2017-04-21 / Travel

Turkey, Land of Mystery

Part 1: Athens to Istanbul
By Warner M. Montgomery


Our modern bus from Athens took 24 hours to reach Istanbul even though the schedule promised “12 Hours to Istanbul.” Our modern bus from Athens took 24 hours to reach Istanbul even though the schedule promised “12 Hours to Istanbul.” In 1992, Linda and I flew to Athens, Greece, for a history lesson before taking a bus to Istanbul, Turkey, to visit a Turkish student we had hosted while she was at USC. We checked into the Hotel Mystras then visited a few wonderful archeological sites. We arrived at the Vangelis Tavern at 6:30 p.m. for dinner only to find out the Greeks never eat before 8 p.m.

And never go to sleep before 2 a.m.

The noise at our hotel was unbelievable— cars, motorcycles, buses, trains, even barking dogs. Finally, at 3 a.m., Linda called the manager and demanded he remove the party-goers from our hallway. He hung up, and the party continued.

After a sleepy breakfast, we went to the bus station and asked for tickets to Istanbul, Turkey. We were told the bus left at 8 a.m. the next morning and would arrive in Istanbul at 8 p.m. Not bad! Just 12–hours, and we would see Mount Olympus along the way.


Linda and I dined at the Vangelis Tavern in Athens, Greece. Linda and I dined at the Vangelis Tavern in Athens, Greece. The bus left on time with two drivers, a steward, and three passengers including us. At sundown in Thessaloniki, six more boarded. We quickly realized we were on a 24–hour trip.

We arrived at the Turkish border at midnight. After an hour to clear customs and immigration, the bus, now packed full, took off for the final six-hour stretch to Istanbul.

At 3 p.m. the scene changed. The two-lane road through quaint villages and farms became a brightly lighted superhighway framed by high-rise apartments. The driver pulled off the highway, sipped from a steaming thermos, and relieved himself. The assistant driver and the other passengers snored away.

We arrived at the Istanbul bus terminal at dawn and were “welcomed” by a hoard of humanity I had never seen before.


The bus terminal in Istanbul was the most crowded public place I had ever experienced. The bus terminal in Istanbul was the most crowded public place I had ever experienced. Continued Next Week



The Greece/Turkey border was well-lighted, guarded by Greek soldiers, and traffic-free. The Greece/Turkey border was well-lighted, guarded by Greek soldiers, and traffic-free.

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