As I’ve mentioned, we got up rather early to take the bus back to Athens. It’s only about four and a half hours to the bus station in Athens, and from there we jumped onto another bus to take us to the city centre. We arrived back in the city around 1.30pm – just in time for lunch!
Packs on our backs, we wandered down the main street to the same restaurant we’d eaten at previously – the one with the confusing fake chicken in a tree out the front. It was bustling away for lunch, but the waiter recognised us from our visit about ten days earlier and quickly found us a table. He also brought us out a complimentary bottle of ouzo, and of course we absolutely had to drink it!
Nothing will ever convince me that aniseed is delicious. Nevertheless, when in Rome…or Athens, as the case may be…
We’d taken the train from the airport to the city, and so decided that from the city to the airport we’d take the bus. Our flight was at 6.30pm, so we had still had plenty of time despite our long lunch. Buses depart regularly from Syntagma Square, and I think we paid about €4.50 each. I can’t imagine getting to the airport in Melbourne for that. We don’t even have a rail link – backwards, I know!
The flight was uneventful. That tends to be a good thing when it comes to flying.
Back in Istanbul we took the public-transport combination of train and tram to get back Sultanahmet. I was starting to feel like this was my daily commute, I’d made the trip that many times [the bus station’s on the same line]. We hadn’t made any bookings, but were quite confident that our friends at Pasha Hotel would have a room for us. We were greeted so warmly upon arriving that we almost felt as if we were home – the staff there were fantastic. They gave us a comfortable room, warning that we’d have to move the next day as they were renovating and taking out the staircase. We were just getting settled in when the owner of the guesthouse insisted upon taking us both out for dinner.
I’m not entirely sure where the restaurant he took us to was, but he was very insistent that it had the best lentil soup in Istanbul. Apparently it had been around for decades, starting as a small hole-in-the-wall and turning into the most popular local place in the city. It was about a 45 minute drive from the hotel, and when we arrived it was packed with locals – not a tourist in sight. And the lentil soup was, indeed excellent – as was everything else.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a little nargileh cafe that he appeared to also run. It was nice and warm inside, with colourful wall hangings and cushioned seats. Mother had never smoked nargileh before, and we ordered apple tobacco and some hot tea – obligatory really. Mum was fascinated with the nargileh, watching as they packed the tobacco and then the red-hot coals. There’s no real way to look gracefully while smoking it though. Mum looked like she was trying to play a clarinet. Even so, smoking nargileh is something so quintessential to the Middle East, and a trip to Turkey would have been incomplete without it.