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Pole to Pole

Day 42: Odessa to Istanbul

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe stealthy, tentative, introverted public face of the USSR is replaced here by shouts, waves, imprecations, noise, bustle and urgency.

We dock at ten past nine at a quayside that seems to be run by a very proprietorial black-and-white cat which, surrounded by a mangy harem, watches us tie up and sniffs each passenger as they disembark.

The formalities of Customs and Immigration are all conducted in a congenial and good-humoured way. Our new fixer Sevim, a formidable and energetic middle-aged lady, is organizing everyone. When there is trouble with the porters who object to being filmed because they are not in their best overalls she dismisses it briskly:

'These complexes . . . it is a problem in a Third World country . . .'.

As we leave the Customs hall the two Afghans are the only two passengers left. The contents of their suitcases, mainly cheap gift accessories, samples of local cloth and rugs, are strewn out on the inspection table. Maybe Turkey will not be their promised land after all.

For me, things taken for granted like waterfront cafÚs and fresh orange juice, even a traffic jam, are new and wonderful. The young man from Ilkley, returning from a year in Russia, shakes his head in disbelief.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 42
  • Country/sea: Turkey
  • Place: Istanbul
  • Book page no: 93

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