Published Sep 8, 2012

We touched down in Istanbul at about 6pm, which would’ve been fine to get into the old, touristy part of town — Sultanahmet — before sundown, except they lost my luggage. Now, I don’t really blame them for it, but that’s not the first topic of this blog entry. The first topic of this blog entry is that, hey, we’re in Istanbul!

Actually, I might’ve just lied there a bit: the first topic of this blog entry is probably Turkish Air, and possibly also our unnatural fascination with this airline. We first flew Turkish on our way to Tanzania last year, and had such an incredible flight that we seriously talked about the return flight for our entire safari experience. And that return flight lived up to all of our expectations. So, when the opportunity came to take Turkish to our planned destinations of Slovenia and Croatia, we hopped on it and added a couple of days in Istanbul, to make it really worthwhile.

(Incidentally, if you’re flying Turkish and have a layover in Istanbul of more than 6 hours, Turkish will take you on a free tour of old Istanbul. Sorry, couldn’t resist the marketing copy.)

The flight was everything we’d idolized our last THY experience to be! There were great, recent movies on the in-flight entertainment. The food was delicious, absolutely restaurant quality. The premium economy seats were only slightly more expensive than economy but the width of a Business-class seat , and sported footrests. The bathrooms had lemon verbena-scented spray. Dinner was a kind of fancied-up doner kebab with roasted eggplant. There were free booties and free slippers both. I almost felt bad wasting it when I fell asleep to Kind of Blue on their in-flight radio.

Now, one thing I didn’t have on the flight was my cold packs. See, I hurt my ankle, and it’s been getting better, but regular icing sure helps. One feature of Americans is that we like our ice in general, so even the cheapest motel has an ice machine and a big bucket for you to get yourself what you need. The rest of the world by and large thinks were nutcases with the ice, and I knew that could well mean no ice on the road to keep my ankle comfy. So I thought: why not fill my mostly-empty-because-I’m-taking-easy-to-wash-quick-drying-synthetics suitcase with a bunch of boxes of those instant crush-to-make-icy cold packs? And I went out and bought a bunch.

Then I had a thought: is it ok to take these on a plane? I mean, they release cold, so can they release heat? Are they safe for checked baggage? Should I bring them in my carry-on? I took a bag out of its box and looked at it to find ingredients or a safety statement, turned it over in my hands a few times, and then saw it: Ammonium Nitrate. You may remember Ammonium Nitrate from that time they blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I decided right quick not to bring that on the plane with us.

But then it was a little chancy getting on anyway: I set off the explosive sniffer going through security and they had to swab my hands. I got through safe, but chuckled to myself: hope they didn’t detect anything on my luggage! And imagine if I’d packed the stuff? I’d’ve spent my time in a windowless room in the bowels of LAX and missed my flight! Or, worse, I might’ve gotten a nice little trip to Guantanamo Bay until they had a chance to sort this out. (“No, officer, I promise I wasn’t planning mayhem, I just didn’t want to limp my way through my vacation!”) At the very least, I would’ve been in for a body cavity search and a lifetime on some special TSA list. And of course I’ve learned that my luggage didn’t make it through security in time to make my flight.

So we’re in Istanbul. I just washed my clothes in the hotel sink, which is usually just a sign of reasonableness — “I’m going to bring 4 washable outfits for my 20-day trip, not 20 dry-clean-only ones, and clean my clothes at the end of every day” — but this time is a sign of the airline lost my luggage (fortunately, my plane outfit was the washable synthetic stuff, so it should be dry by the morning!). And we’re not doing that bad at all! We got into town in time to see sunset over the Sea of Marmara (granted, as we drove through stop-and-go traffic on what appears to be the Kennedy beltway); we walked through beautiful Sultanahmet at night, and we had a delicious dinner of kebab, roasted tomatoes, eggplant and yogurt, and the Turkish equivalent of Lahmejeune, at a pretty outdoor spot.We even got free tea to end the evening.

My bag is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me!