KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Our flight from Zurich to Istanbul was delayed by one hour and in the end, we missed our connection on to Tbilisi, Georgia. There are only two flights a day, and ours was the later flight so we ended up having to spend the night and fly the next day. In some ways, it was a better itinerary, as the flight we were supposed to take left Istanbul in the wee hours of the morning and we were scheduled to arrive in Tbilisi at 4:30am. Fortunately, I had established a WhatsApp link with our AirBnB host and was able to let him know he didn’t need to come to the airport to pick us up in the middle of the night.
The airline made it very clear that we could be accommodated in a hotel for the night, but there was one catch. We would have to leave the airport secure area and that meant that we had to have a visa to enter Turkey. Fortunately, it’s possible to pay for the visa on arrival, but the attendant at the counter would only take cash. If we wanted to pay via credit card, we had to use an electronic machine to purchase the visa.
In many ways, Turkey is so very modern, but the visa machine was from the dark ages. It took us forever to figure out how to use it, no one was available in the middle of the night to help us out. The attendant behind the glass counter wasn’t the least bit interested in being of any help.
The representative from Turkish Airlines assured us we would be able to claim back the $70 USD cost for each of the two visa payments, and told us we should be able to do so at the Tbilisi airport. After we got everything sorted out, we were led, along with two other passengers to a waiting van. We spend off into the night, winding through road after road within the airport grounds and then into a relatively dilapidated neighbourhood.
I was beginning to get quite concerned that we were going to be deposited into a seedy hotel – not quite what one expects when flying business class, even if the tickets were purchased using Aeroplan points. Then suddenly, we rounded a corner and pulled up in front of an astonishing new hotel – five star for sure if I’m any judge. The lobby was quiet at that time of night, and we were quickly registered and shown to our mind-blowingly beautiful room overlooking the Sea of Marmara.
Our flight wasn’t until early afternoon so we slept late and then had a fabulous breakfast sitting near the windows and admiring the glorious sunny day and the stunning blue water a stone’s throw away. We checked out at noon and a van arrived to take us back to the airport. Our flight left on time and before we knew it, we were soaring over Istanbul and the Bosphorus.
We had spent two weeks in Istanbul in 2009 so I was able to recognize many landmarks as we flew over the city and then on towards the Black Sea. Our route took us over the snow-capped Caucasus mountains and a couple of hours later we were finally landing in Tbilisi. Goga, our AirBnB host was waiting for us, this time at a far more reasonable time – exactly 12 hours later than we were originally scheduled to arrive.