to ignore it. Not that I had time to do anything else! We still hadn't bought our plane tickets (although they had been reserved) so we had to ask the taxi to stop in Taksim so I could run up to the Yugolsavian Airlines office and hand over large quantities of cash, and then come back and race to the airport to get there on time for the flight! The excitement didn't stop there. We arrived at the airport, found a trolley for the boxes, raced through the xray machines at the airport door, and arrived at the check-in desk. I think we were about the last to check-in as no one else was there. We loaded all our luggage onto the check-in scales, and breathed a sigh of relief that we had made it. Then the guy at the counter mentioned that we had 60kg of luggage between us, and that the limit was 20kg each, and as it was a propeller plane, and quite full, he couldn't let us not pay excess baggage charges. He was very nice and apologetic about it, and said we only had to pay for 10kg, at AU$5 per kilo. We asked if we could take the smallest box hand luggage instead, and he pointed out that that would put us over weight on the hand luggage, but he would let us not pay for it, bringing it down to only 6kg we had to pay for. We decided that was well worth it, and I reached for my wallet, which only had $10 in it. So I asked Kate to find hers. That's when the problems started. Her wallet wasn't in her pockets. Nor in her backpack. Nor in her big pack. We soon had every bag open looking for it, and Kate went back to the xray machines at the door to see if it was there. The poor guy behind the check-in desk was getting quite distressed for us, I think. I started telling him about our dreadful time at the post office, and in the end he said "I'm very sorry for you, and you don't have to pay anything, I just hope you find the wallet!" So if you ever want to get out of paying excess baggage, find a sweet check-on person, and be completely hopeless. Oh, in the end Kate found her wallet in her backpack. It had got itself in to some place at the bottom where both of us had missed it several times each. We made our plane, exhausted, hot and sticky (it had been the warmest day in Istanbul since about October) and still pretty stressed, with absolutely no plans for our arrival in Belgrade. The plane was indeed a propeller plane, with only about 50 seats, and it was much noisier and slower than other planes - it took over 2 hours to get to Belgrade.