Sunday, March 29, 2009

Giant Sea Monsters have devoured all the hire cars

Bandit is rather battered but is on the mend. The vet is so pleased with his handiwork that after he gets paid he is retiring to the South of France.

Our hotel in Istanbul was magnificent. It had a view overlooking the Bosphorus. The room was somewhat larger than my room in Paris. In fact the bathroom there was larger than my room in Paris.

I keep forgetting how important and powerful Cate is. I think I will travel with her more often.

Rozalin arranged for a car to pick me up at the airport in Istanbul and take me to the hotel. While I still of course have to pay for this – she thought it would be nice for me to get to the end of the trip and have a man waiting for me with my name on a sign.

It has been a long time since this happened as it is many years now since I was a Very Important Banker (when this type of thing was a regular occurrence).

Cate rang early in the morning and said ‘You will have to get a taxi at the airport’

‘No, no’ I said ‘I have a car picking me up’

‘No you don’t’ she said ‘Larry (Cate’s boss) and I need it’

‘Oh Gosh – it must be important’ I said

Of course I was thinking (what else) that Giant Sea Monsters had devoured all the hire cars in Istanbul except mine and Cate and Larry needed to pick up the Chairman of Ducky Pharma from the airport – fair enough – can’t argue with that – could hardly ask the Chairman to share a car with me.

‘It is’ says Cate ‘We have to go the Grand Bazaar’

Excuse me?

Well I guess you can’t carry a Turkish Rug back to the hotel in a Taxi.

It is apparently a regulation in Turkey that every foreigner who goes there must end up in a shop that sells Turkish rugs. There are probably 100,000 of these in Istanbul. You will be manoeuvred there by someone - a driver, tour guide, hotel employee.

You can be certain that someone has been assigned to get you there!

Suffice to say that Cate ended up after the Grand Bazaar in a shop that sells Turkish Rugs. The asking price for the rug she really liked was US Dollars 46,000. Upon hearing this price her brain exploded and blood came out of her ears and she had to be brought round with many glasses of Turkish Tea.

After strenuous negotiations over three hours she had got the price down to $45,400 but had to suspend negotiations to do some more work. There was still a fair gap between the asking price and her maximim spend of €2,000.

With the benefit of hindsight – peak hour is not the best time to arrive in Istanbul. The roads seem to have been planned by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority – and have been carpet bombed extensively by someone during the last few months.

The Taxi Driver asked me either (I simply could not understand his accent)

Do you want to see the abandoned abattoir on the way into the city, or

Do you want me to take the beach road or the highway.

I am not sure which it was but I told him to take me where I was going as quickly as possible, that people knew I was coming, that I had already sent his taxi number to Cate by SMS and that if he killed and ate me he could expect swift and sure retribution.

Although I am not sure – it may the same as in Vienna where people who kill and eat tourists have their own float in the Harvest Festival (behind the float with the serial kidnappers and cellar dwellers).

At the end of a very, very long journey, the average speed of which was probably no more than 15 KPH, he relieved me of an extraordinary number of Turkish Woggles and went on his merry way – probably to a slap up dinner with his family.

And by the way, I am never, ever driving in Istanbul – unless I have a guarantee that my taxi driver is out of town.

People do funny things. They have the weird system in Turkey where everyone who comes in from most anywhere has to have a Visa – which most of them can get on arrival.

So the first thing you do is to line up to get your Visa. This is a very quick process as the person issuing the Visa does not look at your passport except to open it at a blank page and put a stamp in it (like a large postage stamp) – and collect (in my case) 15 Euros.

So it is purely a revenue raising exercise – so why not just increase the airport departure tax? Why create a separate bureaucracy to make people line up to cough up 15 Euros? Perhaps the Minister in charge of airports has some children who are not intellectually gifted and needed something to do – so he bought them the Visa concession.

Before I left Vienna I went into the book shop and bought a Lonely Planet guide to Istanbul. It cost me Euros 27.50. Suffering Succotash – I can get one of Cate’s frocks dry cleaned for that sort of money. Serves me right for not buying it from Amazon months ago.

Advice follows: If you enter a hotel room in Istanbul and see an open tin of mixed nuts do not assume that they are SHELLED mixed nuts and down a handful. Some of them may be unshelled Pistachio nuts – which in the dim light of a hotel room at dusk look surprisingly like shelled nuts.

This advice is so that you do initially think that you have broken every tooth in your mouth and then do not spend an inordinate amount of time removing very small and sharp pieces of Pistachio nut shells from your mouth, teeth and gums.

We had a wonderful dinner on Thursday night in a restaurant called Topaz which overlooks the Bosphorus and a very large mosque. It is a spectacular sight indeed.

Larry hosted this and we swapped near death experiences stories about climbing mountains (Larry) and diving (us). His story about the Argentinian soccer team eating each other in the Andes was a real ripper and kept us entertained all the way through the main course.

We had the Ottoman menu which was typically Turkish food – and was wonderful.

After this Cate and Larry went back to work and I cruised round all the bars in the hotel – moving on as each one closed – until Cate finally appeared at 2.00 AM and took the remains back to the room.

It’s a pity because a Robert Mugabe lookalike was singing in one of the bars and between sets I had long conversations with him about the global recession and economic conditions in Zimbabwe. I was just about to tackle him about his human rights record when Cate took me away.

His name is Larry O'Neill and it is worth going to Istanbul just to sit in the bar an hear him sing. He does a wicked version of ‘Pennies from Heaven’.

The country that my brother played football for is Papua New Guinea.

We named the Rhinoceros Malcolm. If it had been a Dinosaur it would have been John.


  1. Wow do I hope things work out well - this looks so painful!

  2. Glad you had a interesting time (you always have an interesting time) and have made it home ( you are home??).

  3. Malcolm...If the Jumanji scenario does indeed become reality, he will most certainly gore you for calling him that!

  4. Best wishes to poor Bandit for a swift recovery - he looks like such a sweetie.