While visiting Turkey in January, I got very sick for about a week. Al took care of me, bringing me medicine and chicken soup.
I feel better already and our return flight is scheduled at 07:00 on January 14. We decide to go to Istanbul on January 13 around noon and spend the afternoon enjoying this beautiful city. We also have a dinner to attend. My college friends from METU (Middle East Technical University) want to meet their “eniste”. In Turkey, a sister’s husband is called “eniste”, and, I guess, Al is their’s. It is such a great feeling that my friends see me as their sister. They are all my brothers and sisters since our first day at the university.
Since I feel a bit weak, we decide to take it easy. We eat a late lunch at Hamdi Restaurant. We walk outside the Spice Bazaar (bustling since 1664) watching the local shoppers buy olives, cheese, honey, butter, and ground coffee (finely ground for making Turkish Coffee) from Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi (selling coffee since 1871).
We walk over to the Galata Bridge, taking the lower deck, while ignoring the invitations, in every language imaginable they can manage, from each restaurant. Knowing Turkish helps a lot. I usually let them try English, French, German, Japanese, and Italian, then I respond to them in Turkish “Cok sagol. Ac degiliz” (in English: “Thank you. We are not hungry”). That stops them in their tracks. From the lower deck, there is a unique view of the fishing poles extending out from the upper deck.
We take the Tunel (funicular) to Beyoglu. We meet my nephew at the same restaurant that we planned to meet my friends. Literally, I sit on the same chair from 5 pm until 11:30 pm. I am not bored at all. After a wonderful two hours with my nephew, I have a great time with my friends. We all become young college kids again, joking and laughing.
It is almost midnight. Although, my friend Aysun insists that we go to her house and take a taxi to the airport in the morning, we refuse. It is not even worth going back and forth in exchange for a couple of hours sleeping in a bed. We say goodbye to our friends and take a taxi to the airport from Beyoglu.
Our luggage is already checked-in from Bodrum to New York. We only have our backpacks. At this point, we have about 6 hours to kill until it is boarding time. We go through the passport and security controls, and now we are in the International Departures area.
Years ago, when I was traveling back from Moldavia with my friend, Gail, we had an 8-hour layover in Istanbul. Instead of sitting in the café chairs and paying money to eat and drink again and again, we walked up to the front desk of Is Bankasi (Is Bank)’s VIP Lounge and asked if we can use it for a fee. We were happy that we were allowed to use their facility for a very reasonable fee. The chairs were very comfortable. The food and the drinks were good and were free.
If you ever have a long layover in Istanbul Ataturk Airport, make sure to turn right after the security checkpoint, walk towards the end, and take the escalator up to the second floor. Turn left and you will see the entrance to the Is bankasi VIP Lounge.
Al and I are happy to pay the fee and find a corner with comfortable chairs and settle down. I start to feel shaky and tired. I doze off for an hour. I wake up to a full-blown cold with shivers, can-not-swallow-throat, achy ears, and fever. I really cannot fly in this condition. I made that mistake once, flying from London to Newark, and ended up with blood coming out from both of my ears as we landed.
I wake up Al and tell him that I am going to find out if I can see a doctor or a pharmacist. I take the escalator down, the police at the security checkpoints tell me that I need to go back to the other side to find a pharmacy. Once passengers complete passport control and security, they are in a “no-man’s-land” between countries. I would have to leave this, go back into Turkey for the pharmacy and then return again through what might be long lines. And they are not even sure if the pharmacy is open at 3 am.
I walk all the way to the other end of the terminal, where the plush Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge is. I am guessing that if the CIP Lounge serves the well-traveled and the one-percent, then they must have a VIP service for their sick guests.
I do not even have to put my “sick-puppy face” on. I look very sick. I tell my condition to the uniformed ladies at the front desk and ask their help.
“Sure,” they say. They dial a number and hand me the phone so I can tell the pharmacist what my symptoms are. Apparently, the pharmacy is in the international departures building, before the passport control, and is open 24 hours a day. The pharmacist says she will bring me some medicine and it will be 90 Turkish Liras (about 40 dollars). At that point, I am ready to give anything she asks for. She says, ”Wait for me at the door.”
I ask: “What door?” The uniformed ladies, in unison, with their fingers pointing at a narrow passage way, say: “The door is over there.”
I am now suspicious. There is a strict passport control and security check points to enter the departures area and now I am going to a “door” to get my medicine from a pharmacist coming from the other side!
I walk there. It is a large glass door with one policeman guarding. In two minutes, a lady with a white coat comes with a little plastic bag filled with medication. The door opens automatically. The policeman is just watching us. I am still cautious, and make sure I meet her right on the exact line of the door separating the two zones. She has hand written the doses I need on the medicine packs. I pay her.
I hop and skip and come back to the Is Bankasi lounge, and take all the medications given to me. Believe me, in two hours, I am able to swallow, my fever is gone, I am not having hot and cold sweats and my ears are not hurting. Magic!
Now, I can fly. I wish this information is available to everyone, not just to a few percent. Please share this tip with your friends if they are traveling to Istanbul. You never know when you will get sick.
Note: After we returned to the United States, I searched an equivalent product for UMCA that I bought at the airport, and I found the same product is sold under UMCKA Cold Care. I believe this is the natural product that made me feel better quickly. I purchased one from Amazon. And use it daily.