U2: 360

U2 360: The Mattnificent Tour, U2009-U2011

U2 360° Journal > The Challenges of U2010

The Challenges of U2010: Istanbul

"Everything you know is wrong."

Given all that had preceded my arrival in Istanbul, I was already in a certain state of unease. I read in my Lonely Planet guide about Istanbul being an open, modern city, where people don't hound you for tips like they do in some parts of the region. Well, it just so happens the driver who drove me to the hotel, as part of an over-priced service from an Avis rental car outlet, was one of the guys who figured I owed him a substantial tip. It didn't faze him when I explained I had no dollars and my wallet had been stolen only the day before. He gave me a dirty scowl because my tip wasn't big enough.

Istanbul: Blue Mosque
Istanbul's Blue Mosque by dusk

It also didn't help, after some run-around while checking in, that I turned on the shabby TV in my room and was greeted with 20+ channels of an imam preaching. When I finally found different programming, it was about that book-burning wingnut. The airwaves - and billboards and newspapers - were also filled with propaganda regarding a referendum on constitutional reforms.

Awesome times.

I will admit: I thought I had totally lost the plot at that point. What the heck was I doing in Istanbul? Why did I travel all that way to hear some live music? Granted, on every tour since ZOO-TV, I've traveled to see the band perform somewhere I'd never been before. The ambitions of my own personal tours have also ratcheted up with each U2 tour. On the 360° tour alone, that meant traveling through five previously unexplored countries. But maybe I had figuratively and literally gone too far with the Istanbul trip. I have to admit, I was in such a state of discontent while lying on that hotel room bed, I toyed with the notion of changing all of my arrangements and scurrying out of Turkey on Tuesday, after Monday's concert.

Around 20:00 that evening I meekly walked outside the hotel in search of food. I stopped at a hotel across the street from my place and dined on some schnitzel and beer (cheap beer!), enjoying the ambience of the outdoor patio.

After dinner, feeling better having been fed, I walked around and was astonished to see just about every conceivable cuisine on hand within blocks of my hotel room.

That at least made my tummy happy.

But the next day had a new challenge in store: Getting from the Blue Mosque area of old Istanbul to the Olympic stadium at the far-end of nowhere.

Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque

I could've paid €100 (roughly $130 US) for a round-trip taxi service, but that was stretching my financial patience. It reminded me of the exorbitant taxi bill I paid after missing the last train out from London while living in High Wycombe. That taxi ride cost more than my roundtrip airfare between Dublin and Liverpool. That whole episode, coincidentally, occurred during U2's Elevation tour back in 2001.

So I braved it and took mass transit. It took 50 minutes by train, 15 minutes more on a scary mini-bus, and a precarious 40-minute hike across a highway and up a hill to get to the Ataturk Olympiyat stadium gate. But the tab for that ride - actually for the full round-trip - was 2.9 Turkish lira, the equivalent of only $1.60 U.S.! Yes. One dollar and sixty cents for the trip to and from the stadium.

Getting back to old Istanbul after the show was no easy feat, but I'll get into that later.

Those crazy thoughts of skedaddling out of Istanbul? They vanished after the concert. I was back in the zone. On the docket: Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar), a classic Turkish bath, a boat cruise around the Golden Horn and the Bosphorous, and loads of historic sites, including some stunning surprises at Topkapi Palace.

I look back on this trip with a lot of pride. Some things most definitely went wrong, but the end result was right. I went to new lands, lived, and learned. At the risk of sounding grandiose, it was a personal triumph.

Thank you, U2, for once again inspiring me to dream out loud and expand my own, personal horizons.

Now it's time to enjoy reliving Snow Patrol's splendid opening act. And it would also turn out to be one of the best U2 concerts I've ever seen.

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