Turkey isn’t exactly the hardest destination to travel. There’s enough English to get by, and lots of affordable food, transport, and places to sleep..
When it came to sports though, crikey, I couldn’t catch a break. So many travel fails. Turkey, you are good.
One that did go my way was the Mersin Marathon. I was silly nervous I hadn’t been registered right up until I collected my bib the day before the race. That would’ve been the ultimate fail!
The following are six sports-related travel fails during the last couple months. And a lesson learned from each. Because that’s what personal development books recommend you do in times of trouble.
1. Turning Up To The AntalyaSpor Match With My Expired Passport
During my month in Antalya, AntalyaSpor were playing two football matches at home. I skipped the first match as I was too knackered to enjoy it from volunteering at the Turkish Airlines Open.
The second match was against Fenerbahce on November 26th. Amped up, I wandered down early to register for a Pass-O card and get the tickets without being in a rush.
On arrival the lines were already long. After 25 minutes I made it to the front, ready with cash and passport in hand. Handing over my passport to begin the process, he handed it back shortly after.
“Expired passport”, he says.
I flick to the photo page and see and clean shaven, long-haired face looking back at me. The 2012 version of Jub. I legit had given him my expired passport! Shit. Awkward turtle moment.
That was the end of that night as I picked up some dark chocolate and watched the game from home. I still have no idea how I got my passports mixed up. Granted they look the same from the outside with the logo and text faded. But I normally have my old passport hidden deep in my backpack.
Lesson: Always check you have the right documents before leaving the house.
2. Getting All The Way To Didim For The Camel Wrestling. It Had Been Cancelled That Morning
If you haven’t read the last monthly recap, there’s a chance you haven’t heard of Camel Wrestling. If you like to follow responsible tourism practices, you might think that camel wrestling is unethical.
You’re right, it is!
I won’t get into the history of the sport, but it is traditional and isn’t designed for tourists meaning it doesn’t get mainstream press very often (VICE did do a piece on it). There are a few posts on the ‘sport’, but I wanted to learn about what happens at a camel wrestling event first hand.
I was staying in Selcuk, 80km away from Didim where the day’s festivities were to take place. The threat of rain put me off hitchhiking, 80km isn’t far in a bus. I didn’t expect to be taking three local buses though!
2.5 hours later, we finally approach Didim when I see a poster advertising the event.
Excitedly I point and smile, giving a thumbs up to the young fella across from me. He smiles and starts typing on his phone.
He passed his phone to me, with a message using Google Translate. It’s not a perfect translation but I do let out a sighing faaaark once I decode the translation. The event is canceled. Bullshit.
When we get to Didim I decide to make the most of the windy conditions (no rain yet!) and explore for a few hours. It’s a nice city, but there’s that feeling as I begin the long 3-hour journey back that I have wasted most of the day.
Lesson: Travel is never perfect, and you’ll have inefficient days.
3. Turning Up To Fenerbahce Museum When It Was Closed
There are 3 football museums in Istanbul! That shouldn’t be a surprise with the three biggest clubs in the city, Besiktas, Galatasaray, and Fenerbahce, all over 100 years old.
Good luck finding them on any list of activities in Istanbul though. In fairness, the Besiktas Museum is the only ‘must visit’ of the three.
Fenerbahce Museum is on the Asian side of Istanbul so the 25-minute ferry though feels like it’s 1,000 miles away (most people stay on the European side).
I manned up one day, finally making it over there. It really wasn’t that hard. Of course, they weren’t open all day!
Many football museums remain open two hours before fans are allowed into the stadium on match days. That’s what I was banking on.
I’d been considering ringing the museum up in advance, just in case, too.
Lesson: If you have a gut feeling, pursue that gut feeling.
4. Thinking I could run from Asia To Europe Via The Bosphorus Bridge
After moving on from the Fenerbahce Museum let down, I had a mediocre lunch at a vegan restaurant to prep for my next mission. This was going to be a cool little activity, running from continent to continent using the awesome exercise hack I uncovered.
During said lunch, I decided to Google ‘can pedestrians cross the Bosphorus’. You know, just in case.
The Google search was a big let down. The only time pedestrians can cross the bridge by foot is for the Istanbul Marathon.
Thankfully, I still had enough cash remaining on my Istanbulkart otherwise I would have been hitchhiking back home!
Guess I’ll have to do the Istanbul Marathon, the one time you can cross the bridge each year.
Lesson: When you’re doing something you’ve never heard of someone doing before, do you research.
5. Arriving At An Already Sold Out Besiktas Stadium
I adopted Besiktas as my Turkish football team for a couple reasons:
- Their playing strip is black and white (All Blacks represent)
- Besiktas is a cool trendy neighbourhood
On the Besiktas Stadium tour, a local fella got chatting with me when he realised I was the lone non-Turkish speaker. He was a lifelong Besiktas supporter and was so stoked to explore the stadium he had watched so many games at.
I mentioned I wanted to see the match later that week and asked about buying tickets. He said without hesitation that the crowd would only be about 10,000 or so (capacity being 41,903) and getting tickets on the day wouldn’t be an issue.
…a few days later…
I decided to head down early, planning to vlog the experience. The queues were tiny at the ticket office and I was at the front in a couple minutes.
“Hi, Pass-O registration for the game tonight?”
The guy summoned his supervisor who could speak English.
“Sorry, sold out tonight.”
“Fuck, really? No spare tickets at all? No.
And so that was the end of that night. They don’t issue paper tickets for the matches, you either have the Pass-O Card or the barcode on your phone so there were no scalpers.
I tuned into the TV and the crowd was big, but there was plenty of spare seats. Did the ticket guy just not want to deal with a silly foreigner and take the easy way out?
Lesson: If a local tells you something, it’s not always gospel.
6. Another Event, Sold Out Before I Got My Hands On Tickets
The biggest derby in Turkey is Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahce, but the matches involving Besiktas and Galatasaray and Fenerbahce aren’t far behind.
So when I saw Besiktas scheduled to play Galatasaray on New Year’s Eve 1 pm it was perfect. And you could buy tickets online, which was very convenient.
I saw the price was 30 TL and decided to buy them then and there. As I stay in hostels, I tend to keep my wallet on me at all times so not seeing my bank card confused me a bit. Although it was almost guaranteed to be in a different pants pocket, getting up to look for it felt like a lot of effort. So I figured the next day would be totally fine and I could ask if a couple friends wanted to go to.
Logging on the next day, I was spewing that they were sold out.
Lesson: Stop multitasking. I could have taken two minutes to find my bank card, got it all done with there.
In the end, I did get to go to Fenerbahce Museum, but all the others I had to let go of for this current trip to Turkey. I still had a great time here though. Will be back.