In 2008, I was invited to attend the Guadec conference at the Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul. Of course I arranged for a cheap flight and cheap hotel as per usual. I soon learnt that EasyJet lands in the Asian side of Istanbul – Sabiha Gökçen International Airport which is rather a long way to central Istanbul. Somehow I got there with the help of many minibus drivers. Got to my hotel. The reception area was very Middle Eastern with lots of colourful cushions, low lights and lots of little vases, candle sticks etc. Then I was taken to my room. At the first glance it was OK, the bed looked clean… I should have checked the bathroom.
After dropping my luggage I decided to walk around the area – I found out that I was staying only a few meters away from the Blue Mosque, and Hija Sofia etc. Wonderful! So I walked around trying not to get lost. I had diner and promised myself to go back before I leave the country. So back to the hotel I went. Got to my room and inspected the bathroom. Toilet looked a little funny with a jet in the middle of the back – that I found out later did not work – an experience I will no have on this occasion. Had a shower, that was OK but then I looked at the electrical wiring of the bathroom. DANGER! Do not switch on the light. The hairdryer wires were nude and hooked onto the wires of the light switch – too many nude wires for me in a wet area. I don’t think it would have passed the UK health and safety standards! Never mind, I was staying near the Blue Mosque! Next day I took a taxi to the university. The university looks great, The front garden goes down to the Bosphorus, seats and tables everywhere for the students to enjoy the magnificent view and the sunshine. I do not believe that it is a cheap university!
Next problem… no books.
As 99% of my dealings are with EU countries, I had forgotten that I must pay an import tax to get the books out of customs. After talks with the Librarian and the Head of Computing, we agreed that I would pay them with books. By lunchtime I was set. The table looked perfect and I was ready to sell lots of books which I did.
No conference dinner was arranged but instead we got a fantastic cruise on the sea. Wonderful evening with great sites. On leaving the boat, I looked for a taxi which I found very easily. I gave the driver the card of my hotel and off we went. As far as I could see we were driving towards the city centre but unfortunately I could not recognise anything as it was in the middle of the night. After driving for what seemed like hours, I somehow managed to make the driver understand that I wanted to stop in front of a big hotel. I got out of the taxi followed by the driver. With the help of the porter who spoke English, we managed to convince the driver to go away. Then another taxi was booked which took me to my hotel within minutes. What a night! The next day when I reported the incident to the conference organizers they told me that I should be aware that not all taxi drivers can read.
Did I enjoy my short stay. Yes, wonderful, I would go back anytime.