Pretrip: an Ode to the Istanbul Airport

On the road again..

Where shall we go today?

Where shall we go today?

As you may know, my trip to Berlin last December ignited in me a desire to know more about some critical events of the 20th century, most specifically World War II and the era leading up to it. This has been made doubly compelling because I am planning to write a book about my uncle who spent seven years in Europe between 1937 and 1944, writing, traveling, carousing, sleeping around, and then getting finally serious and fighting under three flags, flying sorties across the Channel and sh*t like that.  His escapades ended when the jeep he was driving in Naples (overloaded with booze, no less) turned on it side, breaking his arm in several places. (Okay, ’nuff about him for the moment and more about me). Sometimes the passion tells you exactly what it wants, and right now, it wants to See The World, specifically more of Central Europe.  So off I have gone, yet again, the Dona Quixota of what’s on the other side of that there mountain, and that means I’m going to be blogging for a bit from one side or the other of the River Odra or the River Vistula, the complicated and conflicted land of Polanie.

But before we get there, the introduction.  This trip will start and stop with Turkish Airlines and its service to Berlin via the “İstanbul Atatürk Havalimanı,” its official name. Can I tell you how much I love this place? I’ve now passed through its sprawling corridors some nine or ten times, and I’ve enjoyed it, if not every time, nearly every time (let’s not count the visit that required 12 hours on the metal couch). And its a good thing I like it, because most layovers at IATA are substantial. The flagship airline Turkish now boasts that it flies to more cities than any other airline in the world, and that means, well, lots of layovers for lots and lots of passengers, 50+ million of them last year.

But that’s precisely what creates the wonderful floating polyglotistic/multi-cultural stew of humanity that throbs constantly through IATA’s long white hallways and busting retail thoroughfares. Order a latte or a Efes beer at one of the cheery-and-comfortable-but-overpriced eateries and watch the civilized world walk by, literally. Young French backpackers, headed for New Delhi, charging their laptops for the last time; observant Muslims wrapped in bath towels (and nothing else) rushing to their exit lounge on their way to Mecca; gaggles of well-tanked and slightly obnoxious British sports fans yucking it up on their way to a football match somewhere; Asian businessmen obviously showing frustration with the poor WIFI available; well-dressed young women covered from head to tow in abayas but showing their swag with their Vuitton and Prada and Michael Kors; you’ve got it all.

But the best part of all this is – it works. Flawlessly, or so it seems. Everyone is more or less calm, well-behaved, soft-spoken, respectful, perfectly pleasant.  Even the children seem to know they can’t throw manic tantrums around here. It is as if we all know we’re here together for this brief but important time, coming from HERE, trying to go THERE, and no one, really, is in the majority, no one, really, is in charge, and it simply behooves us to Just Get Along, and so we do. (Personally, I think it might have a lot to do with all the mouth-watering samples of Turkish delight that the hospitable locals keep on the ready in the gift shops and duty-free stores for the hungry hordes – my personal favorite is the double roasted pistachio….mmMMMmm…..

Mighty fine

Mighty fine


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