Monday, September 30, 2019

Tourist in Turkey

Whatever you do , don’t use my blog as a reference for any reason unless you want to do everything the wrong way ๐Ÿ˜ when we woke up we started looking at hotel options for our trip to Israel and car rentals to get around . It’s a royal pain in the ass having to research stuff while I should be enjoying my holiday but at this point I have no choice and thankfully my buddy Mike Mazeika has been giving us some pretty good advice about where to go and stay . Super stoked to get to the holy land but first things first .... we have to go see some sights in Istanbul . We booked a ticket to go on the Hop On Hop Off tour called the Big Bus and didn’t realize that it had a time limit ! There are two separate tickets with one for day time and one for evening and basically you end up stranded if you miss the last bus even though they have bus’ running and the ticket was €45 each which is far from cheap but we wanted to maximize our day . 

When we finally left the hotel we decided to eat so we stopped into one of the local restaurants and grabbed a bite to eat . I really wish the people working in these tourist areas would learn not to be so aggressive with people trying to get them to come and spend there money . Please come in my store I want your money in my pocket ... really fuck off ! It’s never gonna change and they will never realize that i am more likely to say no then say yes but the guy at the front of the restaurant didn’t have to give us the pitch because I was going there anyway . The food was ok at best and I wouldn’t even bother mentioning the name of the restaurant since they are doing ok with their aggressive tactics anyways ... when we left we went into Taksim Square to find our pickup point and luckily arrived just in time to catch it or we would have missed out on more sightseeing . 

The bus was alright but really we just wanted to see the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia so if you ask me now I would say it was a total waste of money to take this bus but we did do most of the two bus routes in as little time as possible before seeing these two magnificent buildings and ok maybe the tour bus helped out a bit by giving me more ideas of what I would see if I ever came back but if I were you I wouldn’t take this tour . Just go see Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque is right there with a small bazaar beside it . We visited the bazaar there and no it’s not the famous Egyptian Bazaar which we never visited since it was closed yesterday . In the shops or bazaar we bought our tourist stuff and then ended up in a shop buying Turkish delights and pistachios which also was not cheap and we didn’t even have the time to eat them either so we basically threw more money away .... this is becoming a thing on this trip . Just tossing money at everything for no reason at all ! 

We then decided to start walking to get to a metro train to get back to Taksim Square since our last bus left with tour bus . Yeah they won’t let you on the bus if you miss the last scheduled bus for day trips ๐Ÿคช, whatever ... on our walk to the metro we came across a bar that looked inviting so we went in for one beer which ended up being 3 beers and then we continued our walk and got to the metro and made our way back to the hotel . We then decided to head back out and went to the Irish pub with full intentions of being in bed by midnight so we can catch our 11 am flight today .....

We had a group of Mexican tourists sit beside us and then shit got crazy ๐Ÿ˜ beer , tequila ,sheesha and a $200 bill later with fireworks being lit in the bar while we danced all night and really had a good time . We left the bar at a reasonable time and my Fitbit says I was sleeping by 2:30 am so it’s not too bad ? I also set my alarm for 6 am or something while I was at the bar and Andi set his also ... you would think that we did the responsible thing even though we stayed probably an hour or two longer then we should have . I honestly don’t remember leaving the bar and don’t remember much after this but I do know I have to be awake in a few hours ... hopefully I catch my flight ✈️ 

Another great day in Istanbul but I can’t help being upset about all the time wasted trying to organize the next part of my trip while I’m actually travelling . This trip cancellation really really sucks and I blame that for being two steps behind for everything so far . A lot of time and energy is being taken away from the actual holiday and I know some people enjoy travelling like this but I rather have everything organized beforehand . That’s my little rant and now I need to get myself back into a more positive headspace .... keep smiling and make the most of it ! 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Istanbul Derby

When you go to bed at 6 am you tend to wake up later and when you drink a lot you tend to wake up feeling hungover and if you smoke sheesha you tend to wake up with a rough throat .... that was me yesterday ! I remember waking up and looking at my phone to see the time and then I had to check what time the game we were going to was at and the kickoff was 8 pm , that’s when I went back to bed ๐Ÿ˜ when I did wake up for real I opened the blinds and looked across the road to see the Turkish Airlines which is a swift kick in the ass of a reminder that I have a flight to a Turkmenistan that I can’t get on because we never received permission to get our visa’s . During our drunken adventures Andi and myself came to the decision that we should go to Israel ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ to visit our friend Mike “Shakes” Mazeika and to also try to visit our friend Ge’ Cardoso who was our host when we visited Brazil . So far we have not reached Ge’ but we did get in touch with Shakes and he has organized our ice times . So first thing is first .... I need a coffee and there is a Cafe Nero next to the Turkish Airlines office . 

We went around the corner and I grabbed a flat white which was nowhere even close to being a decent flat white ... not that I’m an expert but isn’t a flat white not supposed to have bubbles in it ? Needless to say my next coffee won’t be an overly priced flat white from Cafe Nero . Now it’s time to face the music and bite the bullet ... the night before this Kathleen had to cancel my flight to Ashgabat with Aeroplan who charged me $100 to get my aeroplan points back and my payment which now I must deal with my credit card provider to get my money back from , what an absolute pain ! Now I’m dealing with my return flight which was booked separately through Expedia but (as mentioned in my last blog ) I was told in the airport that I should be able to switch the flight to go wherever I chose . When speaking to this other Turkish Airlines agent I was told there would be a cancellation fee and a fee to process which totals $80 USD off the hop and that’s before being charged for my return trip to Israel which brought the total to cancel and book my next flight to over $550 USD !!! I am not so stupid and was looking at Expedia to book the exact same flight for $500 CDN which is much cheaper then the other option seeing how the Canadian dollar is weaker then the USD ... in fact that total in USD is $377 , guess what I booked ? So now we are leaving for Israel on Monday but today we are in Turkey and tonight is the big game with Galatasaray hosting local rivals Fenerbahce ! This match is one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports and anyone that watches football (soccer) would know of this game . 

After coffee and booking flights I needed to take a shower and write my blog ... that’s why I posted the pic of my mask beside my iPad on the desk I am still currently writing at ๐Ÿง makes me feel smart hahaha ! On our way back to our room we decided to pop into this Irish pub for one beer which ended up being three and then got washed up and began our trek to the Turk Telecom Stadium . We walked to Taksim Square to get on transit and shit was getting crazy even in the square where there were flares being lit with lots of singing and dancing and it was wild .... we got on the train with this group after we got scammed to get on by a local who offered us to put cash on his card to get on the train . The cost is around 5 Turkish liras and this guy asked for 10 each which in the big picture is literally nothing for us . We knew we were being had but didn’t even care lol ! When we got to the platform waiting for the train and the train arrived we were forced into the train by the crowd . No joke it felt as though I was lifted by a wave of humans and shoved into the train . It was fun but could be scary for some ... the train ride was absolutely mental in every sense as everyone was jumping up and down in unison while singing their hearts out . That atmosphere blew me away and at the same time made me wonder if the train would tip over lol . I will always remember this until the day I die . 

When we got to the stadium we had to get to a ticket booth to pick up our Passolig Cards by showing our passports . Tickets don’t come with seat numbers on them and it was a crazy guessing game that Andi had to go through to find the info via emails and then we finally found our seats ... time for a beer ! What do you mean you don’t serve beer ? Scheiss!!! I guess it’s a cola and a nice kofta sandwich YUM ! We take our seats and we began to absorb the energy of the stadium ... we were not too far from the away support which is all caged in with giant plexi glass to keep them from not throwing shit at other supporters and I forgot to mention that at one of the three security check points on the way to stadium I had my coins taken away from me because they don’t want fans throwing coins at each other ... I think I ditched around 5 Liras oh well ๐Ÿ˜” safety first I guess . Speaking of safety , I probably should have taken ear plugs because every time Fenerbahce held the ball the deafening sound of whistles started and I’m not kidding when I say I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so loud in all my life . The atmosphere was fantastic but too bad the game didn’t hold up to its potential as both sides scrapped it out for a whopping 0-0 draw . Lots of dirty play during the match and I’m shocked that the fans didn’t attack the Fenerbahce goalie when he decided to rifle a ball behind his net towards the home supporters . A few tried jumping the fence but probably held back since they weren’t charging in full force ? The whole game I waited for something to erupt and probably best that it didn’t but I’m the type of guy that likes a little violence , heck I’m a hockey player after all lol . 

Guess what we found outside the stadium on our way to the metro ??? Just look up at the picture ๐Ÿคช this time at the transit we bought our own card as we waited for the crowd to disperse and had no problems figuring this out without a mad crowd around us . When we arrived in Taksim Square we immediately went to a market grabbed some more beers and went to our room to ore drink and charge our phones to carry on with our adventure . First bar we went to when we left our room was the Irish Pub which was no longer a pub and now more like a dance club with security at the door and music way too loud to understand anything so we opted to leave without a beer and head to the same patio bar we were at the night before . 

When we got to the bar we grabbed beers and sheesha and noticed a woman sitting by herself eyeing Andi from across the patio so we invited her over . Andi thought she may have been a prostitute and I didn’t think she was and as we sat there she had other fellas join her and leave which made me question if Andi was right ? She eventually joined us at our table and she was not very talkative and we did not offer her a drink or anything of the sort ... actually I asked her if she smoked sheesha and she said no so that would probably constitute being offered something . Anyways she left and we never found out if she was a hooker and then we decided to leave also as we were tired and buzzed . When I went to pay the bill the bar wanted me to pay for her 2 waters , coffee and beer and they charged me for her smoking sheesha .... wtf ! I told the bar that we didn’t buy her any of this and they said well she sat with you and I said listen we don’t know her , we didn’t offer her anything and the sheesha never even went near her lungs . She did have a beer while sitting near us so I paid that but refused to pay the rest with a smile and they took all of the other stuff off my bill . As we were leaving she got up from her table she was sitting at alone and she left right behind us and went in the opposite direction which leaves me to believe that she was probably a prostitute of some sort that possibly works for the bar . It is pretty evident that she goes there sits and waits for suitors and then would more then likely leave to go perform her duty and when she joins tables the bar who probably employs her gets to charge for her purchases to some unlucky customers . Good thing that this one time I decided to look at the bill as everyone really doesn’t look at their bill all the time do they ? 

After the bar we walked to our hotel and ordered room service which was pasta arrabiata with a beer ๐Ÿป and then we crashed out at around 5 am ... now it’s time for me to get ready to go out to have a story to write about tomorrow . Still loving Turkey ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Day 1 - Buz Adam Genclik ve spor kulubu

Let’s just start by saying that this trip is unique ... unique in the sense that when I arrived in Croatia en route to Istanbul I found out that the Howe International Friendship League had cancelled our trip to Turkmenistan . This leaves me and Andi in the position where we are already en route and we now have nowhere to be or stay as of Monday with absolutely no plans at all . What an absolute disaster ! Don’t worry I kept my cool and kept telling myself that everything will be alright but when I arrived at Istanbul airport things got messy in the sense that I had to get some Turkish Liras , get a SIM card but that was too expensive so I opted to use my option through my provider at home and then I had to drag my bag up and down stairs to find my way to the Turkish Airlines office to deal with the cancellation of flights and to see what my options are . At that moment my option was to try to get the flight switched at little to no expense but to where ? Need to discuss with Andi when he arrives later on . Time to drag my gear to our hotel which is the Titanic Hotel near Taksim Square . That taxi was not cheap and as the norm I had to haggle with a few guys to still get ripped off but not so badly . The half hour drive cost me 150 Turkish liras which is roughly $30 CDN which is normal but expensive here ... c’est la vie ! 

When I got to the room I passed out for an hour and a half and then ordered some room service before Andi arrived and once he arrived we had a quick chat about our messed up situation and began getting the wheels to turn in order to make a decision of where to go and most importantly where we can play ice hockey . That same night we had a practise with Turkish league club Buz Adam .... the rink is not close so we had to get ourselves a taxi which the hotel helped us out with ๐Ÿฅณ our vehicle was like a party van with red lights in it and leather seats and throw cushions . We paid 100 lira to the hotel concierge which is obviously a quick money making scheme but it is still cheap enough to not let it bother us . As our shuttle took us to the rink we came upon the Wall of Constantinople and we were amazed that when we saw an entrance we turned into it . This is like a massive fort but inside is a bunch of sports complexes ... we saw football teams practising ( American football not soccer ) and then we arrived at the entrance for the rink where the Zamboni  was also entering and we followed the path to the entrance to the facility which also was quite impressive . The building has two ice rinks , showers and is not in a mall which is absolutely astonishing for me since most countries don’t have these kind of facilities . As we arrived I was messaging Attila who I was put in contact with through Tarik Gocmen and through that contact we were put in touch with Sebba who is one of the parents of two youth players here . When we met Sebba we immediately hit it off and found out our ice time was delayed for a half hour and went to have a hot chocolate in the upstairs lounge area which was full of people . This rink is so full of life and seems to be constantly used by everyone of all ages and from what we have heard and seen Turkey/ Istanbul could definitely keep a few more ice rinks full and busy . The hockey scene here is bustling and ready to hit the ice ! 

When we got to our room all the guys were excited to meet us and made us really feel like celebrities . I think anyone reading this would have the same reaction as Turkish people are very very friendly and so far I have nothing but lovely things to say about this beautiful country . I have absolutely zero problems here and I think I would want to come back or stay longer but that will be discussed soon , first things first .... let’s hit the ice ! The hockey club is filled with youth , females and pro team members on ice at same time but split for skill levels as we did a ton of skating drills and warmup drills . I got the time to chat with the other 3 goalies but really enjoyed showing the female goalie (who I feel so bad that I have forgotten her name ) some pointers and we had a lot of fun teasing everyone else together as we made the most of not having pucks shot at us for the first hour of this 90 minute ice time . When the pucks started flying I felt a bit tired but tried to put my best foot forward as I face their top skaters and I think I did alright but definitely had room for improvement . I was really gasping for air between drills and even though I’m working on my cardio I probably should work a bit more on it . That’s not what I’m here for though .. I want to have fun and make friends !

After the ice time we exchanged gifts with the Russian coaches and said our good byes which was a bit hard as we grew close with the group over our limited time and they really treated us like gold , heck even Sebba got us a taxi and paid for it so we didn’t get ripped off . Hopefully we can return the favour if we get the chance to meet again during our stay . I can definitely say we made some friend and mission was fully accomplished as we went back to our room to have some drinks . When we arrived we got into the Lonkero drinks Andi brought with him then went out to hit some bars .... we stayed out really late or should I say early ๐Ÿ˜

Taksim Square is full of bars , clubs and restaurants that don’t seem to ever close . First bar we went into was ummm different , when we walked in we got the vibe that it was a lady bar as Andi calls it but you can say it more then likely was a brothel . No I did not get entertained and opted for a beer and a quick retreat . The vibe was strange in there with all the local dudes eyeing us as Turkish music blasted louder then comfortable . This was not what we wanted so we went to another bar where we chilled on the patio before heading to our next bar on our pub crawl . Thats where we got into the sheesha and the beer really was going down well and before you know it was 4 am . Time to eat some dinner or was it breakfast ? Anyways we had a kebab and one last beer around the corner from our room before heading to our room to end our first day . What a great day , but we still have this decision to come to about what to do for Monday .... to be continued ! 

Last thing I want to say is that we are both so thankful for the club allowing us to join them and we really appreciate the gifts from the club but at the end of it all the most satisfying thing was giving out some gifts and seeing how much our new friends appreciated it . If you are reading this and want to come experience this please let me know and I will gladly put you in contact with the club but you have to promise me that you will bring whatever you can to donate ! They have a tough time getting gear or even small stuff like stick tape , wax and laces . Everyone here is content with what they have and as hockey ambassadors we should all pitch in and help our hockey family around the world . They will appreciate it ! 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Central Asia Adventure

A few months back I began looking for an interesting adventure to join after I was left behind by the team I used to travel with (long story) .... regardless I was looking for another group to begin travelling with and contacted a company called Howe Friendship Hockey League . I don’t have any links as I’m writing this in the airport as I await my first flight which is to Zagreb from Toronto . I’m already drifting off trek , excuse me as I have not wrote anything in quite some time . Let me get back on trek ๐Ÿ˜ ! So I saw that they were planning a trip to Turkmenistan ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฒ and that is very appealing as I heard from others who have done this trip that it’s a fantastic place to visit . Turkmenistan is the least visited country in the planet .... North Korea and Afghanistan have more visitors apparently . The whole mission of the trip is to bridge barriers in other countries and make friends that play hockey and bring donations to help their program hopefully grow and we will have the opportunity to play a professional club there called HC Galkan and they make up a good 90% of their national team squad so it will be a challenge and an adventure . Before I gave the green light that I was coming I had talked to my buddy The Tanzmanian Devil aka Andi Tanzer and he said he wanted to do the same trip so we began planning our adventure together . 

We both felt as though we didn’t need to do the pre or post portion of this trip so we both opted for the basic trip and figured the best route to Ashgabat would be through Istanbul and since neither of us have ever been there we decided to plan to play hockey and spend the weekend there before flying to Ashgabat . Finding ice time was a bit tough for Istanbul but my contact Tarik Gocmen came through and hooked us up with a friend of his named Attila (don’t know surname) but Attila is hooked up with a pro club in Istanbul named Buz Adam , this team ended up second in their pro league with the winner competing in the IIHF Continental Cup which happened last week . Our timing is good and when we land we get to practise with these guys which works well as we have a few days to dry our gear which saves us money on baggage weight .... unfortunately sweat gets counted even though it dries out as the flight occurs lol ! This portion of the trip came together really well as we have also booked tickets to see one of the deadliest football derby matches on the planet with Galatasaray playing Fenerbahce on Saturday leaving us Sunday and Monday to be tourists then fly off to Ashgabat .....

Now that was the plan but as I’m sitting in Pearson Airport , right now I’m not sure where I will be on Monday as our letter of invitation has not come through and without this we can not get a visa which means we can’t enter the country ! Howe Friendship League has not pulled the plug yet but the threat is definitely there which will leave us in limbo and will mean we lose money on the flights we have booked to and from Ashgabat . Here’s the kicker .... I would have to fly back to Istanbul to get my flight for the next leg of my trip which takes me to Almaty , Kazakhstan for the Fox Cup Tournament which is on my birthday ๐ŸŽ‚ I will be flying there alone as Andi goes back home and I don’t know anyone there which makes it more exciting and challenging if nobody speaks English but I’m up for it . So here I am trying to decide where to go if this all falls apart .... do I stay in Turkey ? Do I go somewhere else ? Wtf ! Today was pretty stressful as I waited and prepared for this trip as I packed and unpacked gear before I left my house ... will I end up somewhere cold or warm ? It is what it is now eh ! If I’m cold I will buy a jacket and if I’m warm I will wear shorts ๐Ÿฅณ

Getting into the airport today was fun as usual with my gear in tow . First air canada agent I ran into told me even though I checked in I must go to another line , and at that line they told me to go to another line and finally when I got to the counter my bag was a kilo overweight which really kills me as it’s just goalie gear and nothing else ! Good thing I’ve done this before and know to pack a bag inside of my bag and all I have to do is pull out that bag and carry it on . It’s either that or I’m paying extra baggage fees and that’s something I’m not interested in doing . 

Anyways it’s time to board and I will try to write more when I arrive in Istanbul and I will try to post daily blogs on my adventures .