Day 433: The Pope’s Nik-Naks


Scraping my face from my pillow, I headed back to the Iranian Embassy (this time I walked) with a shiny new reference number. The embassy’s only open for two hours in the morning, so I tried to get there in good time, but after making me wait an hour they asked for a photocopy of the page in my passport that had my Turkish visa stamp in it. I hurried back to the hostel to get it copied, then headed to the bank to pay in the WHOPPING €95 visa charge (most expensive in the world so far, I reckon), but by the time I got back to the embassy, it had closed. I’d have to come back tomorrow. Damnit.

Oh well, I thought, I’ll head over to the Azerbaijan Embassy and get my other visa sorted. A long tram-funicular-metro ride later, I got to the Embassy only to be told my Azerbaijan Visa was now about as much use as the pope’s nik-naks. I had to get a whole new visa. This meant coming back the next day with a ton of paperwork and they’d see what they could do.

I was going nowhere very slowly indeed.

Again I headed back to the hostel, but I thought (in my infinite wisdom) that it would be a good idea to walk down the hill from Taksim station to the tram stop and save myself that 75cents that it would otherwise cost to use the funicular thingy. Given it was foggy, raining and I didn’t have a map, this was possibly a very silly thing to do. And it was! I walked down the wrong side of the hill, wandered about for half-an-hour before I found the water and, being unable to find the tramlines or indeed the bridge that the tram travels south to Sultanahet on I instead jumped on the first ferry that I assumed was popping over the Golden Horn (woot! snark!) for my side of the briney.

But today wasn’t my day, it really wasn’t. I ended up in frickin’ ASIA before I finally managed to get on the right blooming boat. TWO HOURS it took. It takes 30 seconds to cross the Galata bridge on the tram. I felt like a blonde in a blonde joke.

NEW RULE: Don’t go ANYWHERE without a map.

EVENTUALLY, I was back in the cosy warmth of the backpackers enjoying a beer with my new chums, which had now spread to include Iwona, a book-publisher from Poland and her fella from Tunisia who (unlucky for him!) tried to take Atheer on on the matter of godlessness. I also found out that Atheer can speak Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, Bulgarian, English and French. I might just be his biggest fan. On the wrong side of the witching hour, we took over the rooftop café and drank until the wee small hours with a couple of British lasses who happened to be studying at my old university, and I found myself in the completely weird position of actually attempting to steer the conversation away religion and politics…

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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