Dec 102013
 

This will be a relatively short one, since I griped a few posts back about how miserable Turkish A321 business class is.  Got to the airport approximately two hours before my flight, which was about right, as check-in took nearly 30 minutes. There was only one line, for all passengers, forget about any priority or business class. Immigration and security were completely painless, and soon we were in the departure room. I say room, because it was one big room, with a tiny snack bar, and that was it. Almost every seat was occupied.

This morning’s 5am entertainment was provided by a group of around 10 soldiers in uniform, getting completely trashed throwing back vodka shots. Fortunately, they weren’t on the flight, but makes me wonder what they were doing on that side of security. Maybe I’m better off not knowing.

Bus gate (no jetbridges in Dushanbe, which was hella fun in the pouring rain. That meant when the bus doors opened, it was a mad dash to the stairs…and of course the first people on the plane jammed the aisles so everyone else got soaking wet. It was a great way to start a long flight in Turkish’s craptastic Euro business class! ūüėČ

Turkish Airlines flight 255
Dushanbe, Tajikistan (DYU) to Istanbul, Turkey (IST)
Depart 6:00, Arrive 9:00, Flight Time 6:00
Airbus A321-200 Registration TC-JRB, Manufactured 2006, Seat 2D

Once again, our friendly young man in the chef costume presented orange juice and a few other fruity drinks right before takeoff, along with some Turkish delight, and soon we were off into the rainy skies. ¬†Flight was completely full this morning, with every seat taken. ¬†Literally five minutes off the ground the crew sprang into action, impressive since they’d just worked the inbound from Istanbul. ¬†Yes, they’d be pulling a 13-14 hour day…don’t think that would fly with the FAA.

Very soon it was hot towels and the meal service.  So, to start we were promised:

Fresh Fruits

Yoghurt with Honey

Chicken and Turkey Breasts

Assorted Cheese

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Pretty tasty for an appetizer/starter, and I will admit that the food is one thing Turkish really manages to get right.

Then, we had a choice of:

Turkey Ham & Cheese Toast (Turkish style spinach puff pastry, chicken sausage / herbed mushrooms)

or

Gratined Crepe with Scrambled Eggs

I asked the “chef” which he recommended, and he said definitely the crepe, the other one is not at all good. ¬†I’d say he was right on the crepe, but can’t really speak to the other choice.

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About an hour before landing, only 2.5 hours after the main meal, we were offered a snack. ¬†A bowl of hazelnuts, and a “cheese sandwich and sour cherry cake.” ¬†Skipped the sandwich because I was still full, but had the nuts and the delicious cherry cake with a couple of coke zeros in an attempt to wake up.

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Landed in Istanbul right on time, no line at all for visa on arrival, and I still ended up waiting nearly 30 minutes for bags to be delivered.  Not a huge deal, but I was anxious to get to my hotel and get seeing the city!  I had a 24 hour rest stop, and wanted to see as much as I could, having only been to Istanbul once briefly before.

Bags came about 45 minutes after deplaning, no line for a cab, and it was off to the city in Istanbul’s terrible traffic. ¬†Was a surprisingly expensive taxi, over $40 due to traffic, and soon we were at the W. ¬†I had the choice of a standard room available right away, or waiting an hour for a suite. ¬†Easy choice. ¬†Dropped my bags with the concierge, and headed out to refuel with some coffee. ¬†Felt much better, and it was off to the W.

I’ll talk about my wander around Istanbul in the next post, but I’ll give a quick review of the W here.

Staff: ¬†absolutely fantastic. ¬†Warm greetings, genuinely seemed interested in helping, and were extremely friendly. ¬†The only small drawback were the staff in the restaurant, who I’m sure were trying their best, but I’ve seen turtles that moved faster.

Room: ¬†awesome upgrade to a studio suite, which had a fantastic rain shower in it. ¬†Well, it would have been fantastic if there weren’t oddly placed pieces of furniture everywhere which caused me to break my toe when I stubbed it in the middle of the night. ¬†Not real thrilled with that. ¬†Oh, and since I always complain about it, the AC worked wonderfully, and kept the room nice and cool.

Restaurant and bar:  food and drink were good, but prices were absolutely outrageous.  Service was also, as I mentioned above, insanely slow.  I wanted turkish food, but not fast-food takeout, and after a day of wandering I was too tired to go far, and everyone I talked to seemed to agree there was really nothing good in the neighbourhood which met that description.  I mean, food was tasty, but an appetizer, some kebabs, and two glasses of wine should not cost $70 in Istanbul.  Highway robberly.

Location: ¬†everything you need in walking distance, but not a great selection of restaurants. ¬†Also, it’s about a 15 minute walk to the tram to old town, or 15 minutes uphill to the cable car to the metro. ¬†So, it takes a while to get to sites, but I really didn’t mind. ¬†Gave me a chance to see things along the way.

In summary, I love this hotel, well, maybe not love but really like.  This was a rest stop in between intense work stops for me, and it was relaxing and comfortable, which was just what I was looking for.

Dec 092013
 

So, I had a weekend in Dushanbe, and the good fortune to have a seasonably unusual heatwave….highs reached 22-24C which for late November was way above normal. ¬†The one bad thing about the Hyatt as a hotel is location. ¬†It’s a good mile out of the edge of the main city, which means you’re more or less trapped there in the evenings. ¬†I’ll get to the hotel a bit more later, but on Saturday I got up relatively early and ended up walking 14 miles all around Dushanbe. ¬†It was a great day for walking, even though the sites…well not a ton to see. ¬†I’m going to give the highlights, mainly in photo form:

Statue outside the national museum:

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Entrance of the National Museum:

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Another statue outside the National Museum:

IMG_1627 Continue reading »

Nov 292013
 

After relaxing in the lounge in Frankfurt for a few hours, catching up on espresso and a shower, it was time to head to the next flight.  Nice ride to the plane in a Porsche Cayenne-S which gave the chance to drive by this fun plane:

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Got up to the plane, and the driver insisted on carrying my bags up the stairs, and stowing them in the overhead bin for me. ¬†That was definitely a first. ¬†I mean, a ride to the plane in a Porsche is way beyond expectations, but to have the driver handing your baggage as well, well, this one really went the extra mile. ¬†When I boarded, I was the only one on the plane for over 15 minutes with the flight attendants. ¬†I joked with them that I was ready to go, so could we take off already? ¬†Wait, this isn’t a private jet? ¬†Finally at departure time, the other passengers started to arrive…30 minutes later, we were finally boarded.

Lufthansa flight 1300
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Istanbul, Turkey (IST)
Depart 12:45, Arrive 16:40, Flight Time 2:55
Airbus A320-200 Registration D-AIZX, Manufactured 2013, Seat 5F Continue reading »

Nov 232013
 

Having just returned from 5 consecutive weekends on the west coast thanks to the United $10 fare sale, I was ready to be home. Seriously I was. Especially since I had 7 visas to sort for my New Years trip to Africa coming up. Work, however, had other plans for me.

No Thanksgiving this year, but rest assured I was going to have Turkey. As in the country, not the bird.

It actually started as a week-long trip to Tajikistan…and the easiest way there was through Istanbul. Then, a week in Moscow got added on. Now, mind you, last time I was in Moscow was 1988 when it was still part of the Soviet Union, and it was my 3rd country visited after Canada and the UK. I’m going to guess Moscow is a bit different 25 years later.

I’d planned on taking a few days of vacation after that, to visit 2 of my 3 remaining countries in Europe, when fate intervened I was needed in Montenegro. Score! This would also mean an overnight in Vienna. …and business would finish on Friday, allowing me a weekend connection in Serbia at no charge. That will leave poor little Andorra as my last country to visit in Europe.

I’m going to try and keep up with this in real time. Just managed to secure 10 visas in a little over 3 weeks, which is some sort of personal record, and especially impressive giving they included DR Congo, Angola, Russia, and several other places in West Africa where I’m headed in just five weeks! ¬†Then, it’s back home for a grand total of five days, before a few day Christmas with the family, and then off to West Africa for two+ weeks.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up in real time. The flight routing is:

map

 

Off we go!