Saturday 7th March
Regrettably we had to get out of our beds at 5:30 am this morning. Leaving the hotel for 6:40 am in order to check in at 7:00 am for our next flight, this time from Istanbul. Once again we were on our merry way to Erzurum. The flight departed at 9:00 am, this time it was on time and we even had a special treat. The U18 Turkish National Team were on the same flight. They were an extremely nice bunch of guys, very friendly and I hope they still will be when we beat them…!!!?? We had our own Turkish representative in the disguise of Mr. William Fay. Constantly mistaken for a Turk, the Turkish squad just couldn’t understand why he had an Irish jacket on!
We finally arrived at Erzurum Airport and had nothing but fun unloading and loading the luggage and hockey kits on to the local luggage transport system. Again, we were treated like lords. We even had a police escort from the airport to the ice rink and then to the hotel. The blue lights were flashing all the way! We thought this hotel was just down the road in the town but the bus continued climbing and climbing and climbing before we eventually arrived 2,500 metres above sea level at the Dedeman – Palandoken. It is a lovely hotel, the staff is really nice and the food is pretty good too. Let’s just hope that we (the adults of course) can get a drink and that the warning wasn’t sent on from Istanbul! Once we managed to get everybody checked in, it was rest time and let me tell you, we needed it! We even had a bit of down time in the snow; there was a nice ski display and BBQ for everybody. The team were in great spirits and even the adults managed to behave themselves.
The snow is unbelievable; if we had it at home the country would surely close for good! It tells you the scale of it when we are amazed at the snow and the locals say “snow, what snow?” We are certainly delighted we went for the winter jackets! Meanwhile the altitude is definitely having an effect on everybody. There’s an oxygen tent stationed midway along the stairs in order to get to the bar on the second floor…