Tag Archives: turkey

That Time I Got Scammed (?) in Istanbul

I don’t know if i technically got scammed.  But here is my story.

On my last full day, I had planned to get up at the crack of dawn and be walking into the Blue Mosque the second it opened.   The night before, I had a horrible night’s sleep.  I was woken up in the middle of the night by a text that kept me up for the rest of the night.

I still manage to get up and out.  I get to the Mosque and I am an hour early because I do not know how to correctly research opening hours.

It is really hot. I am really sun burned. I am so tired.

I sit down on a bench outside the Mosque to rest and collect my thoughts.

A man comes up to me and offers to shine my shoes.  I say “NO”  I am not even wearing shoes, I am wearing cheapo sneakers that are getting thrown out as soon as I get home.   Despite me saying “NO”, he then says “just let me brush off the dirt”.   Now I get mad.  He is already down and brushing the dirt off my sneakers.  All I want to do is sit here in silence and rest and go into my own little world where I figure out the things in my personal life that are now running rampant through my head.

Continue reading

I tell him “I am not paying you anything”, he says fine.  I know this is not going to be fine.   He starts asking me a bunch of questions.  Where am I from, do I like Turkish rugs.  No.  I don’t.   He is now fully cleaning my sneakers.

Once he is done, he asks me to go to his cousin’s rug shop.  I don’t want to go.   I know how this works.  He gives me a free shoe shine, takes me to a rug place, I buy a rug and we are even.  Except I told him to not shine my shoes several times.  I am not going to buy a rug EVER.  I am so tired and frustrated.  This man is ruining my trip right now.

Yet somehow, I am the one who feels bad.  So I take the walk with him, thinking I will tip him like 5 Turkish Lira for his troubles.  We get to the store.  I tell his cousin “I am not buying anything”  and I go to leave.  I pull out my wallet to give the shoe shiner a $5 bill and he tells me I owe him 60 Turkish Lira, which is about $30 USD.  Oh no I most certainly do not.   Are you insane?

I start yelling at him that I do not even have that much on me.  I really don’t.  He says “That is impossible” OH REALLY?  I am so great at budgeting.  I always have exactly what I need on me.  This is my last day.  I have enough to enter the Underground Cistern and eat for the day.   I already have my Jetons to get to the airport.   I don’t know why I am explaining this to him, but here I am.   Then I get even madder and yell “WHY AM I EXPLAINING THIS TO YOU?”  Then I just really start going off on him. Screaming at him.  “I TOLD YOU TO NOT TOUCH MY SHOES, I TOLD YOU I DID NOT WANT A SHOE SHINE.  YOU FORCED YOURSELF ON ME.  YOU RUINED MY MORNING, YOU ARE RUINING MY VACATION” and yet for some reason, I am still trying to give him $5.  But because I am finger pointing while yelling, the money slips out of my hand and falls into the street.   I did not plan that but since it’s there, it appears I have thrown they money at him.  This pleases me and I now walk away.  He does not follow.

I have no idea if this counts as a scam.  I didn’t end up scammed I don’t think, but I definitely went too far with being polite to him.  If I could do it all over again, I would have stood up and walked away the second he bent down to brush the dirt off my shoes.

Istanbul is really rough for people who just want to be left alone.   You can’t walk more than a foot without someone yelling “HEY LADY” at you, and shoving a flier for an open bus tour in your face, or trying to get you to buy a rug.  I found it really exhausting.  I felt like I was being harassed constantly.   Maybe it is just me who reacts to it so badly.  But I truly hated the endless disruptions to my thoughts.

2013 European Extravaganza Itinerary!!!!

So after close to two months, I have FINALLY cemented the itinerary for my next trip.  This one was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Being that I’m going to be in countries that don’t have useful train service,  and bus schedules that are impossible to find online, it was so hard to plan.

For example, I could not figure “Okay I need this amount of time so let me see when the bus leaves……” because I can’t find any information on the bus other than finding someone’s blog from 2009 where they barely mention having taken that bus…..

I also wanted to cry after I worked out the first leg of my trip and then realized that the night I had planned to take an overnight ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik was the one night of the week that the ferry simply does not run.

But as of right now, my itinerary should be:

Brussels – Paris via Eurostar

Paris – Naples via flight.  Naples will feature a side trip to Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius and Capri

Naples – Rome/Vatican City

Rome – Sarajevo via flight. There were two flight options for this, one had a long layover in Belgrade. I wanted to book this one, so I could spend ten hours in Belgrade.  But that schedule was only available through a third party website that Google tells me is unreliable.  The airlines own website never offered this option.  So now I’m just in Belgrade for 3.5 hours.

Sarajevo – Mostar, with a side trip to Dubrovnik

Mostar to Nis (this will be an annoying travel day for sure)

Nis – Sofia with a side trip to Belogradchik and another one to Rila Monastery

Sofia – Veliko Tarnovo with a stopover in Plovdiv

Veliko Tarnovo – Istanbul

Istanbul – home

Although my trips are way more hectic than the average Europe vacationer can stand, they start off even more crazy.  Then once I get deep into reading travel guides and looking at specific train schedules, I end up having to adjust down in order to see everything I want to see.  For this trip I have already cut out Switzerland, due to me deciding that while in Italy, I want to spend a day at Capri.  This cut out my night in Bern.

I had also wanted to visit Chamonix-Mont Blanc, but after reading a guide book, I realized it would be better to visit in a month that is not May, so that more lifts would be open and I could see more.  So that’s on the back burner for now.

This is the second trip where I am spending a lot of time in Italy, which was never on my “must see” list.  It just works out that it’s convenient along the way.  Once I started looking into it, it just seemed a shame to pass by so many things without stopping.  So once again, I have a bunch of time in a country I never had on my list of “places I need to see before I die”.  It works like that.  It’s all part of the planning process.  You never know where you are going to end up once you start working out the minute details of your itinerary.

I keep a diary of my travels.  For my last trip, I went to Target to buy a fresh book to write in.  I was so excited to find one with the leaning tower of Pisa on it, since I was going to be in Pisa.  How cool would it be to take a picture of my diary in front of its front cover in real life???  That was one of the top highlights of my trip, as you can tell by the picture on top of this page!

I also fell in love with Florence.  I never in my life had any desire to go to Florence. It just worked out to be along my route so I went.  I’m so glad I went and got to stare lovingly at the Ponte Vecchio.

When you start to get deeper into booking, you will find that any mental plans you had before you started really planning, can easily turn into the exact opposite of what you thought you were going to be doing.  For me this is exactly what happens and I have fallen in love with everything I have done, even if it wasn’t on my life long “to do” list.

Now I get to spend the next 77 days formulating more specific itineraries for each place I’m visiting. The more I do this, the more I realize just how ignorant I am to everything that planet earth has to offer.  I love learning and more importantly, I love seeing everything I’ve learned about.