More than just a flight from Rhodes to Istanbul this is an experience and a journey. I’m going for 4 months leaving behind family and friends, pets and a home. I’m going to work and explore, enjoy the next few months and share them with you.
Leaving Rhodes was more emotional than I anticipated. I drove the car through the dark from the village to the airport. We didn’t see another car until we were nearly there, the roads where deserted.
At Rhodes airport, I handed over the car keys to S who is house/animal sitting. Dad took my larger bag and I took the smaller and carry-on to the check-in desk. This early it was too much hassle for the staff to organise me paying for excess baggage for the Turkish Airlines leg of the flight so I took the smaller second case as hand luggage. My small backpack with all the important electronics, like the camera and laptop, got its own tag to sit on the floor underneath the seat in front.
The bag was dropped at the baggage drop off point near the escalator and then I said goodbye to S and dad. At this point, I was fine, relaxed and looking forward to the trip.
Rhodes airport is undergoing lots of changes at the moment as it was taken over last by a private consortium. At the top of the escalator the chairs have been removed so there wasn’t anywhere to removed my electronics before going to the security check. But it didn’t take me long to take out the MacBook, camera and kindle. My belt and jacket also had to come off of course.
There wasn’t long to wait for the flight, just enough time to drink a small bottle of water, I was thirsty as although I got up earlier than planned there still hadn’t been time for a morning cup of tea.
We were soon called for boarding. Our tickets and ID are checked then we walked out of the building down the ramp and across a short bit of tarmac to the steps of the plane.
My small suitcase was stowed overhead and I sat down and chatted with the people next to me. Only to realise that I’d sat in the seat number for the next plane, not this one and had to move. It doesn’t matter how often you’ve flown you can still make mistakes. I made another too, I’d checked in online the night before, but in my excitement, I didn’t check the seat numbers. It was a middle seat everyone’s last choice.
It wasn’t until we took off from Rhodes and the island began to pass below us that tears came into my eyes. I wouldn’t be back for 4 months, 4 months without the purring, without the cuddles and barks. That still brings a tear to my eyes now as I write this. I know they are in good hands but I do miss them terribly.
The flight is only about 40mins, the crew bring around a drinks trolley as soon as we’re up, with only just enough time to drink your choice they soon begin collecting the empties as we’re already heading back down towards our destination.
In Athens airport, I first went to the Turkish airlines check-in desk and a very helpful member of staff changed my ticket to a window seat. I popped outside and was surprised how cold it was compared to the island and was quickly back inside. With only about 40 minutes to go before boarding, I grabbed a drink, cheese pie and found a waiting area near the gate with a view of the airfield.
Once boarded not only did I have a window seat but the flying gods were smiling on me, it was a busy flight but I had the whole row to myself. I settled in with my copy of The Rough Guide To Turkey a gift from S. We were served a sandwich and drink, I looked at the in-flight entertainment for a bit, but with such a short flight it wasn’t worth watching anything. I read a little of the guide and a little of the in-flight magazine. The rubbish was collected by the cabin crew. Things got a little bumpy and the seatbelt warning sign came back on.
Then looking at the in-flight map I could see we were nearly there. We came along the coast of the sea of Marmara, small towns and communities of housing estates were just below then the blue of the sea.
The standard warning for the aircrews to take their seat and a dip that makes your tummy turn a little let me know the plane was turning and heading downwards, getting ready to land.
The sun was reflecting over the right wing, raised in the air as we turned, with large fluffy white clouds below it, then it levelled out as we headed for the airport below.
You could hear the engine sound distinctly changing and the people chatting in a variety of languages seem to lower their voices in anticipation.
Occasionally through the clouds, there was a glimpse of sparkling water, calm, but not completely smooth there were small ripples of wind on the surface.
I could see on the map on the TV in the seat back in front that we are nearly there, nearly at Istanbul though my only view was still water with the occasional merchant ship.
Then suddenly there was land, lots of cargo ships in the distance, the runway and we were touching down. Everyone clapping even though the plane was hurtling along the runway at alarming speed still.
Istanbul airfield was huge and busy with tower blocks fo the city behind it. We slowed and began to taxi. A huge green glass-fronted terminal came into view with countless numbers of planes carrying the distinct red and white Turkish Airlines logo all lined up in a row.
I had arrived at Ataturk Havalimani Airport and Istanbul.
It was a really huge terminal and I have a feeling that a flight coming from Greece would somehow get less priority for parking than one coming from places in the world with better diplomatic ties. Trying to remember the Turkish for exit (çıkış) so that I could easily navigate this huge building.
As we continued to taxi I realised we were probably going to be getting a bus rather than pulling up to the terminal building. We taxied for so long and so far around the airport at one point I wondered if we were just going to take off again.
Then we were parked, everyone was up and out of their seats just before the plane had come to a complete standstill, bags were grabbed from overhead lockers and then they all just stood and waited. The sensible ones were still sitting down.
Finally, the doors opened and everyone slowly made their way off the plain. I was about halfway down on row 24 the friendly staff all said goodbye and wished us well in Greek as we passed. One good thing about getting a bus at any large airport is that there’s not as far to walk. You’re dropped much closer to passport control.
Within 5 minutes I was queuing for the “other” line at passport control and soon through with another stamp in my passport. Then I just needed to collect my luggage, there were porters waiting for those who need it and trolleys you could get. I’m not sure how much either was as with wheels on my two bags I really didn’t need the help.
One problem with travelling alone is luggage and toilets. You can’t leave your luggage outside unattended as that can cause a serious incident with “bomb” implications. So you end up wheeling everything into the bathroom.
Then you need to decide, do you leave it by the sinks, just outside your cubical door or try and fit it into the cubicle with you. This time as the bathroom was clean and quiet I left my bags by the sinks and took the nearest cubical. It was all still there when I’d finished and I didn’t cause a major international airport to evacuate.
As I stepped out through the sliding glass doors, arms waved and I heard my name. Two members of staff from the school were there to meet me. Soon we were in a car and heading up the motorway for me to see the school and meet some staff.
The only way I can describe the feeling of driving out of the airport is complete culture shock. From a small island in winter, with very little traffic I was suddenly amongst huge tower blocks, building sites and a motorway full of vehicles hurtling along a lot quicker than they do on the island. It was much colder and greyer, then I spotted snow at the sides of the road that hadn’t yet melted. Istanbul that morning and woken to a very unexpected snowfall.
It was only 11.30am on the island of Rhodes, I was now an hour ahead and very much a world away. In a city of around 20 million people, figures aren’t exact, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
I’ve now had a few days to settle in and find my feet, I’ve taken a few classes and had a weekend to discover a little. My first impressions are that the students are really lovely, the staff at the small school are friendly and I’m looking forward to exploring and finding out what the city is really like.
I’ll share more with you really soon.
If you’re thinking of travelling to Turkey on holiday check out my tips for women travelling to Turkey after a trip last year with a group of girlfriends and years living and working in Islamic countries.
Have you flown from Rhodes to Istanbul? Have you experienced culture shock? What adventure are you going on next? If you’re in Istanbul where do you recommend I visit? If you enjoyed this post and found it useful please comment and share. Thank you