The journey here reminded me of the hilarious characters that pop up on the road. After half a day wandering Kuala Lumpur I felt like I’d well and truly left Australia. Until boarding for the flight to Istanbul: there were so many Turkish-Australians, it felt like half of western Sydney had crammed themselves into the departure lounge. Orderly, sedate KL had been interrupted suddenly by a wave of Mediterranean behaviour – whole families clad in tracksuits and mullets rushed to board the plane like cattle scattered by buckshot. Enormous robed women wedged themselves into the bulkhead rows and promptly began snoring. It was, however, very convivial, everyone chatting to each other, switching effortlessly between Turkish and fluent Bogan. They even clapped after the successful landing, something I thought was completely foreign to Australia.
In the line for Passport Control I encountered my first Ugly American for a while. The male half of a couple in front of me was doing his best Woody Allen impression, muttering about the nature of the change he might get from his visa fee long before there was actually anything to complain about. The whole lengthy process of waiting in line was punctuated by his miserable muted fury. His silent wife (or carer, maybe?) did nothing to calm him down, but never agreed with him either. At one point a lone woman nervously clutching a Turkmenistan passport had to move past him in the line. He saw her coming, stood in her way and whined “Say ‘excuse me’ and I might let you past”. She got past him so he turned on his poor wife/carer/escort “All they gotta say is ‘excuse me’…”, failing to grasp the significance of travel to foreign countries where people speak foreign languages.
Crossing the courtyard of the Blue Mosque I overheard a fat South African man shout at his Turkish guide “Too mini peepul hya!” as he was presumably told that the crowd of people at prayers meant he had to use a different entrance. Hoping to enter the mosque, with less people around clearly, he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with a stylised middle finger salute on the back. Very considerate.
Finally there’s the quirky breakfast attendant at the hotel who keeps dropping Gallipoli jokes on me. I didn’t know there were Gallipoli jokes. Apparently I should tell my ‘president’ that we should attack from the east next time, we might have more chance of winning? That’s not even a joke, it’s just geopolitically creepy.
There will be more about Istanbul soon.