Istanbul

I was excited to get to the place I had booked for my stay in Istanbul.  I had decided to book hotels mostly on this trip rather than staying in hostels.  I guess I wanted a little bit of luxury and just needed some time to myself.  I found a deal on a very nice place just 5 minutes’ walk from the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) that was $30 a night!  It was a guesthouse sort of setup- shared bathroom in the hallway, each room had a minifridge, hotplate, and kettle.  I thought this would be good so I could cook a little something for breakfast in the mornings (typical Turkish breakfast is really bread heavy, and I was getting slightly tired of eating cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives 1st thing in the morning).

I found my hotel with no problem and went to check in at the restaurant downstairs, where they handled the keys and such.  To my consternation I found that expedia had cancelled my reservation without telling me.  I actually had looked for my reservation online just 2 weeks before and it was nowhere to be found.  I spent an hour on the phone with the agent who confirmed my reservation, and said she had called the hotel.  The proprietor of the hotel said, no, no one called us.  Who did you book with?  When I said expedia, he said they had a ton of problems with that site, better to use another one, he mentioned some other popular travel sites.  Anyway, he offered to help me find a place, and said it was actually better I didn’t get there the day before as planned, it would have been impossible to find something on New Year’s Eve.

I ended up at a slightly more expensive hotel around the corner that was in worse condition.  I later found that the shower head holder was broken but at the time I just wanted to get out and do stuff, so didn’t pay much attention.  I really didn’t spend much time there anyway.  My overall not supergreat experiences in hotels during my trip to Turkey made me decide to only do hostels on my next trip, which I had a TON more fun and success with (and, saved more money!).

I was happy to find that people were definitely out and about on New Year’s day, so headed over to hit some museums and such.  Lots of carts carrying simit (Turkish bagel things- often served with nutella!), corn on the cob, kestane (chestnuts) and salep (hot drink made of milk and orchid root, topped with cinnamon and nutmeg) were everywhere!  I got some kestane to snack on, and headed over to the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.

Outside the complex I saw a cart selling what is called MÜZE.  It’s a card that costs 72 lira for 72 hours of access to some of the main museums.  The nice thing about this is that you don’t have to wait in what can potentially be very long lines!  I figured I was going to visit these places, so bought one.  You also get some discounts with the card, though I didn’t make much use of it (saved about .20 lira on a drink at the Topkapı Palace gift shop).

The mosque was closed to visitors at the time because of a religious service, so I went to Hagia Sofia instead.  It’s now a museum to avoid the tension between Christians and Muslims who both lay claim to it.  It was formed as a Byzantine church originally, but was converted to a mosque some centuries later.  It still is quite beautiful, but one thing I started to find bothersome was the Persian script on the walls that is characteristic of Muslim art and buildings.  Maybe it’s because I couldn’t read it, I don’t know.  I just felt like there were slogans everywhere.  It made me reflect upon whether or not you’d see the same thing in Latin alphabet characters in Christian churches and monuments.  I honestly couldn’t recall at the time.

Anyway, the Turks definitely put a smile on my face with their laissez-faire attitude toward cats!  Can you imagine the below picture being taken at say, Independence Hall in the US?

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You can see more pictures at this pretty cool site: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-hagia-sophia

I went back to the Blue Mosque but found I had again missed the visiting time.  I headed over to the museums.

Topkapı Palace was closed (they had these scary looking army guys at the gate who didn’t move until you get very close!  Freaky) so I went to the Archaeological Museum.  This place is huge and one of the best I’ve ever gone to!  Because Turkey is the site of many ancient human cultures there is a wealth of artifacts collected there, ranging from stone age pottery to ornate jewerly of the Sultan’s family.  Plan on a couple hours here for sure!

While walking back towards my hotel I saw a sign advertising for a performance of the Whirling Dervishes.  They had added an extra performance because of the holiday, so I signed on up.  I had some free time to walk around found myself at the entrance to the Underground Basilica Cisterns.  This was really neat!  They had really cool lighting to highlight the columns there.

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Picture by someone who knew what they were doing (ie, not me)

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Look at those suckers!

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They apparently have concerts there sometimes, which would be an amazing experience I’d imagine.

I stayed out and walked around for a while.  Most stores started closing at sunset in Sultanahmet.  One store that stayed open was Koska, which was very dangerous territory.  They had all sorts of sweets including halva and lokum (Turkish delights, which I didn’t realize could have nuts in them), big no-nos like baklava of all kinds, dried fruit and nuts, and even cello packs of tahini and grape molasses like I enjoyed in Kapadokya.  I thought about getting some but put it off for the time being.

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After finding the Hodjapasha Cultural Center we all packed in for the show.  I have to say that the dancing was a bit monotonous, there was a story line it was supposed to illustrate that I didn’t quite follow in the movements.  BUT! the music was absolutely superb and for me the real treat of the show.  I was excited to see a female percussionist, who was pretty badd.  It was definitely touristy with lighting and a setting in a former hamam and lots of tourists (the German guys in front of me, who were also rather tall and blocking part of my view, could. not. stay. still. and kept whispering to his buddy) but I think it was worth it.  I wasn’t able to make it to any of the other performances while I was in Istanbul, unfortunately.  There’s a good synopsis and video here: http://wizardistanbul.com/top_lists/top-3-places-to-watch-whirling-dervishes-in-istanbul/

If you can get to Galata Mevlevihanesi this is apparently the place to go.  It just opened again after many years of renovation.  I wasn’t there on a Saturday so I don’t know, unfortunately.

More info: http://www.rumimevlevi.com/en/reservation-request-form

Many restaurants had closed down by the time I got back to the area around 10pm.  I went to a place called Turkmenistan Restaurant right off of the square.  I ordered a plate that had pretty much everything, which provided me with breakfast for another two days!  They had a sign about live music, but apparently that was the night before.  I was the only person in the restaurant besides the owner’s family.  It looks like it could be an okay place when it’s more hopping…they had a permanent stage for the musicians and decent-looking sound equipment.

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One last stroll around the plaza and I was ready for bed.

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The much fun New Year’s Denizli has to offer!

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I got back to Denizli airport pretty early for my flight, just over 2 hours early in fact.  I didn’t want to take any risks what with driving a manual transmission car for the first time in my life and all.  Figured it would be better to miss rush hour.

I was hanging out for a bit and then decided to go up to the Turkish Airlines check in booth to get my boarding pass I noticed the computer sign above said some words I hadn’t seen before.  Iptal edilen.  I wasn’t sure about this, so went to ask the agent.  She didn’t really speak much English but after a bit another agent came over and explained the flight was cancelled.  Wha?  They told me to go over to the Turkish Airlines desk and ask about arrangements.

The Turkish Airlines desk explained that my flight was cancelled, and that I had been booked for another flight the next morning.  Um, bummer, majorly.  Now, please recall that the airport is about 30 minutes away from anything at all, and probably 45 minutes to an hour from Denizli (and one and a half hours from Pamukkale).  I asked, so what am I supposed to do?  They said, well, we called you, you should have made arrangements.  I pointed out that my phone number had a foreign code, that I didn’t have a phone here.  They were pretty aghast I didn’t have a cell phone, which was funny and irritating at the same time.

They then suggested to have my ride bring me back to wherever I was.  Obviously this was a problem being that my ride was a manual transmission Mercedes Benz rental car, parked in the parking lot outside.  I sure wasn’t getting in THAT thing again, and definitely not paying for it.  I asked, is there a bus or taxi?  Nope.  I told them, well, I’d have to stay overnight at the airport, I didn’t know what else to do.  They said I couldn’t do that because it closed in two hours.  All right, I said I’d sleep outside.  They weren’t giving me any other option.  I’d had to do something like this before in Marseille, France a few years back, when the train station kicked everyone out at 2am for four hours, but it was slightly different in July just a few km off the Mediterranean, with a bunch of other people, you know?

I made to go sit outside and I guess someone finally relented, they referred me to another woman who explained all this to me again (I guess they thought I didn’t understand) and I explained everything over to her again, that there was no way for me to leave or go anywhere.  I think she felt bad, being that we were the same age, and she decided to see what she could do.  All of a sudden, Turkish Airlines was offering to bring me back to Denizli to a 5 star hotel, where there would be a “much fun party”.  Uh, sure, sounded better than hanging at the airport!

Just about then two confused-looking Korean sisters, the same age as my younger sister and I, came up to the booth with the same problem.  They worked the deal out for them also.  We had to wait about an hour and a half for this shuttle to come, and then we found ourselves on a bus back to Denizli.  The girls won the favor of everyone on the bus when they were able to get the son of the driver to stop crying by playing with the toggles on their knit hats.  The people at the airport had said that we would be told where our stop was.  All of a sudden, the ticket collector came up to us and yelled, “Now!”  We got off in a busy intersection with no identifiable hotel in sight.  Then we saw a guy with a car waving to us to get in.  Uh, this could possibly go very wrong.  But at least I’d have two random Korean girls to keep me company.

After a long drive we ended up on the complete opposite outskirts of the city at a place called Anemon Hotel.  It was pretty swanky, if mostly abandoned.  There was some event there for some more busloads of Korean tourists, who appeared to be the only others in the hotel besides the staff and us.  The rooms, while SUPER swanky, were kind of freaky- you could see into the bathroom from the room and vice versa!  Super weird and NOT a turn-on.

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The girls and I went down to the reception to see about the “much fun” that was promised us.  There wasn’t really much going on and the concierge didn’t know of any events.  There was nothing in walking distance from the hotel, either.  We decided to get something to eat at the restaurant A buffet was set out for the tourists but it was kind of awful.  I decided to opt for a dish of sea bass with vegetables, which turned out to be very fresh and tasty, if slightly on the expensive side for me (20 lira, but a steal for a deluxe restaurant, about $11).  The girls were super nice and we made the best of our bizarre situation.  We toasted to New Years’ early and headed off to bed around 10:30pm, as we were advised to be downstairs for our ride back to the airport no later than 5:45 am.

The next morning we set off and got to the airport and on our flight with no issues.  We got to Istanbul Ataturk airport around 9:30 and decided to take the subway together, as we were all staying in the Sultanahmet area near the tourist sites.  Some websites I’d read said it was very confusing to get to town on the subway, but it was pretty easy.  We did have to transfer once, but it was no deal at all.  Someone gave us an Istanbulkart (local metro card) as we were about to get on, so I paid all our fares with that.

The girls got off at the stop before me and I waved them off and wished them good luck with the rest of their travels.

Pamukkale, Hierapolis, and Laodicea

In the morning I woke up early at the Hal Tur Hotel, and had a pretty disappointing breakfast (well, compared to Kelebek Hotel) across the room from a British family.  I then headed right across the street to climb up Pamukkale.

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I’m not really sure which way is the way to get up on the bus or main road, but I went for the one that went up the side of the travertines.  Because they are such a fragile structure, you’re not allowed to wear shoes.  A security guard watches as you take your shoes off.  I’m usually pretty cold, so I was not all that excited about this.  It was cold walking on the stone at first, and painful, the cold went right to my bones!  By the way, none of that white nonsense in the pictures is snow, it’s all the calcified rock!

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EVENTUALLY the hot water kicked in, and it was just amazing.  There was a couple with their dogs just ahead of me, and they were having a ball running through all the little pools.

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Once you get to the top of Pamukkale, you are greeted with a huge complex of Greek ruins!

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As I came around the side, I saw that the travertines had “swallowed up” part of the ruins.

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There was a museum, but it was closed that day (most Turkish museums are closed one day a week).  I didn’t really feel like I missed out since I got to see some amazing sculptures in Aphrodisias.

There was also something called Cleopatra’s Pool, which I hemmed and hawed about paying the extra entrance fee for.  I, for some idiot reason, forgot my towel, even though I had read you needed to bring one or be charged for one at the top.  At least I remembered to wear my bathing suit underneath.  I talked with some nice boys originally from Hong Kong, currently living in Chicago and London, respectively, and they were like, hey, you came all the way here, it would be a waste not to go in.  I decided, yeah, I did come all this way, so I shelled out the 30 lira [!] entrance fee (Pamukkale itself is already 20 lira) PLUS another 12 lira for a tiny towel, stripped down and joined them.

From Tours4Turkey website (edited for grammar):

Especially in The Roman Empire period, Hierapolis and its side was a health centre. In that years, thousands of people were coming to the Baths (more than 15)….Today’s Antique Pool was shaped by the earthquake which happened in A.D. VII. Century. The marble portic with Ionic arrangement fell into the spring during the earthquake in VII. Century A.D.

According to research, the Antique pools water is good for heart diseases, atherosclerosis, blood pressure, rheumatism, eye and skin diseases, rickets, nervous disorders, nervous system and physical exhaustion, and circulatory problems.  Furthermore, drinking it is good for digestive maladies. All these benefits show why so many health centers had been founded at the Antique Pool from Roman Empire times on.

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The water in the termal pool is 36 C°- 57 C°,PH value is 5,8 and radon value is1480 piccocuri/liter. Spa water has its inside bicarbonate, sulphate, carbon dioxide, partly with iron and radioactive combination. And also, the water in this spring is suitable for taking shower and drinking cures, 2430 MG/liter melt metal value.

I didn’t take these pictures since I was swimming, but it did feel like living in the lap of luxury.  Negative points: the “DJ” who had a TV blasting MTV over the speakers.

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I really love hot springs and even though these weren’t ridiculously hot, and pretty expensive, they were nice and absolutely too cool.  Be careful when knocking about the pool for all those rocks and pillars!

I got back to the car and found someone had parked in front of me even though I was side-parked, so I decided to get lunch.  I found a nice place called Mustafa Restaurant, which had decided to appeal to the hoardes of Korean and Chinese visitors by offering some dishes on their menu, and my Taiwanese buddy from the Kapadokya tour recommended to me.  I didn’t mention this previously, but there were a TON of Koreans in Turkey.  Busloads.  Literally.  Apparently the airfares are pretty cheap and they’re into all that nature stuff.  And also Turkish ice cream, just google youtube for a “Turkish ice cream” and you’ll see what I mean.  Anyway, Mustafa saw me, a single young lady sitting alone, and headed right over to do his shtick.  He did impressions of “typical men” from all different countries, and vaguely outright hit on me in that way that only greasy fat old men can get away with.  It was pretty funny though.  When I mentioned that I was studying acupuncture, however, we had a more serious talk.  It turned out that he had been having severe back pain, had undergone surgeries, all these drugs, it kept getting worse.  Then he finally saw an acupuncturist who worked wonders, and his pain almost completely subsided.  One more for the natural route!  I gave him the name of Dr. Onur Aydınoğlu in Istanbul if he ever chanced to find himself there and in need of an acupuncturist.  Overall the food was good and cheap, I think I paid 10 lira for a full 3-course meal, I couldn’t finish it and it was tasty and cozy.  I’d consider staying at the hostel the next time too.

I went back to the car in wait of my prey- the driver of the car parked in front of me.  In the meantime I THOUGHT about getting a ride to the airport with this guy:

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Finally the driver came back and pulled out, which allowed me to be on my way.

I made one last stop at a site called Laodikya.  This is the “Laodicea” mentioned in the Bible, and was a Greek, then Roman city.  The exciting thing about these ruins is that they were only discovered recently, and digs are still actively going on.  In fact, a score of archeologists and their helpers were just coming off their lunch break when I was there.

It was really cool to see this site that was under current renovation.  It’s 1 km or so off to the R of the road just before the turn to get back on the road to the airport, lots of signs.

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Can you make out the guys coming off break?

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I didn’t stall out once the whole ride to the airport, and even got to 4th gear!  Yayness.  I was pretty relieved to be on my way to Istanbul and done with the whole car adventure thing.

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Unfortunately fate had other plans for me than leaving Denizli so soon….

Up to 200,000 bonus miles with American Airlines

Quick note:

If you’re planning to travel to Europe before May 31, and are taking American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, or OpenSkies (I actually have never heard of that airline before) you can get 20,000 bonus miles per trip. If you take 5 round trips you would get an additional 100,000 bonus miles. I doubt that’s likely for most people reading this blog (or in general), but since there’s a possibility now I might be going to Europe in May, I’ll probably push to book on one of those airlines if I go. Even 20,000 miles is really good- just a few thousand short of a round trip domestic flight. There are other opportunities floating around the web to get a couple hundred or a thousand miles here and there.

I have to admit I haven’t had the best experience with AA but they are limiting our options here in the US these days with the recent merger of US Airways and American. I will consider checking them out (hopefully on a flight I won’t pay for, lol!)

Check it out:

http://www.aa.com/viewPromotionDetails.do?fN=031313_AAD_Offer_Flight_EUR.xml&_locale=en_US

Aphrodisias

After my drive, I silently said to Lady Venus, “This better be worth it.  Just letting you know I made an effort here.  Being real with ya.”  It really was incredible though.  It was an overcast day, with some short drizzle here and there on the ride up, but it had stopped by the time I got to the site.  Just really breathtaking.

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As you can sort of see in the last picture, people live very close to the site, you can see farm fields and I’ve read that the local shepherds let their animals graze on site.

In addition to the complex, there was a museum that held the many sculptures on site.  These were in amazing condition, but you weren’t supposed to take pictures I believe.  You can see some photos here, they are really unbelievable:

http://www.pbase.com/dosseman/aphrodisiasmuseum&page=all

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A teaser for you.

Just the whole thing was incredibly, incredibly breathtaking.  If you go to Turkey, don’t miss Aphrodisias, it’s worth it!  And, just so you know, I later learned that there are buses leaving every day (even in off-season) from Pamukkale to Aphrodisias, around 9am, and yes, you can go without signing up for the tour.  Now you know.  Actually, I just searched google and there’s suddenly a ton of info, and the wikitravel site for Aphrodisias has totally been redone.  Good!

It started to rain just as I was leaving, so I got on my way to loop up to Pamukkale.  I had at this point in my journey learned to drive with my flashers on, and let everyone pass me.  I even learned how to get up to 3rd gear, but really wasn’t moving too fast.  No worries, hey?  It was starting to get dark though and I was again getting just the WEE bit impatient and anxious when I saw the sign I was looking for, for Pamukkale.  Yay!

This road promptly led me off again in the direction of Darknowhere.  I knew it would be some kilometers to the city, but it really seemed to be t-a-k-i-n-g f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

I eventually stopped at a tavern-restauranty thing after I went through what I THOUGHT was Pamukkale town like the directions had suggested.  They said it was some ways up the road still.  WTF?  Okay, I kept driving.  And driving.  THEN the road started becoming very narrow, and dark, and up the side of a mountainy-hill-thingie.  I know I sound like a crazy person but I was just a little anxious at this point, ‘coz it was a long, manual-driving-filled day, and I couldn’t see very well.  I finally decided, screw it, I’m going to go up this road, and eventually I got to the other side of this windy path-jobbie and found that I had come upon Pamukkale after all, from the FAR NORTH entrance.  Oops, but at least I knew where I was, and it was the correct place.

I was just so worn out at this point that I decided to stay at the first hotel I came to with reasonable parking instead of the hostel I booked somewhere inside the narrow streets of the town.  The gods listened as I went down the hill and the first thing I saw entering the town proper was a huge open parking lot for Pamukkale, and a hotel named Hai Tur across the street.  I parked parallel with the side of the road instead of head in (I STILL hadn’t figured out reverse yet) and asked the proprietor how much the room cost.  He said, “Money is no object, don’t worry about money!”  I was rather cross at this point and said as calmly as I could, I’m a student, money is an object, how much is the room.  It wasn’t ridiculous (I think about $40 US) so I went for it, ate a little leftover of my dinner, and went to bed to get an early start the next morning.

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Instant Manual Driving Adventure Funtime!

Or, how I spent more time than I ever would want to in Denizli, Turkey (part one of two).

Thanks to another $75 worth of flights on Turkish Airlines (how are they not losing money with this?) I soon found my way to Denizli via Istanbul.  The city of Denizli is an industrial city focused primarily on textile manufacturing, and the airport ferries in many passengers who are businessmen.  You may be asking yourself, why would anyone want to fly into Denizli, Turkey?  The airport also serves as the closest place to fly to visit a Greek archeological site, the UNESCO-listed Hierapolis/Pamukkale complex.  The Pamukkale part of the complex is an amazing geological feature that involves something called travertines.  The hot alkaline water from geothermic springs dissolves the calcium-containing rock and forms these totally alien-looking pools and other structures.  There aren’t all that many of them on planet earth, but I had visited one earlier in the year in Oaxaca, Mexico, called Hierve el Agua.  It totally flipped my lid!

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That would be a HOT spring on the side of a cliff in a perfectly round pool formed by Mother Nature.  Yeah.

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Petrified waterfall.  For real!

I heard that Pamukkale was on a MUCH bigger scale so I wanted to see this too.  Hierapolis sounded pretty great, which got me thinking about other archeological finds in Turkey. They are strewn pretty much all about the countryside and I soon came across another one called Aphrodisias.  Since it was a little bit off the main tourist path (one needed to make a LITTLE effort to get there) it wasn’t visited as much.  I read that it was possibly just as large as the famed Ephesus, and maybe in even better condition.  It was just 2-3 hours from the airport on “smoothly paved and well-maintained roads”.  A rarely-visited and pristine site full of statues and abandoned Greek buildings in the Turkish countryside, that was supposedly easy to get to?  Dedicated to Aphrodite?  Being the perpetually single lady I am, I took this as a sign and immediately planned on an expedition to seek her favor.

I had read a lot of conflicting reports on how to get to Aphrodisias; there was supposedly a dolmuş or minibus from Pamukkale (or Denizli.  Again not very clear info online).  Some sites said one had to transfer 2-3 times, some didn’t mention it.  Again I was faced with the problem of time.  Even if everything was pretty straightforward with the transfers, it seemed like it was going to take most of the day to get there, and that was after I got to Pamukkale or Denizli, which were an hour and a half, and 45 minutes respectively from Denizli airport.  When I looked up how much the various shuttles would cost, and reflecting again on my poor Turkish skills, I got an idea.  Why not just rent a car?  It was actually going to be not much more expensive, and I’d be able to make my own schedule and do things more efficiently (famous last words).  I wrote several companies who all quoted me the same price (not great, but manageable) for a car with automatic transmission.  I was sure to mention this, as I don’t know how to drive a manual transmission car.  I mentioned this several times, “The car is automatic transmission, yes?  I do not know how to drive a manual transmission.”  Problem yok, problem yok!

I have now determined hearing the words “Problem yok” is always bad news.

So, after my flights I arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to Denizli Çardak Airport at 8am in the morning.  I was told to look for a guy with my name on a sign.  Super.  No guy-with-a-sign.  Okay, I figured I’d look outside.  Nope.  I wander around.  Try to wander back in when I DO see guy-with-a-sign and am promptly yelled at by security to go through security check again.   Blegh.  They want to know what my little pepper mills are that I picked up in Kapadokya.  Okay, they laugh and then I hurry to meet guy-with-a-sign, who is named Hasan.  Hasan is a very friendly, roly-poly guy with a big black mustache who is all giggles.  He has a glass of tea all ready for me in the rental office.  I think maybe he might belong in Borat.  “America very fancy-place.  Turkey is ok, very nice, you like?”  He shuffles off to get me some more tea despite my protests.  Takes a few minutes.  Comes back and does paperwork, copies my license and debit card.  There’s a small issue with the card apparently (the numbers aren’t raised on it) Hasan but decides it’s not a serious problem.  He gets me more tea, which I assure him I really don’t need, already having had 5 glasses and it not being 9am yet.  He says “Problem yok!” and this takes another little while.  Finally we head out to the beautiful 2012 B-class Mercedes Benz with about 9,000km on it.  Hasan asks me, “You like?  Many trunk space, you put many people, hee hee”.  I am wishing this guy will get out of here quickly.  Then, he sure does- gives me the key and a bottle of Turkish version of Fanta (it’s that beverage benevolence thing again) and walks off to his car.  “You ok?  I go now.  Bye bye!”

At which point I am tired and turn on the ignition and it works and I’m excited and I realize it’s a manual transmission.

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Oh boy.

I’m a little shell-shocked at this point and just sit there staring dumbly for a minute.  During this minute Hasan pulls away in his car.  I didn’t really handle this one well, that’s for sure.  Shoot.

At this point I summon my inner David Yang and hope for the best.  Who is David Yang, you may ask?  Well, he’s apparently a big enough deal that he has a wikipedia page (no, seriously, I just checked. It’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Yang_%28violist%29).  I knew him as one of the other faculty at Temple Music Prep (part of Temple University), where I used to work in Philadelphia.  Hi there!  I haven’t talked to you since then.

Anyhoots, sometime before my genius idea to move to Los Angeles with few contacts and no car I thought maybe getting a scooter would be a good way to get around the city while gigging.  For anyone who has ever been on LA’s highways and experienced LA driving at its finest, hahahahahahahahaha.  Yep, that was a smart one.  Anyway, I wanted to see what I was getting into and asked David about this because I knew he had one.  He very kindly offered to take me for a spin and give me a little lesson.  For some reason I forgot while I was thinking about getting a scooter that I have a tremendous fear of things that are moving at a speed (I’ve been known to get queasy on a bicycle going down hills) and that are not enclosed.  I really tried to be brave as we drove the 2 miles or so from Center City Philadelphia to a side street in West Philly where we could practice.  Practice, on his manual transmission vintage Vespa.  I was a little nervous but again tried not to be a wuss when he mentioned that people get scared, but grandmas in their 70s are whipping around on these things on narrow hillside cobblestone streets in Italy with no problem at all.  I was pretty uncoordinated, as I generally am at things that involve each of my hands doing something different and my foot as well (this is why I play trumpet and not drumset or piano).  We spent about an hour or so and then we both had to split.

THIS is the total experience I had to date with driving stick.  Well, for some reasonless reason, I guessed I’d figure it out.

It took me about 10 minutes to start the thing and figure out how to get it from the parking spot to the exit gate, whereupon I promptly stalled it out in front of the guard.  Strong start.

I managed to get it going again and was on my way.  The airport was quite a ways from Denizli, but according to my map, mostly on a highway.  It was smooth sailing at about 45mph for me, until I got to the first traffic light about a half hour in.  Where I stalled again and took another whole light to get going.  I continued this pattern of stalling out at pretty much every light that I couldn’t slow down until I got the hang of at least coasting/hitting the brakes V-E-R-Y slowly so I wouldn’t have to push it down all the way and inevitably stall again.  This got harder to do as I made my way into Denizli, where I hoped to stop and take advantage of the cheap textiles and buy a gift for this wedding I was going to as soon as I got back to the US.  I found a shopping mall and street with few cars parked.  Perfect!  I coasted and stall-stopped, and went to look around.  I didn’t find the crazy deals though in general it was cheaper than in the US at a lot of the stores.  There was a supermarket, so I picked up a few things to make a picnic once I got to Aphrodisias.  I came out to the car, and realized that someone had in the meantime parked very close behind me.  Oh, did I mention I hadn’t figured out how to go in reverse yet?  I’d just pull out forward, no problem.

As I was running through all this in my head, a couple with a very expensive looking convertible pulled up and parked in front of me.

Problem VAR (There’s a PROBLEM).

I didn’t know what to do.  I sat in the car again and hoped maybe they’d come back.  I waited about 20 minutes.  Gods almighty, they were carrying bags and coming out!  They opened the trunk, put some large bags in, and promptly walked back to the mall.  Shoot.  At this point, with nothing better to do, I recalled some wikitravel entry about Denizli kebab, and decided to try one, while keeping an eye on the car.  I went inside a cafe nearby and ordered one, which was a steal at 2,50 TL and VERY good and not on an evil roll even (get with rice).  The owner wanted to know where I was from, and when I said I was from the US, he got all excited.  “I lived in Michigan one year, I lived there too!  Here’s my driver’s license, see!  Okay, okay, here is library card, and here is gym card, and here is….”  He collected a lot of membership cards in Michigan, which really is the American way.

I eventually was able to sit down and start upon my kebab when I saw them coming back.  “Gotta go!” I yelled, and went back to the car.  I pulled out of the spot, though I don’t even want to describe the next 20 minutes or so it took me to turn around one block and get on the main road in the right direction again.  I eventually managed to get out of the city and on the rather nicely-paved highway to Aphrodisias.  There were signs and everything, and luckily, no traffic.  But then I started to get nervous.  The road went from three lanes, to two, to one, and then I saw a detour sign.  I followed the signs and seemed to be on the right path, and then the road became covered with quite a bit of mud.  And ducks.  And chickens.  And sheep crossings.  Um.

I decided to get gas as I was running a little low and nervous about being stranded there in the middle of Anatolian nowhere.  While I was paying I asked if I was on the right way to Aphrodisias, and the attendant said yes, so I kept going.  The “major highway” which had dwindled into a half-dirt road and wound through a few village-towns eventually did become highway-esque again, and I finally got to the Aphrodisias parking lot around 2pm.

I had made it to Aphrodisias!

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Counting Chickens

Wow, that should be a band name.

chickens

Just taking a moment to realize how I can be kind of impatient sometimes. Writing the last few days and revisiting my memories of Turkey kind of slaps me in the face a little with how structured and on time we like to be in the US. And how we like to know how everything is exactly from what time to what time, and do you have all the details, etc.

I just was contacted about a potentially awesome gig opportunity for the summer with a Mexican group, and again I wanted to ask all these questions, which can’t really be answered at this point anyway (waiting for funding and some paperwork primarily, they do have a date they will know, and it’s soon). Still it was the same story all over again in my head, what, when, let’s know all the deets right now!

This sort of impatience and needing to know all the details is something I think makes people hesitant to travel. It can be hard to really integrate with the culture or be spontaneous when there’s only so much time to do the travelling. If you are in the US, you really can’t take much time off of work to do so because it’s likely you would lose your job. I guess in other parts of the world there’s more flexibility that way. I think though that maybe for many people here, they need to have all their chickens counted before they figure out if they’re going to make a meal of them or not.  I guess even looking up the recipes can be fun and satisfying even if you aren’t going to use them.  Maybe you will in the future, or use those ideas for a different recipe.  I think it’s the same about travelling, or learning to travel.  Even if someone doesn’t travel RIGHT now they might use that info later.  Or maybe just imagining’s enough for them. I think that’s ok though I understand the inertia that some people can get too, it can be good to just go for it.  Carpe diem!

I think there’s gotta be a balance of this though, whether you decide you like to stay within the system or not.  I’ve always gravitated towards the freelance world, previously in music, and futurely maybe with acupuncture (I really have NO idea what my day-to-day job would be like, there are a lot of possibilities out there and it would depend what sort of employer(s) I work for or if I even just completely do my own thing).  That obviously is going to allow me a lot more freedom and flexibility to travel then someone with the average 9-5 job.  It’s very, very, VERY easy to get caught up in the current paradigm and lose the ability to come up with creative solutions to things you want to do.  Hopefully this blog can give some people some ideas, though.