I am heading back to Denmark after spending more than six months outside the Schengen area on a trip that took me around the ancient Ottoman Empire. I discovered places such as Beirut, Cyprus, North Macedonia, and Albania. 

Visiting Istambul was a must on this trip to the former Ottoman Empire. I went there to see the rest of Constantinople and the vibrant life of this economic centre of Europe.

Here are some tips if you are thinking of coming to Istambul:

Beware of the drivers

We heard about Turkish food, sweets, beaches, history, culture and crazy politics, but we never heard about Turkish courtesy. Given that, Türkiye is not France, the most challenging place for a tourist in the world, but still, it is not a haven. At least not in the streets.

Turkish drivers are careless and reckless. They don’t care if you are walking over the crosswalk or if there is a red light. They will do their best to reach faster. No matter if you are in the middle. So beware of the priority “rules” in Istanbul: in first, second, and third place, the drivers are first and the pedestrian last.

Don’t trust Istanbul taxi drivers

If you think that drivers are crazy, taxi drivers are much more. Here are some tips to not lose your mind:

Use the front seat even if you are with a friend or partner

This will help you see the route and guide the driver if he needs to take a better traffic decision. You can use Waze or Google Maps to navigate them. Staying in the front seat will help you see if the meter is malfunctioning.

They barely speak English but will make an effort to understand you

You can use Google Translate to communicate with them. They must know that you will control the route since they may use traffic as an excuse to take you a long way and gain more money.

Ask the price before boarding and also ask to turn on the meter. Even though the driver told you the price before, this strategy will help you reduce the chance they will take you on long routes.

Don’t take taxis for short distances

If you can walk for 15-20 minutes, avoid using taxis for short distances. Drivers will get mad at you because they waited long for their turn in the taxi hub to get only a few liras. 

Show the money clearly when you are paying

There is a common scam of taxi drivers that they will try to rob you by confusing you with the bills you gave them. If you give them a 50 liras bill, they will argue that you gave them a 5 liras bill. So speak out about the money you are giving and the one you expect to receive.

Use change

Taxi drivers will try to keep your money all the time. If you pay with a bigger bill expecting some change, they might say they don’t have small bills to give you back. To avoid this, try to pay the exact amount, or if the driver is attempting to use this trick on you, you can kindly ask them to go to a small shop with you to make a change. This often motivates the driver to give you your money back.

Don’t brush your shoes

I fell into this one. A charming guy came to me on the streets and asked me to brush my shoes for free. I said no, but he insisted. He said he wanted to stretch out since his shift had just started. I made the mistake of saying yes.

After having my shoes full of spitted Turkish saliva, he claimed me his money. Not begging, not asking nicely. He just asked for his “pay.” When I tried to explain that he offered to do it for free, he denied it and told me to call the police. I had to pay 5 liras for each shoe to escape the awkward situation. Later, I was told that both shoes would cost me 5 liras. 

Don’t buy if you don’t see the price

There is a classic tactic to confuse tourists in Istambul by not putting the price tag on goods. Sellers will try to sell you a product for 2 to 10 times the price. You will never, NEVER, must take something and go straight to pay for it. This is like giving a signed blank cheque to your ex-wife. They will rip off your bank account.

Don’t drink tap water for any reason 

No, don’t you even consider it. Also, don’t buy plastic water bottles on the street. This is probably a scam, even if you think they are sealed and the bottle looks good. I also failed this one and ended three days with diarrhoea because I was sold tap water in a brand-new plastic bottle.

If you want to know about my personal life, I am heading to Denmark.



I spent a month in Lebanon helping Jessica get her life back on track, including pushing her to see a real psychologist every day. Ida left for Denmark after five days, knowing I would be safe and that all my feelings for Jessica were over now.

During my time in Beirut, I met Hassan. This Lebanese tourist guide had studied architecture in the UK and, due to the crisis, couldn’t find a job in his country. Now he had a job offer to work in Abu Dhabi and was planning to leave in the next few months.

Hassan had a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend he had met during college time in Nottingham. They planned to live together in Abu Dhabi since Sarah was banned from travelling to Beirut and Hassan to Israel. They were also planning to get married, so Sarah could acquire a residence visa in the UAE to find a job there. There was another problem since their countries couldn’t receive them; they needed to find an alternative, a neutral country, to get married. They ended up planning a wedding in Northern Cyprus and inviting me.

Northern Cyprus is a territory in the north of Cyprus island that has been only recognized by Turkiye as a sovereign nation. The rest of the world considers it a Turkish-occupied land of the Republic of Cyprus. I travelled there after my businesses ended in Lebanon and attended the wedding of Hassan and Sarah.

I arrived at the Ercan International Airport, which only holds flights from Turkiye. There is a rumour on the island that Russian flights will land in Ercan soon.

I stayed in the Club Simena Hotel and rented a car to visit the island’s northern part. I didn’t try to go to the south because it is impossible for any non-EU passport holder after entering Cyprus island via Ercan Airport.

The Internet connection was not strong, so I tested several places to see which one offered the more robust connection. I found a vibrant nightlife, but I didn’t feel I wanted to party hard.

After spending some weeks with Ida and facing the whole Jessica situation, I missed her a lot. After finishing working hours, I spent some time walking on the beach and texting her. We discussed having a long-distance relationship before planning any further so we would have plenty of time to understand what we were feeling.

I met many Russians here; some of them were tourist, but most of them came recently after the Ukrainian invasion. They were super lost. They didn’t support what their government was doing, and due to the war, they lost houses, jobs and family members. They were drinking to not only forget but to accept the fact that, given they are Russian, no one cares about their suffering.

I was super scared during my first day in Lebanon until I met James Punjabi.

Ida and I travelled from Montenegro to Beirut with a layover in Istanbul. I was super anxious about the trip because it would be my first time in the Middle East, a region known for its troubles and violence. In addition, I was there to “rescue” Jessica, my former love interest that had destroyed my trust in the last months.

Jessica didn’t adequately explain what was happening with her, and I received strange calls from a guy called James Punjabi who “needed” to talk to me about Jessica. These two elements created great confusion; Ida even called the Danish consulate if things went wrong.

We met Jessica and James Punjabi in a Café. Jessica was devastated. She had a significant hematoma in the face because Pietro had punched her. She smiled when she saw me but changed her face when she saw Ida.

James Punjabi was an Indian dude, Jessica’s spiritual coach and the only friend (in addition to me) in the whole world. I wondered if they also had sex.

Punjabi, now living in Panama, met Jessica during her trip to Iceland. During that time, she had many therapy sessions with him at his apparent Reykjavík wellness centre. After that, he moved to Panama to “Pursue business there,” and Jessica continued with online sessions. He didn’t mention to her that he was on another continent. When Pietro and Jessica had a fight in Beirut, James came right away to give her support.

Jessica’s parents were in Italy when Jessica and Pietro met last year in Iceland. While in the North, Pietro took advantage and invited Jessica’s parents to his winery town in Southern Italy. The next day, Jessica’s parents told Jessica they were back in The Bahamas and cut all communication.

Since Jessica had a bad relationship with the family in Nassau, she didn’t contact anyone there. On the other hand, Pietro used this to convince Jessica that their parents had revealed in Italy that she was adopted. Jessica, who had fallen in love with this guy, became easily manipulated, and she believed all that he said.

Pietro controlled all about Jessica, including her WhatsApp and text messages. However, there was one thing he couldn’t control, the communication between her and James Punjabi. Since Punjabi is a very mysterious person, he made Jessica memorize the numbers of a zoom call where they met every other week. So that Jessica could contact him without leaving any trace. She was the one that shared my contact with Punjabi; they believed they could trust me.

Pietro’s relationship was wrong since the beginning. Still, she figured it out when she tried to leave him in Italy. After Jessica and I met in Rome, Pietro reappeared with more lies and manipulative control that damaged Jessica’s confidence. So she ended up with him again. After the Geneva event, they travelled to Cyprus, where Pietro told Jessica their real parents were. Then they came to Lebanon when she discovered everything was a farce, and he used that excuse to move her between countries.

Jessica managed to escape one day when he was sleeping but left her passport at the hotel. She took some money to stay in a different hotel. Punjabi appeared days later to help her get her life back.

I received another email from James Punjabi.


“Dear Benjamin,

I will call you later today to explain.


James Punjabi.”


While drinking good Montenegrin wine at night, I received the call.

It was Jessica. I put the cellphone in speakers mode so that Ida could hear.

She called me crying. Many things happened to her. She had abandoned Pietro forever, and her parents were in a safe space.

“I am in Beirut, Benjamin. I don’t know what to do or where to go. You are the only person that I know. You are my only friend.”

I saw Ida in the eyes. She was feeling the same vicarious embarrassment.

“I beg you; I don’t know who I can contact.”

I told her I could book her a flight ticket so she could fly here. She said that Pietro had broken her passports and that she didn’t have any energy to imagine the process of requesting a new Canadian or Bahamian passport. She knew she needed to go to the police. Still, she wasn’t emotionally stable to do so now.

I saw Ida on the face, and she mouthed, “tell her yes. But I will go with you.”

“Ok, send me your address. We will go, Jessica. Just wait a few days; I don’t know how complicated it is to go to Lebanon from Montenegro. By the way, how about James Punjabi? Who is he?”

“My doctor. I’ll explain you here.”

That’s how Ida and I embarked on the adventure to go to Lebanon.

We booked the tickets via Turkish Airlines, but we took several precautions.

First, I wasn’t sure Jessica was telling the truth. In addition, Lebanon is not the safer country in the world, nor is it in Europe, where most institutions are independent of the central government. Having that in mind, we contacted a Danish friend of Ida living there to keep an eye on us. He will contact the police and the Danish and Canadian embassy if we disappear.


Istanbul Airport


I provided him with all my information regarding Pietro, Jessica and James Punjabi.

Ida took advantage of the trip to Lebanon to book a couple of tours in the city. On the first day, we will be doing a historical tour.

We are not just going to “save” Jessica; we want also to discover the city.

I will be honest with you guys. While I was doing the line to board the plane to Istanbul, I thought I should have left it at any time. I was scared.

Ida, on the other hand, was strong. She saw all of this from a feminist point of view. Her beliefs make her need to support a woman hurt by an unscrupulous guy. She knew the risks, but the sorority was stronger.

I don’t even think about how bizarre it will be to meet Ida and Jessica simultaneously. But I am sure I will say she is my girlfriend whenever Jessica asks me about her.

Staying in the City Centre, we took advantage of walking around to try several places to have food. So we walk a few blocks from our apartment to The Living Room Lounge & Dining.

This place is between Kruševački Park and the University Park, only a few steps away from the Roman Square. We felt a lively atmosphere when we entered, with many local social gatherings.

The presentation of the dishes was excellent, and prices were average for places like this. I had the Octopus Salad that had a perfect amount of lemon, which is not always the case. I always complain about seafood salads that include lemon because some have too much and others too little. On the other hand, Ida had the Vegetarian Risotto, which included a fantastic mix of zucchini, tomato, onion and parmesan. The drinks were a bit pricey, but we tried a bottle of local wine; this is a must in every country. Prices ranged from EUR 18 to EUR 135 per bottle.

Pod Volat

Only two blocks after crossing the Morača River, we found another gem. This restaurant evokes an authentic atmosphere with many local dishes and incredible tastes. I had the lamb cooked under the bell with kebab while Ida tried the Dorado Fish. The prices were a good deal considering what we ordered and drank. The staff was amicable and caring.

I recommend booking in advance since the place was always packed.

Restoran Bar Desetka

You can find this place in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Montenegro. Desetka has high-quality food with a lot of variety and abundant dishes. The menu was in the Montenegrin language, but the guys were very kind to explain it to us in perfect English.

We ordered burgers and beers whose price was very affordable.

The place was packed, and I will also recommend booking beforehand. The good thing is that they were fast after we ordered.

Konoba Lanterna

Close to Pod Volat, Konoba Lanterna is a place dedicated to local food with a vast selection of Montenegrin wines.

I ordered the local veal cutlet while Ida ordered Cevapi beef rolls. We asked for local wine again because where on Earth will we meet this fantastic wine again.

Stara Kuća National Restaurant

Outside the city centre in the Zagorič neighbourhood, we visited the Stara Kuća National Restaurant, which in Montenegrin means “ancient house.” The place contains an elegant ambience with a combination of stone walls, designer decors and a magnificent paved garden surrounded by wooden gates.

We ordered the Grilled Haloumi with vegetables and the Tuna Tataki as a starter. I adventured to try the Grilled Horse Steak (Ida couldn’t try it), which was good. Ida ordered only a beef soup and a beefsteak salad.

Prices were higher than the average in Podgorica, but it is worth trying this place at least once while visiting Montenegro due to its fantastic scenery.