We had taken more than 20 flights on this trip before leaving Romania for Istanbul. We almost got used to things being always smooth: you get out of the airplane, you go through the immigration booth, you pick up your bags, then you get out and look for transportation... And yet, as we arrived in Istanbul, for the first time, things were different: Angela's backpack didn't come rolling on the carousel. What do we do now?
Of course, we went to the lost baggage office; all they could tell us was that they would send a missing luggage report to the airline and call us later at the hotel. Not much to placate a desperate backpacker who saw all her underwear missing... They weren't very helpful telling us what they will do to get the bag, but they were prompt to announce the one thing they wont: they will not deliver the bag to our hotel because Tarom, the Romanian airline which flew us from Cluj to Istanbul via Bucharest does not authorise home delivery (presumably because they do not want to pay the airport carrier for the service). There wasn't much else we could do, so we went to our hotel.
The next day the airport - of course - didn't call, so we did. Then things got confusing. First they said they found the bag. Later, as we called again, they realized that they had found a different bag. They told us to come to the airport and contact Tarom. We went to the airport, not necessarily to contact Tarom but rather to talk face to face to the girls from the lost luggage office, because nothing seemed to work over the phone. There was no permanent Tarom office at the Ataturk international airport - they only show up at check-in time. We somehow managed to get back inside the baggage claim area under escort, after I left my passport hostage to the security desk and pleaded with the girl at the office which by now, after so many phone calls, knew me by name. The bag was finally found in Bucharest. Luckily an international electronic lost baggage system exists, which is accessible via computer like the Sabre reservation network, to all airports. It really helps to know the brand of your bag in case the tag has been lost, which was exactly what had happened to ours.
Finding the bag was a little victory. Having it delivered to Istanbul was a different story. Of course, nobody knew or bothered telling us when this bag would make it to Turkey. Their attitude drove Angela crazy. Americans are used to answers like "I don't know, but I'm going to make a few phone calls and find out right now", but in most of the rest of the world you get just "We made a request in the system, we'll call you when we know more" (which of course they don't, so you have to keep calling and pestering them to achieve anything). We met a Dutch guy who was at the airport to get his luggage, two days after his arrival in Istanbul. He was wearing flip-flops and sweatpants, obviously his choice of clothing for a more comfortable plane ride. At least Angela had her boots to cope with the chilling weather.
Another day later, when I was already considering lending half of my underwear to Angela, the backpack finally arrived, and as a final consolation prize, it was even delivered to our hotel. Unfortunately, as we had feared, some things were missing: our magnetic travel-size games of chess and backgammon were nowhere to be found. We can't really know who stole them along this chain of weaknesses, but I will take pleasure in blaming it on Tarom, the Romanian airlines. I didn't expect anything else from them.