22 September 2007

AlSo: Coast Starlight 2

Tried to go back to my seat only to find it occupied by my neighbor who had spread olut (granted I had been up for a few hours). Talked with a lady named Linda who has been traveling with her aged mother and a few other friends. They took a 3-day cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles, spent the night, and then took the Coast Starlight to Seattle at which point they’ll get in a coach. It was about $CA500, cheap because the cruise ships apparently reposition to Mexico for the winter months, with coastal deals to be had in September. This would be great for mom and dad! Also met a guy named Michael who does comic strips and wildfire fighting. He’s just riding the wind right now. We stopped in Klamath Falls, and I got out for some fresh air to find my parents on the platform. And the Aleatoric Sojourn continues!! Dad and Mom were in town for Dad’s 45th high school reunion, and, being the guy he is, called the station to discover our ETA and also to learn that we would be in the station for over 1 ¼ hours while they work on the tracks ahead of us. So they swept me up and took me to a reunion brunch where I crashed Dad’s reunion party. A vivacious crew. And who wouldn’t be with gin fizzes and Bailey’s and coffee to go with croissants (I stuck with Bailey’s and coffee)? we wiled away 45 minutes at which time my train was in danger of turning into a pumpkin. Said goodbye for two days, got back on and to my seat to find my seatmate still slumbering over both of our seats. I wish I could sleep that soundly now. At least it’s given me a chanco get caught up on my blog!!

21 September 2007

AlSo: Coast Starlight

Jan was a doll and took me to the Metro station to get to Union Station in Los Angeles. They have a really cool light rail! It’s really beautiful. Of course, it coincided with the Aleatoric Sojourn, so something weird is bound to happen. In this case, a train collided with a car (ummm, guess whose fault that was?), so we had to get off the train then to a bus and than back on the train. While on the bus, we saw the collision, surrounded by multiple fire trucks and two hovering news helicopters. Not pretty. I met with a lovely young lady who was reading “Ender’s Game”. She is a special ed teacher at a public school and was going to a training. She has been carfree for about a year after she got into an accident and couldn’t easily afford a replacement. She and her husband wanted to see if they could go without, and sure enough they found it possible! So he bike commutes, and she walks and takes the bus/train. She was so darn cool! We talked pretty much the whole time until we hit Union Station. I peeled off to get tickets and then to sit in the courtyard with coffee next to a bird of paradise under incomparable weather. The seats for the train were comfy and spacious. I sat next to Felix, who is a Quaker and a Graphic Design student on the way home from seeing his girlfriend. A delightful conversation. There was also a bachelor party; a fellow by the name of Mike was getting married in St. Luis Obispo and was being accompanied on the train by his friends Doug and Andy. We had a great time, they were kind enough to share their scotch, and then they left all too quickly. Andy had a lot of ranching stories; Doug is a headhunter and can write off just about any trip or meeting on his taxes. Mike is, well, getting married and also works with the armed forces. Their acquaintances wre unlikely, having been acquainted through ex-girlfriends as far as I could tell. Andy actually kissed my hand when he left, which never fails to endear. The train is such a wonderful opportunity to meet new people; I had a number of conversations with people I’d never have otherwise met. The tracks practically lick the ocean (or is it the other way around?), and one can see mountains and surfers and expansive forests. Late in the evening, we passed a freight truck in the dead of night. The slow speed and ominous, almost ethereal sounds seemed reminiscent of a deep sea adventure and passing a leviathan quietly, hoping not to awake it. I was having sleeping issues; I think my body is finally rebelling against yet another night spent in a seat. Grrr! Trying not to succumb to sleep lest jet lag rear its ugly head.

20 September 2007

AlSo: Bye, Corey!

so this is the part of our recounting of the Aleatoric Sojourn in which we part, inevitably but reluctantly, from our traveling partners as we speed home to wedding bells and clover leaves (of the asphalt, SoCo/LA kind). here is Corey's blog for the Seattle story:
he mentioned in a post that any disparity between our posts is a mistake (lying? pshaw, Mr. Schuster! please note the halo hula-hooping over my dishwater locks). in fact, we have concocted a diabolical choose-your-own-adventure with two counterpointing blogs.
lying, indeed.

AlSo: Retracing Steps

I woke up at 6am to head to the airport, though I had to come back once because I’d forgotten my eyes. Oh well! The bus to the train to the airport. I was there far too early and wandered for about 2 hours. Got to Amsterdam and into another transfer Passport Control Check that never ends. Luckily there was time enough, and I sucked down some joe even though my flight was boarding. And then I was in car-dependent Los Angeles, got back to near Jan’s work, and helped her move her office to a different cubicle. It had been a rough few weeks for the gang: Ruffy had been put to sleep, Jan was moving her office twice, and Kev had a few questions without easy resolution. Ed works all the time! He was there late and left early. Jan and I talked for a while, then she went to bed and Kevin and I talked until I was so drowsy I had to fall asleep.

19 September 2007

AlSo: Everyone Loves Brussels

We kibitzed over coffee with the gang as much as time would allow. Shawn and I worked on motivating Matt out of bed, from his lofty bower. A farewell, and Shawn took us to Jurbise. We caught the train to Brussels and then the Metro and to the Jacques Brel hostel. I have been to Brussels once before at the height of the season and got a dorm no problem. It is past peak season and Every Single hotel and hostel was full. I mean brimming. They told us we could put our luggage downstairs and call after 3pm to see if any reservations had been cancelled. We set out in search of food and, after a long travail and metro, we found a Greek pita place which was absolutely delicious. Walked to the Grand Place, and Corey found us coffee. Then beer. We met with Joan and her husband. He’s from Detroit and worked for GM for 33 years and loves them. He also bikes all over the country and has biked internationally as well. They were fascinating people to talk to for the hour or so that they had before getting back on their Paris-bound train. I want to retire the way they’ve done it. We went to the Horta Museum and then to the internet café where Joroen agreed, Incredibly Graciously, to pout us up for the night. Phew! Because Corey and I had negative energy. It was horrible! We walked around a little more, picked up our luggage, and met him at his place that he shares with 3 others in Ixelles. His girlfriend, Anita (sp?) has been working on their website for their Auto-Suficance campaign which is just brilliant! They took a car and transmogrified it into a garden. Then they towed it by hand up the streets and to its downtown roadside installation space. An incredible project. What can we do along these same lines? This is just perfect! We talked and talked until beer became an increasing necessity. We headed to a swell watering hole and had a fdew beers until it was time to go to a nearby vegetarian restaurant at 10pm when they give away their leftovers. So not only did we have a place to sleep but we also got free food! Hot damn. On the way back, we encountered a woman coming out of a car who asked if we knew of a hotek that had space. We said that getting 15 minutes out of town was her best bet. Boy, Brussels is popular these days. We laid out our pillage and had a great dinner, met Anna, one of the other flatmates, and then fell asleep rather quickly.

18 September 2007

AlSo: Traveling Blues

we woke up entirely Entirely too early and got a taxi from Kadikoy to the airport. The taxi driver said it might cost 60, but we got it for 50, about what folks told us it might be. When we got to the airport, we learned that the flight had been changed to 8:55. we had gotten there about 5:30, and the check-in counter didn’t open until 7:00, so we had a while to wait. When the counter finally opened, it was more like a bunch of chunks than a true line, and this line spontaneously moved to different counters based on the activity of the employees. Someone should do a sociological study on this airport. We checked in and walked through duty free before going upstairs to the most expensive and paltry (not to mention rude) café in any airport. We asked for omelette and were told a fervent, “Yok” and quizzical look. Why would order something on the menu? Overpriced espresso that turned out to be Nescafe, and the guy actually slammed the 2 lira change when I added up our order for him and asked for the change. Wow. The security check hadn’t opened yet, but people were lining up anyway. A little kid was playing with all of the ropes, though, and I wondered what would happen if we all started to spontaneously do that, too. Why do people push in line when we’re all going to be on the same plane? It makes absolutely no sense. I’m thrilled to be the last person in line because it means I don’t have to sit as long. We got to the other side of security, and then we had to wait in line to get on the bus to the plane. Same scenario. Both times. People were snippy about their seating assignments, and for some reason this groups was positively manic about standing up and getting baggage even before we had taxied to the gate. Then the fun REALLY began in Dusseldorff’s passport control. The guy who graciously offered for me to go first out of the plane then shoved me out of line when it came to the passport control line. One guy was trying to show his passport while on his cell phone and was kicked out of line. Another guy started speaking angrily at someone after being asked to step aside and was shooshed. But the kicker came when a woman started yelling at the customs official after apparently being asked to produce identification, invitation letter and documents about how much she has in the bank at home. She said, “I have already paid” a number of times and then said, “get me the police. I want to talk to the police”. To which the customs official replied, “we are the police.” This caused everyone in line to laugh. She kept yelling and wouldn’t get out of line, so the customs agent walked out of the booth and into the booth nearer to us, which certainly sped us up! I’ve never seen anything so crazy. People shoving in the baggage claim and out the door. It was crazy!
So now we were in Dusseldorff and had no way to get to Mons. We checked all the car rentals who were all booked, all of the (god help us) airlines to learn nothing went from D to Brussels, and finally with gritted teeth we went to Eurail. $92 for both, which beats the $130 per ticket I’d been quoted online. YEAY! The train was smooth and fast and beautiful with the one exception of some opinionated American spouting out that Arnold Schwarzenegger would make a great President and there is a problem with Mexican immigrants and (this really got me going) the Army Core of Engineers is severely misunderstood. Please. Please spare me.
From Brussels to Mons and then to Shawn, Becc and Matt’s house. We had dinner and some GREAT beer. I bounced on Matt’s trampoline. We talked about the trip and Matt’s teachers. Matt had to go to bed, and we watched “Goblet of Fire” to see if it was Matt-friendly. Corey loves them. He has good taste. Sleep came relatively quickly.

17 September 2007

AlSo: Last Hoorah

This morning it was Nat’s turn to leave. She promised to come to Portland in exchange for pics of my bike wedding. We hustled to the Grand Bazaar and learned a good deal about carpets we couldn’t afford from one who had been a 4th generation carpet dealer. Ethem was free for lunch, so we had the chance to see him again. He has decided not to go to Afghanistan because they wouldn’t allow him a security guard and would not vouch for his safety, so he will instead go to DC where he has been invited by one who has a place to pout him up. He’s finished with research about domestic violence abuse cases with men as victims and will be starting a new project on pedophilia. We thought that he would have to write about something fluffy next like, “history of love in the Ottomon Empire” or “Baklava v. g . . .” (a Ramadan sweet). Turns out he didn’t even know Wahab or Ilhan, which makes the whole experience even funnier! We had tea served to us at Tesev by a fellow whose entire job is making tea for employees and guests. After leaving Ethem (sniff!) we walked through the Spice Bazaar and got some good deals and met one vendor who speaks 8 languages, though not much Chinese because they never buy anything according to him. We went to Suleyman Camii, quite possibly the most beautiful mosque in Turkey at least. The carpet is a tiled pattern of prayer mats pointing to Mecca, and the architectural nuances of the mosque are too numerous to detail, even if I did have the eye to appreciate them all. It’s awe-inspiring. We left the interior to find a movie set outside. Yet another wacky sighting to chalk up to our AlSo. Then it was time to head back to the Grand Bazaar and tackle the voluminous list of gifts to get people. I hate shopping. Truly. Bargaining makes it a little better, and it’s great in learning numbers, but in the end it just makes me feel burdened and tired. We only persevered because they were thank you gifts which I hope will be useful. Corey bought not one but TWO kilims. It was such a leap of faith, but I was not amazed. Corey leaps well. We had a celebratory piece of baklava and meditated on our new impoverished state. Quickly back to get our things, tram and ferry to Rick’s house by way of the best vegetarian durum ever! And we wiled a few hours talking with Rick, a nice closed circle to our beginning in Istanbul. If any final memory would make one want to come back to Turkey, it’s Rick’s company.

16 September 2007

AlSo: A Lazy, Lazy Day

Had breakfast with the gang. Sourma and Regina left back for England at 9am; a sorry sight to say the least. They seriously could open a comedy club together. We spent most of the rest of the day doing . . . not much. There was plenty of Turkish coffee, some internet, some laundry for which I’m sure many people thank us, and some more Turkish coffee. we found Nat reading “The Life of Pi” in a really swell park near Sultanahmet. We talked about her fellow, Tom, and how strangely time passes when traveling. She seemed pretty tickled by my moving by bike and marriage to Sparky. I have to send her pics. Then we high-tailed it to Rck’s for a FABOO dinner of salad (bless you, Rick) and bean soup with Ethiopian spices with bulghar. The time passed all too quickly, and we realized that Nat would be waiting for us, possibly with twiddling fingers (actually she would be happy, but I hate to keep people waiting only slightly more than I hate hurried goodbyes). We rushed to the ferry and a tram and managed to skirt around the Ramadan throngs thanks to Corey’s inexplicable navigation capabilities and ascended to the Sultan terrace to find Nat reading. We sauntered until there were too many people to saunter and then we shuffled around the Ramadan stalls. Had coffee and tea and gozleme, talking and people-watching all the while. Then it was back home.

15 September 2007

AlSo: Istanbul not Constantinople

I woke up rather feisty and took a 1 ½ hour walk. Erzurum has an amber indoor bazaar that was built at the behest of Solomon the Magnificent. I walked around the citadel as well, and during the first half hour or so of my walk I had the entire city all to myself, as most folks were back napping after their early morning breakfast. I tried to find a market that was open and, after a long time searching, found one and pounced while he was still laying out his wares for the day. I got some tomatoes and cucumbers, etc with a little stale bread and went back to see the boys up and about. Well, up anyway. We engaged in the second edition of the Infidels’ Clandestine Breakfast Picnic and then walked to the train station after hearing from a less than effusive Turkish Airlines ticket agent that there was not service to the airport. There was a dolmus from the train station, and we said goodbye for now to Justin before making our merry way back to Istanbul. The flight top Istanbul and a Havas bus to Kadikoy to the ferry to the tram to the Sultan Hostel where we immediately reunited with Nat, Sourma and Regina. YEAY! We talked with them and Volkan, the check-in guy, before heading up to the rooftop for a beer and a look at the view. We heard about their travels, including to Olympus which was awesome, Butterfly Valley which didn’t actually have any butterflies, and Ludones which turned out to be a British colony with a bunch of meringues on wedding package vacations. Earlier in the day they had spent time at the Grand Bazaar where they wheeled and dealed like only those two sisters can. We went to dinner together near the Blue Mosque at the Arrasta Bazaar. Quite touristy and a bit of a shock after having been in the east, truth be told. The call to prayer came about 7:25 and was preceded by a few loud booms, which I thought was a “get ready” signal for the end of fasting. Fasting for Ramadan is broken by first water and then dates, which according to Regina (whose parents are practicing Muslims) was the fruit Mohammed used to break his fast. Often soup with bread follows and then a main dish and then dessert. The whole are between Aya Sophia and the Blue Mosque is transformed into a Carnaval for the duration of Ramadan, and the first weekend was the craziest because public school still hadbn’t started and everyone was keen to celebrate it. The Blue Mosque had a string of lights whose message would change many evenings after the fast could be broken. The first night it said something like “Hos Geldiniz Sehri-Ya Ramazan”, which I think might mean “Welcome to the City for Ramadan” but I defer to others whose Turkish extends beyond my 10 words. Food and craft stalls were everywhere and absolutely swarming with people and vibrance. Our lot had a nargile and some cay before going back to touristy, secular Sultanahmet hostel row.

14 September 2007

Hopped up on Lentil Soup

my eyes are buggy after spending some time catching up on email and trying to get us home without ransoming a few of our digits, but a few notes:

it's the 2nd day of Ramadan, and though we have eaten breakfast later than the 4:30amish that most of the people around us eat at, we've been not eating or drinking during the day. needless to say, we were rather excited to sit down to a place that had vaguely vegetarian lentil soup (mercimen corba) and tea. i'm fantasizing about ice cream later on. i think Corey has visions of Efes pilsner dancing through his head.

nothing makes me angrier at our President than when we divulge our nationality with the effect of a sad nod of the head and pursed lips with those whom we have enjoyed some good conversation. strangely, three people (Iranians to boot) have stated their affection for Bush and the army. i don't know how to process this.

if there is one lesson i've learned from my visit with Turkey, it's hospitality. i must strive to become the kind of host everyone in this country seems to be effortlessly.

excuse me now, but dondurma (ice cream) is calling.

AlSo: Ani and Armenia

7-10am breakfast at the hotel! Had breakfast at 7amish Shazam! Met Jared, who whisked us into his car which was already populated by a Slovenian couple. On the way to Ani, Jared told us about Americans being a front for British in Iraq to some extent and of the relations between Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. The main point I felt from the snippets of conversation I could get was that citizens are pawns of animosity and greed propogated by governments. To prove his point, he got out and warmly greeted two fellows at the gates of Ani, both of whom are Armenian.
Ani is absolutely fascinating and within a stone’s throw of the Armenian border. Modern guard towers in the distance served as backdrops to the ancient and crumbling protective walls around the ancient city. One of the churches had a number of beautiful paintings that have since been marred by petty vandalism by others before us. Bastards. What egotistical bastards. Corey, of course, had to scramble around places most people wouldn’t have thought of going, including, ahem, through a gate. That’s all I’m saying. Got back to the lion gate after 2 ½ hours of exploring, including up to a castle that we only later learned was forbidden, and into Jared’s car with the gas meter reading “E” 45 lonely kilometers from Kars. Sometimes being adept at praying would help. On the way home, Jared told us about the obligatory 15 month army stint for all men and possible career thereafter, the army’s relative trustworthiness compared to the police, how he wishes that women would be allowed into the army so that the job wasn’t so boring, and his hopes for his son to grow up to be an engineer or a pharmacist. Back in Kars, we went to Kars Castle which we had read we shouldn’t miss but which was actually a little disappointing. Maybe it was something about not being crumbling or more than 1000 years old. We high-tailed it to the bus to Erzurum for yet another transportational adventure. The driver was crazy! He and some others got stopped randomly by traffic police along the highway where it seemed we might be forced to wile away the remainder of our lives until a few rather quick movements which looked very much like a bribe from where we were standing took place, allowing us on our merry way. A few of the towns en route had ski shops, and one also included a guy HOLDING a pair of skis which certainly got Corey’s excitement rating up. By the time we got withint Erzurum’s city limits, iut was nearing dusk and therefore the break of fasting. If the driver had been a little nutty before, he went positively berserk now. As Corey so elegantly puts it, when we got into the otogar,the driver just sort of stopped driving. He blasted into the parking space at top speed, seeming to gun it for 2 peds who scrambled to get out of the way. Justin got tickets for Ankara the next evening and we hoofed it to town. We found Dede Hotel. The proprietor, Adem Dede, is a crack-up! We had a dinner of the best lentil soup to date and were told that our hopes for pide would not find realization during Ramadan. Justin and I had the BEST pistachio and chocolate ice cream EVER. Seriously. Ice cream will never be that good again. Boy, Erzurum is serious about its pastries and sweets; there is at least one sweet shop on every block downtown. Justin and Corey were hankering for beer, but such was not to be seen in Erzurum. Our hour-long treasure hunt for beer yielded nothing but sightings of a few liquor stores shut tight for the duration of Ramadan. We found a cay place instead next to the central mosque and enjoyed it and the live music that accompanied it. So it wasn’t a bar, but we shut the place down anyway. That’s how we roll.

13 September 2007

AlSo: Ramadan in Van

We got up at 5:30 hoping to scrounge some breakfast for later to see that the sun was already up. There were some hopes that the breakfast places would remain open, but this was a paltry and unrealized dream. We hustled some groceries at a nearby market and headed back to the terrace of the Aslan Hotel (“aslant” means “lion” in case you were wondering)which we had already checked out of in order to concoct our own clandestine infidel terrace breakfast picnic, the first of two such meals while in the east. It was good, but I felt guilty enough to swear to fast the rest of the day. A meandering to the bus to the otogar and onto a bus bound for Kars. No less than 6 military checkpoints along the way with four identity card checks and two baggage checks. We learned the next day that this was to curtail a large drug trafficking across the Iranian border. A flooded bridge and flooded road and cattle crossing. We saw children sleeping on the grain in the beds of moving trucks, lots of donkey carts, many women in burqas, and, you know, Mt. Ararat where Noah’s Ark was said to have landed back in the day. Finally we got into Kars, got tickets for Erzurum, found a hotel, and met with Jared who works as a guide for Ani, then set out in search of food, as it was past dusk. We found a place with great meze and grilled fish and beer, but a shockingly big bill that had us feeling like paupers again. Oh well.

12 September 2007

AlSo: Van

Best breakfast ever!! According to the LP (which we’re still mad at, by the by for a few other references that require a letter to the editor), Van is famous for having the best breakfast spreads in Turkey, and it’s not hard to see why. We went down a side street only to find a whole alley set up with chairs and tables just for breakfast (kavalti salonu). There was a grass cheese, honeyCOMB served along with 5000 other types of cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, tahini, a few mystery substances, and bread. It was incredible.afterwards, we walked to Van Castle a little over, say, 3k out of town and past a bunch of kids who know “hello” and “money”. We scrambled up the ancient ruins and up a tall chimney (I don’t believe it was a minaret?) because, you know, it was there. Some people were beating what looked like cotton or wool below. Afterwards, we walked to Lake Van which was a relatively short jaunt from the Castle. It’s a pristine-looking lake (though Rick said there is a great deal of pollution) with almost no water activity, just one or two ferries. We had celebratory beer (what were we celebrating? Umm, the fact that there was beer and it might be the last one we have before Ramadan begins the next day) along the dock, then a dolmus whisked us back to the city. Coreyn managed to find us tickets back to Istanbul, so we celebrated THAT at a pide joint. The hospitality in this country is legion. We said we were vegetarian and asked if they had eggplant, and they of course replied, “Sure!” and then sent someone out to buy some for us. Incredible roasted vegetables! We had all been jonesing for some veggies. There was a soccer game on during dinner, Turkey against some M-stan country none of us had ever heard of. We are Americans, I suppose. No one scored for the duration of our meal, and we got up to leave the table with the score still 0-0. no sooner had we walked into the street and down an alley when we heard cheers and roars from everywhere! Turkey had scored. They scored twice more within a few minutes, and men spilled out of teahouses and lokantas clapping each other on the back. It was so festive!

09 September 2007

Oddysseı: Mardın

after more stops than ı really care to count wıth a bunch of toıng and froıng and a screamıng baby who was quıckly shuttled off the bus (learned that ıt was actually theır stop; after all, just because someone crıes doesn,t mean they should get booted off), we arrıved at shortly after 4am ın Mardın. we were a ways from the cıty center, and a quıck tour of the nearby cheap hotel saıd that ıt was all booked up. started walkıng when a nıce fellow scooped us ınto the car and summarıly brought us to the door of a hotel. a very expensıve-lookıng hotel. we asked how much a room was and then almost choked. walked back out and weıghed the optıons of walkıng back towards town before dawn and most lıkely encounterıng large dogs. ıt was a beautıful vıew of the cıty, though! ın the end we decıded to pıck up some rocks and my paultry stıck as preotectıon from the bayıng dogs that had become part of the audıal landscape shortly after the roosters made themselves known. gendarmes protectıng the power plant laughed at the 3 forıgners walkıng along deserted streets. we got a faır ways, actually, when a fellow whose name ı thought was Oscar gave us a lıft. and none too soon! no sooner had we gotten ın and started drıvıng than we encountered 2 dogs, one of whıch attacked the car and trıed to take a bıte out of the wındshıeld. needless to say, we were grateful. he took us to a hotel that looked even more expensıve, but by thıs tıme we fıgured we would just have to suck ıt up for the nıght. ıt turned out to be about $US35 for each of us, whıch, okay ıs expensıve, but we,re also stayıng ın a castle datıng from the 13th century sıtuated ın ancıent Mesopotamıa. here are some pıctures of the hotel (the only pıctures to date sınce ı can,t download yet): http://artuklu.com/tr/ARTUKLU360/panoramic/kraldairesi.htm

ıt turns out our savıor,s name ıs Alı, and hıs job ıs an "osker", or soldıer. we sat up on the terrace drınkıng tea for about an hour whıle Alı went through the flashcards ı had made hım. we communıcated as well we could about football and chıldren untıl Alı suggested that he come back at 2pm and show us around the town. we agreed (though he had mentıoned payment, and we were now completely broke from the hotel), ı gave hım my flashcards, and we shuffled to our prıcy but absolutely luxurıant room complete wıth shower and complımentary cotton swabs!!!

starvıng by the tıme we woke up at 11:30 or so and found a pıde place along the road. Mehmet, ı belıeve hıs name ıs, has owned the pıde place for a number of years and follows a long tradıtıon of pıde owners ın hıs famıly. we sat and kıbıtzed whıle watchıng the three fellows make dough ınto magıcal bread through the huge maw of an oven. they made us specıal vegetarıan pıdes (whıch are Turkısh pızzas) usıng a huge glob of butter that permeated the entıre pızza. they were great!

a lıttle ınternet for Justın and Corey whıle ı trıed to get more mınutes for the phone Shawn and Becc loaned us. there were 5 young fellows who gave plenty of attentıon to my phone, then asked where ı ws goıng. ı was tryıng to say that ı ws meetıng my brother (Corey) at the ınternet, but ı guess ı ended up sayıng that ı was lookıng for a boyfrıend on the ınternet. two of them offered to chat onlıne. ıt was embarrassıng. ı don,t want to talk about ıt anymore.

got back to the hotel and waıted for Alı after fellows at the desk saıd that he was comıng. twenty mınutes later a glorıous young lady named Güşeln who spoke fabulous englısh ınformed us that Alı was NOT comıng. ı had heard "gılıyor", but they had saıd "gılıMIyor", whıch ıs the dıfference between "he,s comıng" and "he,s not comıng". bıg dıfference!
so we got to talkıng wıth her for a few hours about lıfe ın Turkey, her lıfe ın England, arranged marrıages, thınkıng posıtıvely as manıfestıng good thıngs ın your lıfe, etc. we begged her to joın us for dınner, and she acquıesced.

meanderıng ıs my favorıte pasttıme ın new places, and we all meandered up to a Madrassah that overlooks the cıty. ı thınk we hıt the chıldren,s quarter, because we ended up spendıng a goodly amount of tıme wıth a bunch of youngsters who spoke a lıttle englısh and a lot of Turkısh. good tımes, good tımes. when theır parents haıled them back, we kept walkıng to fınd a famıly hangıng out on theır stoop whose patrıarch offered us some tea. hıs name ıs Omer. another great tıme. walked down and around, a dollop of fabulous pıstachıo ıce cream at lıdo, a short nap, then dınner wıth Güşeln.
what a great day!

08 September 2007

AlSo: The Rock

In the morning we walked to St. Peter’s Church after a futile attempt to get breakfast at a doner shop (what were three vegetarians thinking trying to get food at a place with roasting, rotating chickens displayed in the window? Hubris). Waiting for the gates to open, we talked to one of the gatekeepers who suggested we scramble up the rocks above the church. We were on the verge of doing so when a distinct American accented voice asked where we were from. He is an archaeological student from Texas who had a great deal to say about the history of Antioch, as Antakya is often referred to, and the area [see emails to mom and Steve]. One fellow showed us around some of the areas. I’ve learned that I have a little disgruntlement with the direction “down”, perhaps owing in part to my glasses’ strange relationship to depth perception but assuredly due to my own clumsiness. Needless to say, both Justin and Corey scrambled higher than me. We wheeled back to town for brunch of, oh yes you guessed it, hummus, then the Archaeological Museum. Turkey has so much history that they just throw it around, that’s what we learned at the museum. The Museum was filled with amazing tiled mosaics with Greek and Roman references, coins of most Roman and Ottoman rulers (Claudius, Marcus Aurellius, and Suleyman the Great for the heck of it). Chinese toiurists came through at one point, and I got to translate “please don’t use you flash” into Mandarin for the security guard. In the back courtyard, we got to check out ancient sarcophagi used as planters, the watering hose propped up against a rendering of, was it Cupid?, on the side of a sarcophagus. Hightailed it back to the hotel to pick up our stuff, whiz through the Bazaar to pick up some to-go surk (a cheese with added spices) and pide for the ride and got on the bus to Mardin. Long, LONG ride.

07 September 2007

AlSo: Antakya or Bust

We got ourselves to the bus station, our old friend, rather early, determined to get on a bus in the general direction we wanted to go even if it meant body-slamming ourselves onto a coach. Woo hoo! We got on board the bus to Nevsehir to a bus to Adana from which we were to make a transfer to an Antakya-bound coach. We got to Adana and hit a snag – no one knew what to do with us, and the Nevsehir guy there got us onto another carrier’s oversold bus. Lots of stools in the aisles. We took a dolmus to the city center conducted by a guy who spoke German. What is it with people speaking German in this part of Tukey? We walked around the Bazaar until we found the hotel for which we were looking. Along the way, we spied a number of bike retail and repair shops, and a lot of folks were using it as a means of cargo and personal transport. Two cheeky kids came to practice their English with us, and an adorable fruit seller asked us why were here and helped us get our bearings. We complimented them on their rides and then checked into a nice and cheap serviceable hotel that the LP described as “scary”. Whatever. Went back to the fruit area and into the Bazaar which was HUGE! Seriously, it went on forever. We learned later that St. Peter used to wander around this Bazaar as it was the Jewish Quarter. That’s word on the street, anyway. Found dinner and the best hummus ever, which Antakya is known for. Great view of the city on the terrace, which looks for all intents and purposes like an Asian city. Between the bikes and the hummus, I swear I could live here.

06 September 2007

AlSo: Ilhara Is Pronounced “Urgup”

Justin, Corey and I got up earlier than prudence would dictate in the hopes of hiking in Ilhara Valley, which is supposed to be just beautiful. Our hopes were dashed in Nevsehir, however, when we learned that the buses and ticket prices were daunting enough for us to change tacks. Instead we decided to go to Urgup. On the bus, off the bus, nice breakfast and tea, then a stroll through the old city. There was supposed to be an underground city in Urgup, as well, but the artist whom we asked about it later hadn’t heard of it. What we did find in scrambling around the area was a bunch of untended, uninhabited and fascinating pidgeon houses which we were more than content to explore for some goodly time. It was perhaps the highlight of Cappadoccia! Thus emboldened, we walked on and found a winery where we had a tour and wine-tasting. The tender has been in the wine industry for over 12 years and told us that Urgup’s terrain, weather, and volcanic soil create an optimal environment for wine-growing. I’ll drink to that! On the way back down the road, we met up with a Dutch lady who asked what sights there were in the area. She does paintings of Turkish carpet designs. Got back just in time to have a beer and meet a fellow named John from Hong Kong. He and Corey actively considered making an Iraq border run in a few days. We made our way to the bus stop only to learn that the “bus cancelled”, according to the fellow whom I will refer to as Mr. Suha through the person whom he had asked to translate from Nevsehir Bus Company next door. Mr. Suha offered to either exchange our tickets for the next morning and set us up in a hotel for the night or give our money back. Corey (since Mr. Suha wouldn’t talk to me as I was a woman and only stooped to make grunting noises in my general direction when conversation seemed unavoidable) checked to see if there were any buses with any vacancy going anywhere on our list of places to go. No, no and no. then our “cancelled” bus showed up. Hmmmm. That’s interesting. Mr. Suha made some indication that it wasn’t our bus. But it had our destination on it from the same company with whom we had booked at the same time it was supposed to come. Double hmmmm. we finally booked passage with the very helpful and kind fellow from Nevsehir for Antakya the next morning. However, when we asked about getting the hostel from Mr. Suha, he actually laughed in Corey’s face and said we had nullified the offer when we booked with Nevsehir. Who he had told us was his brother and whom he had employed as our translator. That Mr. Suha. What a jerk! So the wonderful fellow from Nevsehir got us a 3-for-2 deal at the HI Shoestring Hostel run by Jesus. Everything turned out well, and we crossed our fingers about the ticket the next morning.

05 September 2007

AlSo: Going Underground

Had breakfast on the terrace with Justin, who it turns out used to work at World Resources Institute in Washington, DC (small world) before leaving in favor of traveling and studying in India. We took a bust to Nevsehir and then another bus to Derinkuyu which boasts one of the most extensive open underground cities. It is seven layers deep and positively labyrinthian. They were used by residents in times of threats of invasion and had all amenities needed for mid-term living (the major issue being sewage which I couldn’t see any system for the long-term disposal of). The network we saw was actually only a small part of an even greater underground network. And what did the Lonely Planet call it? You guessed it – “troglodytic”. Is this even a word? After Corey and Justin had run through and explored every nook and cranny of the underground city (“yeralti sehri” in Turkish in case you were wondering), we found a leaf-canopied courtyard with older men drinking tea and playing backgammon. We drank tea and then migrated to a pide place that had GREAT pide. We wound our way back to Goreme the way we had come and engaged in some “underground” experiences of our own, specifically drinking red wine from the Conference farewell party 5 days before. I cleaned my shoes like the dickens for which everyone, particularly Ali, was grateful. Sunset was spent on the bluff with gorgeous panoramic views of the city and paragliders. Dinner was with the whole gang, all of whom save Justin, Corey and myself were heading to Antalya that evening. Audra et al had staked out a restaurant for their final Goreme meal which turned out to have everything BUT what they wanted. Delicious, though. Joke told by a passing Turkish guy: “What smokes more than a Turk? Two Turks.” True that. Everyone trundled en masse to the train station where they departed and we got tickets to Antakya the next day. As we were waiting with the others for their bus to come, all of the lights went off in the city and candles quickly taken out. Justin and my hopes for ice cream were dashed once again. We trekked back to the hostel in the dark and were contemplating going up to the bluff but reconsidered when we saw so many tourists heading that way with whoops and liquor. It was so very beautiful and peaceful on the terrace, though!

04 September 2007

AlSo: Troglodytes?

In addition to the British/Bengali dup, we met a fellow named Justin from America in the parking lot as we gazed balefully at the parking lot, willing transport to a hostel to come. We got one to Traveller’s Cave and a muesli breakfast where we met two Australians, Nat and Ali, and yet another American named Audra. Many of the houses and hostels in Cappaoccia, particularly in Goreme, are located inside caves and are quite cool, a blessing with the heat. We collectively took exception to the Lonely Planet’s constant reference to cave dwelling as “a troglodyte lifestyle”. Letters to the Editor are planned for certain. Everyone save the three new ladies had a nap, then we set out to see the Open Air Museum. It turned out to be an amazing enclave of early Christian shrined and churches set in the stone pillars typical of Cappadoccia. Some of the cave paintings were still intact, even after it was occupied by Muslims. We mused that, had the pedigree and occupation been reversed, the Christians of the time wouldn’t have allowed Islamic artwork to survive. We walked back in a heat that was keen on making itself known and found a taxi who was willing to take us to Pasabag to check out the fairy chimneys. The taxi driver was absolutely wonderful and took us back to Goreme via a beautiful canyon-like bowl that he called Lava Lake. Apparently the precipice of Lava Lake is also where locals go to drink and kibitz and bring their girlfriends. we had dinner at the hostel and heard about Audra, Nat and Ali’s day tour from which they had just come and which had left them famished. The fact that the hostel forgot their food order didn’t exactly help. Back to the room, my shoes stank so badly that even Ali had to admit they could use a wash, and I put them in a bag as a conciliatory gesture.

03 September 2007

AlSo: Hamami

Found Tijo in the morning and conducted him to wake Corey up, who said he opened his eyes only to see a floating Tijo head. Breakfast with Corey, Sylvia and Tijo covered talks about Tijos bike tours, life before and after the war, nepotism and corruption and unemployment. Randy joined us for breakfast. Met with Elly and talked about next steps for the Conference next year. I think the main question is one of tack – to make TCC08 a scrappy grassroots Conference or a more professional one. Personally, I think that creating a more extensive framework for involvement with a number of levels would be best, and to get engineering firms and other municipalities on board it needs a little more prep and follow-through. This is just me talking, of course (because hey, it’s my blog!). I’ve promised to draft a Sponsorship Coordinator Intern description and have, with Elly’s kind suggestion, committed to acting as Scholarship Coordinator. Still need to creat a description for that, of course. Everyone will create a powerpoint to follow up with potential sponsors and future stakeholders. We adjourned to the Bazaar where Elly bought a bunch of swell-smelling spices, and a vendor called me “Baby” which kind of killed the deal. Elly sallied forth in search of other pursuits while Corey and I meandered some more and dabbled into the Grand Bazaar which at the time was overrun with cruise tourists. Lunch at a random restaurant with a hilarious waiter from Batman. We met Markus at the Grand Bazaar and rather quickly quit it in favor of a hamami which we found nearby. It was 35 lira for a wash and full massage, which was about half of what we were quoted by others. I had the women’s side all to myself but was unsure as to how to proceed (haven’t been in many bathhouses that were not completely self-serve). A lady named Nagila invited me to rinse off which I did, but then she wandered off. I went into the sauna for a while and came back out. No Nagila. Rinsed again and went abck in the sauna. No Nagila. Finally went to ask if she had soap (“sabo var mi?”), and she replied “Var” but didn’t offer anything else. Back to the sauna. Little did I know that the answer was to sit on the big stone slab within eyeshot. Nagila came in, and what followed turned out to be “Loofah and Language”, where I learned (and have since forgotten) the parts of the body in Turkish. Back into the sauna and came out to find Nagila washing, and I rinsed as well. She held out a towel, and I confusedly made to wash myself with it until she indicated that I should get her back. I ended up giving her a back massage like she had given me which we both had a good time with. Left her with a picture of body parts in English and kibitzed about her family of which she has two children, one grandchild and a husband who is her second after the first died. A fond farewell and met up with Markus and Corey outside who had befriended a few Frenchmen. We swapped stories, and Corey remarked that few would get a massage at a hamami only to give one back to the masseuse. Aww schucks. We sauntered back to the Sultan Hostel, had a nargile, and talked about Markus’ work as an architect. Elly joined us, and we thought it would be very cool if we could create an exhibition of carfree places and carfree housing structures for the conference. Then it was time for Corey and I to head to Goreme in Cappadoccia by bus. Met up with two young English ladies named Sourma and Regina on the bus who were a total riot!

01 September 2007

AlSo: Carfree Withdrawals

breakfast with Rick and plans to meet Ethem Sat. or Sun. Meghan, Tamar, Corey and I went to a bookshop and then to tea. Poor Corey was the only one who didn’t either get his ass grabbed or a phone number from the tea waiter. We met Markus et al on the ferry and had as productive a meeting as one can on crowded public transportation. We deboarded at the first island and continued our meeting at the waterfront in as productive a manner as a waterfront meeting can be. Swimming, then talking about Steering Committee, then Milan and Justin had to leave on the next Istanbul-bound ferry. Randy, Markus, Corey And I rambled around the island, then Corey and I headed back. We saw the Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque and a 3500 year old stone. Wow! To all of them. Met folks for dinner at Sultan Hostel for a great talk and a fond farewell to Joroen. Back on the tram, but the ferry was closed even though it was before 10:00. walked to the bridge to catch a bus. Galata Bridge closed (for construction). Walked across the bridge and asked for directions in French of a Turkish fellow who was very accommodating but could see only a taxi as a possibility, the expense for which we couldn’t countenance. We walked to the next bus stop towards Besiktas. A wedding party had pretty well taken over the space where the bus stop should be (and how can this possibly be legal?). walked to the next stop and finally got a bus to Kadikoy. When we got there, the whole main street was cordoned off by police barricade. The total time home was over 2 hours. Go go gadget mobility.