(1) JFK --> Munich.
- We were blessed with the presence of approximately 100 Jehovah's Witnesses on our flight -- as you presumably already knew, there was a gigantic JW convention in Munich. After briefly considering a conversion, we decided to board the Munich-->Istanbul flight.
- JWs smile at strangers; I find this behavior very creepy.
(2) 4 days in Istanbul.
- Much time was occupied by the canonical sights (churches, mosques, palaces, bazaars, Galata Tower, Bosphorus sea ferry), most of which are incredible. I was too tired to develop a novel perspective on them.
- We also visited the (perhaps slightly less well-known) Basilica Cistern, which supplied water for the palace of Justinianus. Now it's a gigantic cool (temp-wise and other-wise!) underground room with a few feet of water at the bottom. At some point it was used to store corpses.
- OK, it seems kind of wrong to include this, but it seems just as wrong to omit it. In the Grand Bazaar we observed a man with the following properties:
- possibly blind;
- probably retarded;
- visibly crippled; and
- a midget.
- San Diego Republicans waiting in line for sea ferry: "Obama has spent more than all previous presidents combined." You won't believe this, but the husband works in computers, and the wife teaches dance.
- Our hostel shower had zero shower curtains, so showering resulting in water all over the bathroom floor. By the third night, our bathroom required re-caulking, and we had to shower in a different bathroom while the caulk dried. I'm virtually certain we left bathroom #2 in need of a re-caulking.
- Wouldn't it be easier to simply install a shower curtain?
- Isn't it strange that some bathrooms in the hostel had shower curtains?
- Yes! I know!
- We took an overnight bus (along the western coast) to Izmir. It's pretty nice that some guy comes around with lemon-scented rubbing alcohol, glasses of water and soda, snacks, and tea/coffee (though at midnight, really?), but the roads are so jostle-y! Also, the driver is maniacal and hopped up on Nescafe.
(3) 1 day in Izmir.
- Izmir is a city and it is OK. We smoked nargile and played backgammon on the waterfront. We also slept a lot on account of (see above).
(4) 3 days in Selcuk (Efes).
- We visited Efes soon after arriving. The total volume of ruins in Efes is maybe small compared to those in Rome, but in Efes there is a high concentration of very well-preserved Roman city in a smallish area. I especially enjoyed the marble roads. I don't even have marble in my apartment.
- In Selcuk we lost our innocence: we bargained with a shopkeeper boy for water, and with a laundromat owner. We also learned that you are especially supposed to bargain for bus tickets.
- There is a beautiful (and cheap!) cafe run by the municipality on a big lawn in town.
- We discovered a nighttime flea market. This is a good institution for a place which is boiling by 10am. Also, it explains the fact that during the day, there is not much visible economic activity.
- Met some squat toilets. Should you build a squat toilet? flowchart.
- While swimming in the Ege Deniz, we noticed a wild pig approaching our lounge chairs. As I swam out to chase it away, it snatched up the bag of Turkish delight left by our neighbors. Minutes later our neighbors returned and wondered about their missing bag. I said "pig" and "oink oink" to no avail. Allison pretended to be a pig and they understood.
- Please don't feed the wild pigs on the beach.
- Minutes later, one of the porcine theft victims emerged from the sea with a substantial gash on her leg. Rough few minutes.
- Soon after the swim, we hitched a ride (just a few miles) back to our bus stop. At first the car didn't stop for us because there were 6 people in 5 seats, but they shuffled around and we squeezed in.
- Overall, Selcuk = my favorite.
(5) morning bus to Pamukkale (Hierapolis), day there, overnight bus (due east) to Cappadocia.
- Without shower facilities for 24 hours (but with the usual heat), cleanliness required some creativity. Solution: bathing in calcium-rich pools in the Travertines.
- More ruins.
- (At night) two young girls with sunglasses and scarves covering their faces, walking with exaggerated limps, trying to collect money in large purses. Chased out of one convenience store. Very strange.
(6) 4 days in Cappadocia (specifically, Goreme).
- Goreme (similar comments apply to nearby towns) is a town carved out of volcanic rock. For example, you can stay in a "cave hotel," which is literally a room carved out of a gigantic heap of volcanic rock. (We stayed in a noncave hotel; both options convex.) More interestingly, the Open-Air Museum consists of a bunch of churches (=carved rock painted with various dyes). Most interestingly, we visited an underground city (Derinkuyu) -- 8 levels of ant colony on human scale.
- We broke our Turkish breakfast streak (Tb = cucumber, tomato, olives, fruit, cheese, hard-boiled egg, bread)!
- There are three major types of rock formation:
- boulder resting atop cone (boulder thrown there a long time ago by nature, followed by differential erosion); and
- ridiculously phallic.
- One day we hiked for about five hours alongside mountains and in valleys.
(7) 2 days in Istanbul.
- By this point we are pros at Turkey and super-pros at Istanbul, except our maps don't have enough detail to get us to the Chora Church (Kariye Camii). Therefore we ask some people in the neighborhood. Therefore 5 Turkish boys (ages 10-12, they allege) offer to show us the way. Therefore we think we must be very close. We are wrong. They lead us for 15-20 minutes through small winding roads, the whole time shooting paper projectiles out of PVC blow-guns. Upon arrival we reward them with 2 liters of Coca-Cola (NB they wisely refuse our Turkish delight -- we were the strangers with candy!!). The sugar/caffeine drives them more or less insane, they promise to show us another church when we're done with Chora, but when we exit the church they are nowhere to be found.
- This is mainly a relief.
- A cab driver gave us a scenic tour of the seaside. Since this wasn't requested and increased the distance traveled by a factor of 3 or 4, we did not pay the amount shown on the meter. He yelled at us and we got out. Scored one for America!
- Our plan to take public transportation (=PT) to the airport the night before our flight (which leaves at 6:40am, too early for PT) is foiled by PT's closing at 10pm. We stay out on Istiklal Caddesi and (among other things) look for stamps for our postcards. We fail to find stamps, but we succeed in finding a guy who promises to mail our postcards the next day and refuses to accept any money!
- Seriously, metro closes at 10pm? Are we a city or not answer me now I need to know.
- Do let me know if you receive a postcard.