Tower of Babel

Plane flights to Batumi from Istanbul can be a tricky thing. You see, there is a Turkish city close by, Hopi, that uses it as their airport, too. But the thing is, Istanbul to Hopi is less expensive than Istanbul to Batumi. Well that sounds like a no brainer, right? Well, not so fast…

I expectantly found myself in Istanbul over Easter break. I thought I was going to take the bus back, but my friend found a ‘deal’ online for a flight to Hopi (Batumi). We were excited because it meant one more day in Turkey and no grueling 22 hour bus ride.

The flight was fine. I highly recommend any Turkish airline to fly.

But here is where things get tricky. If you get a Istanbul to Hopi flight, although you fly into Batumi, Georgia, you will be shuttled back across the border to Hopi, Turkey.

So we land in Batumi. I entertained the thought of just slipping out the exit and getting a marshrutka to Oz. I think others had that idea, too. Because walking off the tarmac, there were two entrances into the airport. One labeled ‘Batumi’ and the other ‘Hopi Waiting Area’. People on my flight were hovering around the Georgia door. But an attendant was there checking ID’s and pointing people to the Hopi entrance.  People were yelling in Georgian, Turkish and I think I heard her reply in English a couple of times.  I abandoned my hope of slipping into Batumi.

In the Hopi waiting area, we were checked off on the list and told to wait. Once we were all filed in and accounted for, the doors were locked. (It wasn’t as scary as it sounds.)  Everybody was pretty chill. We all should have known how this was going to work, seeing as we were not in Turkey. Everybody but the supporting cast of this post. There was an elderly couple dressed in the universal look of elderly couples that travel. I couldn’t tell if they were Turkish or Georgian. I assume Turkish (for reasons to be told later.) As only old people can, they raised holy hell for not being able to simply go to the Georgian side. They argued with the checklist lady, the security guards, the police and even other passengers who tried to explain to them the process. Eventually the lady threw up her hands in defeat, which prompted the man to relent, too.

So once everyone is accounted for, they load us on to a shuttle bus with our luggage. The old couple is the last to get situated.

We drive all of 15 minutes to the border. I guess the airport and the border security have an understanding, because we don’t get off the bus or even stop. We cruise right past everyone and keep driving into Turkey. 15 more minutes we reach the city limits of Hopi. We turn off the main road to a desolate abandoned looking area. At the back of all this is a small building that serves as the Hopi International Terminal. We exit the bus at the back of the building. Inside, we get our passports stamped and out the door we go.

Passport control always makes me nervous. The security guards always take extra time to look through my passport. I think they are just curious… but it still freaks me out. Then I think, “”What if Interpol is looking for me?”

Outside the terminal our luggage was neatly stacked. There was an airport shuttle bus, several taxis and that’s all.

I approached the shuttle bus optimistically thinking they could possibly take me back to the border or Batumi. I asked if he spoke English…

“Yes.”

“You going to Batumi?” (Quickly realizing he didn’t really ‘know’ English)

“Yes.”

“Can I go with you?”

“No.  Taxi. (He points to the five taxis)”

I go over to the taxi drivers knowing ahead of time this will not end well. I ask ‘how much to go to Batumi’ in Georgian. They didn’t understand. So I mimed, pointed and said Batum (Turkish pronunciation of the city) a lot. The first driver said 30 Lira. 30= a lot.

(Oh, did I mention I only had a 10 in Turkish money and a 10 in Georgian money?)

I went back into the terminal to look for an ATM, use the bathroom and collect my thoughts.  No ATM…

When I came back outside, the old couple from earlier was negotiating with a taxi driver. I tried to strike up a conversation with the lady. But she didn’t speak English or Georgian. And the driver told her I didn’t speak Turkish. were loading up the car. I tried to barter with the lady to share a taxi to Batumi, but the old man wasn’t having it. He got the lady into the taxi and bolted.

I finally negotiated with a driver to take me to Batumi for 20 Lira. But first he would take me to the bank. Cool. The first bank didn’t operate properly. Which scared the shit out of me, because if I couldn’t get cash out… well, this would be a totally different post.

The next ATM worked though and off we went. I gathered that he would charge 20 Lira to Batumi and add the meter price for trip to ATM. Okay. But halfway to the border, the meter was still running and up to 40 lira.  I pointed to it and said, it was a lot, he said, “no problem”, and waved me off.  Okay.

We got to the border and he stopped and told me to get out. Mind you, we are nowhere near Batumi. I told him all I had was 40 Lira. He looked at me with astonishment. Then we did the great ‘Taxi Tango”. I gave him the 40, he gave me the stink eye, and we left it at that.

I sauntered over the border to Georgia. Got a Marshrut’ka to Batumi and then another to Oz.

Home sweet home, where I at least know the language that I don’t know.

***

Genesis 11

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

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