Canada and the USA,      Mexico,      Belize,      Guatemala,      El Salvador,      Honduras,      Nicaragua,      Costa Rica,      Panama,      USA, again,       Thailand,       Lao,       Vietnam,       Cambodia,       Thailand, again,       Turkey,       USA, to stay?      

Journal Index


New as of March 16th, 2006 (Istanbul, Turkey)

New as of March 22th, 2006 (Goreme, Turkey)

New as of April 4th, 2006 (Fethiye, Turkey)

New as of March 25th, 2006 (Saint Paul, MN, USA)


Second night sleeping in transit

March 11, 2006 about 2:30am Bangkok time

On a plane from Bangkok to Cairo

Well I spent last night on the bus from Phuket to Bangkok and tonight will be on the plane from Bangkok to Cairo. Sigh, and I can't even claim I have saved a lot on housing as I decided to 'splurge' and pay the 200 BHT (about USD 5) and get a room so I could nap, shower and just have a place for my stuff while I took care of business. I could have done without it, but I like to splurge from time to time. (This is also why I can travel like this. I truly do feel that five bucks is a decadent expenditure. I can probably have my cake and eat it too.)

I put together a to-do list and a shopping list of stuff I wanted to take care of. After a longer nap than I had planned I decided that I just wouldn't be able to get the shopping part of the list done. But the shopping gods must have been on my side as in my wandering around I passed shops selling everything I was looking to buy so I even got the stuff I hadn't planned on getting done, done. It's it nice when things just work out? I even got to spend a little time at the park with the jugglers. Unfortunately Bo didn't come today so I didn't get to see her again.

Being on Egypt air is fun in that it is a hub for several destinations. Just in what I have overheard there are people going to Turkey, London, and Berlin. I suspect some are even going to some places in Africa or even staying in Cairo. I think most of it is that these are places that are sort of exotic to my Midwestern ears. But then again the most exotic of them all is Cairo followed closely be Istanbul and I am doing going to both of those places.

While I was wandering along Khosan Road I ran into the long term traveler who introduced me to the park a month or so ago. He had just returned from Lao where he had been just as I came back from the south of Thailand. When I mentioned that I was off to Turkey with a long layover in Cairo he gave me some suggestions on what to do with them. We will see if they turn out good or not.

One difference on this flight that is probably related to the fact that no part of this flight goes thru US airspace is that some how my tin whistle, still packed in my carry on, is no longer a threat. At no time was I expected to do a solo performance in the security screening. I'll admit I do think a saw a gaping hole in security that would have allowed me to sneak something into my checked luggage, but I figure this is not the kind of thing you point out casually as it annoys the guards. So maybe they have bigger fish to fry than my tin whistle.


Same, Same, but DIFFERENT

March 11, 2006

On a plane from Cairo to Istanbul

I once read somewhere that the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Airport was considered a good one to be stuck at because you can go to the Mall of America while you wait. Now that they are directly connected by the light rail line it is even easer. Granted the MoA is not a bad place to end up with time to kill as there is an amusement park, bars, a movie theatre and more shopping that you feet can stand. On the other hand if you have seven hours free at the Cairo airport you can go see the pyramids at Giza and the Spynix. Minneapolis some how doesn't compare.

All and all it was a fun, if fast, jaunt into Cairo. I will have to come back and see it for real sometime, but I figured that I might as well see they pyramids since I was here. I also got another stamp in my passport, the first in the new pages, and can really claim that I have been to Africa, sort of. (Some people might say the time I spent in the Carnie Islands would count, but it is the same for Europe. I have been the England, but not on the continent.)

As usual I sort of expected to get bad deals for the first twenty-four hours in a country. In this case since I was only there for eight hours the 'screw me' phase was the entire stay.

Off hand I don't think I did too horribly, especially considering I hadn't even looking anything up at all and was just running on information picked up from someone I met on Kho San Road crossing the street.

I was so a tourist today. I got a taxi at the airport and kept it for the entire trip, I did the camel tour of the pyramids, and I even let myself get dragged into an essential oil / perfume demo with tea. I am only missing that I didn't send a post card to someone. (At the pyramids one of the things the hawkers sell are postcards with stamps.) I probably should have skipped the camel tour. It was expensive and just after doing my last journal entries about having guides (or dive masters) being tour guides bothering me, it was a bit of an obvious mistake. Actually the electric bike I had in Angkor would have been good. I may not have been able to use it out in the sand but I had just got off a nine hour flight while preparing for another two hours of sitting, walking isn't a bad idea.

The pyramids are big, and neat. Mostly I am having a hard time believing that I was really just there. It hadn't been part of my plans until about twelve hours before I got there so it just sort of amazing.

They are right on the side of Cairo so they just sort of rise up at the edge of the sprawl of the city. I didn't really expect to have my first glimpse of such a world icon to be over a bunch of dirty concrete box housing. I think part of this is how these ruins have never been lost, like the Khmer and Mayan ruins I have been seeing. As far as I know they haven't been bombed or mined or used as military hideouts. They have always just been there.

Something about the compliancy of their existence is probably part of how they have been raided and stripped of so much over time. The outer casing being used for construction, the mummies being sold for drugs and sovenerees, so much stuff being carted off to London, Paris and the like. Somehow it is like ancient Egypt has fascinated everybody but no one has taken good care of it. Same Same, but Different. (Rats! I meant to buy that tee-shirt in Thailand before I left.)

---A meal break latter---

Just to be sure I really was in Cairo I did get pictures of an Islamic graveyard that is next to the pyramids and while I was getting my entry ticket I even got to see a garbage truck in operation so short of a bunch of churches (or would have probably been mosques in this case) I got all the important Andy Postcard shots in.

News Paper - actor story -


Want'a buy a rug?

March 15, 2006

Istanbul, Turkey

I have been bad about writing so last night I sat in a cafť and outlined all the stories I keep thinking I want to tell but haven't yetÖ

First off, I have been loving the really helpful people here in Turkey. On my trip from the airport to the hostel several people went out of their way to point me in the right direction. At the airport the guys that sold the subway tokens made extra effort to make sure I knew where I was going and to get my attention when I walked off without most of my change. Even the touts for other hotels would give me directions after I told them I had already paid for this place. As the people back in Thailand said, the best part is the people.

The big challenge here has been not getting lost and keeping warm. The lost bit is just a bit frustrating. Normally I have a good sense of direction but between the, literally, Byzantine layout of the town and my first map not having North where I thought it was, I have been getting lost a bit. It's OK now that I have had a few days, but it was a bit frustrating at first.

Staying Warm

Keeping warm has been a bit more of a challenge. As one local said to me, "Why are you here now? It's the end of winter, not even spring yet?" I can appreciate the question. I am wearing all my clothes. I have pulled out the flannel shirt that hasn't been used since Sapa in Vietnam. Today I switched to my rag wool socks. Even my rain jacked is now part of my outdoor wear as a wind proof layer. I plan on buying a warm stocking cap once I run across the venders again.

March here is much like March back home. Maybe not quite as bad as we haven't had any blizzards, but it's that cold and wet and we arenít going to let spring come too soon.

I have developed a couple coping skills. Beyond the normal ones of keeping moving and walking a bit slower when you pass places using some kind of radiant heat to cook, Turkey had a nice addition. When I got so cold that it felt I would never be warm again I headed into a Hammam, or a Turkish Bath. AhhhÖ Perfect.

I went to the «emberlitas Hamami and got thoroughly clean and warm again. I had heard about it from a couple of people from the hostel who had been the day before and there was even a brochure for it at the hostel.

Now one of the guide books I had looked at did warn you a bit that some of the Hamami had become very touristy with raised prices and reduced services and this fit the description of «emberlitas. (Something about the English sign over the door gave it away.) But it wasn't too bad.

I enjoyed the bath, and will probably try another. Sure enough it was a bit more expensive that it probably should have been, and the soap massage was barley a fast rub down, but now I know the process and it was nice to be a place they are used to you being clueless. After using your private changing room / locker to switch to the provided towel you head in and lay down on a big circular heated marble slab and get up to temperature. Just what a skinny cold Andy needs. It was like laying on a hot rock in the sun, except the rock is hot on it's own and you stare up at a domed roof with glass portals filtering the light in. (The building was built in 1584.)

After the wash and scrub down (including a bit of a joke about having to wash my beard separately) I figured my hair hadn't really gotten very clean (it was still in a braid) so I wondered what the correct procedure for combing out long hair here in the men's side of the bath. Then I decided that there wasn't a procedure as I was the only one with long hair and the men here wouldn't know the rules from the women's side so I could just make them up. Quite freeing once you think of it that way. So I got to sit on the hot slab and have a lovely slow time combing out my hair and rinsing down. It was quite lovely. I then headed back to my little room to cool down, braid my hair and get dressed. On the way out I had a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, which is exactly what I wanted.

Quite a lovely few hours, although when you have just arrived and getting a bit nervous don't hop into the first free changing room at the top of the stairs, because it's at the top of the stairs and everybody has to walk by which only makes you more nervous. Oh well, next time. (When I build an airport, I'm going to put in a Turkish bath. If you don't have time to go to the pyramids this is a perfect way to spend a long layover.

My other plan for keeping warm when I am not in hamami is to travel to the famous hot springs and stay warm that way. (If I keep this up my next stop will be Iceland. Around the world in a bath.)

We're not in Asia anymore.

Being in Turkey has been odd after five mouths in SE Asia. Suddenly I am among people who look a lot like me. I'm still tall and skinny but I'm not the only white person around. The locals have seen facial hair and body hair before. (An Israeli I met in Lao said one guy who had seen his hairy chest said that he must be a monkey.) Again there is a change of who they say I look like. (If you haven't been keeping up with the pictures, I have let my beard grow for the last eight mouths so it is now about five inches below my chin.) I still get Osama Bin Laden comments and a Fidel Castro when wearing my Vietnam cap, but now Ali Baba has been added to who I could be. After seeing pictures of the sultans I am waiting to be compared to them.

But what is also an interesting thing for me is that here if I trimmed my beard and did something with my hair I could probably pass for a local. In Asia I was going to be stared at just for being a foot taller than the locals and being white. Here I could probably pass for being local, at least until I open my mouth. It's been a while since I could do that. Peaty much I have had at least 12 mouths on this trip where there would never be a chance of confusing me with a local. I guess this is one of the reasons travelers are so willing to do strange things to their appearance while on the road. Less witness that know you and if your going to be stared at you might as well give them something to stare at.

Mosques anyone?

I have been up to the basic tourist things a lot. Istanbul is an amazing city and has a lot to see. I started with the Sultanahmet Cammii (Blue Mosque.) This being only the second mosque I have ever visited, and the first that there were any locals around. It was nice to again be doing a touristy one with clear instructions. My brain is still running on Buddhist temple procedure and I keep worrying about if my feet are pointing at any holy image. (Islamic holly image, now there is an oxymoron.) A new religion so a new set of rules. I should visit a lot of Jewish synagogues just to complete my set of major world religions. At least mosques are still a place that are defiantly no shoes so it's a bit familiar to the Buddhist temples.

One thing about the Blue Mosque that is surprising is that although it has amazing cascading domes and one of those truly lofty interior spaces, the lights / chandeliers are all low. Here you are in a space with the volume to match a great cathedral and domes giving great uninterrupted spaces and the chandeliers are these great wrought iron flat things that are hung about seven feet (2 meters) off the floor making you feel claustrophobic. At first I though they were flown in for maintenance then I looked at it more and saw postcards with the lights in. It's so odd to have such a big space only to have the lights hung so low as to keep you feeling like you are in a low ceiling space. I have a lot to learn about Islamic architecture. The vocab word for the day is 'mihrab', the niche which indicates the direction of Mecca, which much to my surprise is quite plain.

So far my favorite mosque is Laleli Camii or Tulip Mosque. I think it is mostly because there werenít a lot of tourists around and the woman at the door was so friendly. She didn't have much English but she clearly wanted to talk to me and tell me things simply because I was here to see things she was proud of. At first I had though that the lack of tourists was due to it not being a major mosque, but then I checked the map and saw that it was more due to the rain and it being winter as it was in all the books. Soon I will work up to being comfortable enough with the etiquette to visit a little neighborhood mosque.

Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar or Kapail «arsi is also well in the tourist destinations. It is filled with endless bright and shiny fabulous things that although I would love to buy if I had a house, I'm not in a place to acquire now. I had hoped that it would be more of a real functioning market but I will hopefully get to see that once I get away from the very touristy old city. Part of what was funny was how the bazaar reminded me of a mall I saw in Las Vegas. I suspect it was the mall that was supposed to remind me of the bazaar, but that's not the order I saw them. This is one of the places where there are lots of 'helpful' and 'friendly' people who eventually try to sell you something. My favorite moment was when one of them asked me what I was looking for and I, quite honestly, told him "dental floss." After I communicated what dental floss was, he had to admit that it probably wasn't available in the Grand Bazaar.

History

Part of what makes Istanbul so fascinating is all the history you just pass by. I have never been good at history. It all seamed to slip out of my ears. Maybe this is as much as it was something you werenít expect to figure out but just remember. But here even I keep running into stuff I remember hearing about. For one thing this is Istanbul. I had almost gotten the song about, you can't back to Constantinople out of my head when I wandered past the Áemberlitas, Burnt Column, that was built in 330 CE to celebrate the role of Constantinople as the capital of the Roman Empire.

Next to the Yerebatan Sarayi (Cistern Basilica) there are remnants of an arch that used to be the zero point that all roads were measured. There is just a little sign by it and probably most people pass it by without thinking about it but for a hunk of history this was the exact center of the empire. (Of course we all know that the center of the Universe is actually in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle Washington.)

This excessive history is even down to the train station I stuck my head into. The Sirkeci Gari was built in 1889 as the final destination of the Orient Express. It still serves regular and commuter train traffic.

Sultan?

I have also toured the Topkapi Sarayi a Sultan's place. I even paid the extra few bucks and took the guided tour of his Harem. It's like being back in story books thinking about places that only the Sultan can go that is all women and tended by eunuchs. (The eunuchs were imported slaves from Africa. They were castrated over there as much because only about 1 in 10 survived the operation. When the sultan died they would all be sent home and a new set would be brought in. Fortunately if they did go home they were rich. So it could have been worse.)

Also at the palace they had displays of the royal (?) treasures and the gifts countries like to give each other. (I have seen a lot of presidential gifts lately. At this point they seam quite pointless.) One of the things on display was John the Baptist's right arm and skull. I think back to the people in Chiapas Mexico who worshiped him and what they would do for these relics. (I guess I have also seen a lot of bits of dead famous people too on this trip.) There were also a few famous diamonds and daggers and the like. It all starts to get normal after a while.

Spinning?

Last night I headed off for a little cultural enlightenment and saw a Sufi Music Concert and Whirling Ceremony presented by Contemporary Lovers of Mevlana, better know as Whirling Dervishes. I knew the name and not much else, but I am here so I figured I might as well do what ever it was. As is it doesn't seam to be a bad way to practice a religion. If I am going to try to be one with a greater power spinning around in circles might be a good way to do it. Drugs are a bit nasty and I don't like the idea of fasting. Blowing myself up is right out.

The music was interesting and I tried my little MP3 player / recorder so I will try to post the audio files. I didn't like it enough to by the CD, but that is all stuff I can get back home as well.

Last ideas

I went off and saw the Yersbatan Sarayi (Cistern Basilica or Sunken Palace). It's an old underground Byzantine reservoir from 532. It had been forgotten, then found again. It's amazing with all the columns and detail carving. All for something that is going to be underwater and not seen. Now it has been restored and is another tourist attraction. Unfortunately for me they didn't get into how the system fed it or where the water went. I love historical water systems but apparently this is not worth an information sign. Oh well.

My reaction to Istanbul has been that it is so European, where as the travelers from England and Germany I have met all say it is so Asian. I suspect this is like San Jose, Costa Rica. It all depends where you are coming from.

And one last thing. What is it about Egyptian Obelisks? They are everywhere. I saw my first one in New York's Central Park. They are placed in Paris, and Rome: it wouldn't surprise me if London as a few tucked here and there. There is one here in front of the Blue Mosque that is only the top third because it broke in transit. What were they doing moving it in the first place?? Sure when I was in Egypt they had put on in the middle of a traffic circle, but at least that is the same country. What did all these foreign people think. "Well that thing is simply huge, and would look great in my back garden. I think I must take it as a souvenir." I know I come from a different period on how you preserve things, but considering how far these ridiculously large things have been carted around the world it is silly.


Was the tower of Babel somewhere around here?

March 20, 2006

Goreme, Turkey

Today I headed off to see one of the famous underground cities in this case Derinkuyu. It was one of the places that all the tours go to, but from the people who had been there they didn't give you enough time to really explore it. I'll say more about the city after the story of how I made it back.

To get from Derinkuyu back to Goreme there is a bus to Nevsehir and then a bus to Goreme. I came out of the underground city at about 3:30pm with lots of time to get back before the last bus. So I swung by the station to see when the next bus back to Nevsehir was going to be and discovered it wasn't until 5:00pm. OK, my information said it ran every hour, oh well. I headed off to see town and had a late lunch of Turkish pizza, quite good. The bus back was OK, if later than I wanted. By now it was snowing in Nevsehir and I double checked my information about the next bus and sure enough it's supposed to be running every half hour. Right.

By the time 7:15pm rolls around I am checking with each minibus that comes in to make sure they arenít possibly going back to Goreme. Something about waiting out in the snow for a bus that hasn't come several times isn't much fun or warm. I have been checking in at the bus station and everybody keeps assuring me that it will only be thirty minuets. Finally on one of the last shuttles I end up asking one of the passengers by mistake but he is one of these helpful people who rush into action. The problem, or funny thing depending on your point of view, is that he only speaks the merest splattering of English. He was excited to see the foreigners hopping he could use his near fluent German, or his good Italian, or OK French. Counting my English and Spanish and his Turkish we had six languages in play and no common language between us. Fun. He ran off and asked lots of questions and I wondered how he would ever communicate with us, (by then I and the Japanese guys I met at the station) but were ready for anything that got us back to Goreme.

He really wanted to chat with me and so we would talk and he would speak in a mix of German, French, and Italian with a few English words and I would listen really hard and respond in Spanish and English. It was funny but much to my surprise it worked. Communication will happen against all odds sometimes. And we were even getting a bit beyond the immediate and concrete and were almost chatting. It was fun to use my Spanish, even if not to a person who spoke Spanish.

He eventually found a big long distance bus that would be passing thru Goreme and negotiate a fare that was the same as the minibus would have been. The great kindness of strangers.

It's this kind of thing that puts the adventure back into the traveling. Had the busses been running on the schedule I kept being told I would have never met this guy. It also reminded me how much I have become comfortable around other languages. It's not that I have learned any German while I have been on the trip, but now I am so used to not understanding stuff I can relax about it. I think before this trip all my brain would have done is frozen up with the sound of German rather than being able to listen thru to try to find the meaning in that mess of languages. Sure I still find it hard to learn something, but it's all a bit more open. Even earlier in the day while I was having my Turkish pizza I grabbed a local news paper and scanned thru it. You can always look at the pictures, and there will be a few cognates, and of course the soduku doesn't require language at all. And there is something true about the news always being the same.

Anyway the trip home was an adventure.

The underground city before that was also fun. It's one of those places that if Disney made it you would say it was so cheesy and not real, but it is. This one went down eight levels and wandered on what seamed randomly from one place to another. It's amazing they were all dug by hand tools hundreds of years ago. They had been built as fortresses for the people to escape to when attacked. Wells, kitchens, even underground churches cut into solid rock that goes on for miles. It was more impressive than the underground village in Vietnam although there were certain similarities. They still don't know a lot about them but its defiantly worth coming here.

The other amazing stuff has been the scenery here in Cappadocia. The whole area is soft volcanic tuft so it has worn away in to the strangest shapes. It's like the Badlands in South Dakota. There are hoodoos where a cap stone protected the softer rock below. (Including probably the most phallic rock formations in the world in the 'Valley of Love.')

Not only had the people here carved cities under the ground, but also into the rocks above. Tall rock outcroppings were carved into monasteries, smaller outcroppings were carved into some of the early Christian churches and painted with fantastic murals that still survive today and buttes called Fair Chimneys were carved into homes. Today on a walk with a couple people from the hostel (where the dorm room is carved from solid stone) we went to the highest peek in the region which had been carved as a monastery with a great view of the entire area. On the way back we took a wrong turn and ran into an abandoned fairy chimney and explored it for an hour or two. It was amazing in that it just kept going and going. We came in thru the rain worn top and kept working down and down. Rooms and hidden stairwells, surprise windows, shelves carved in the stone lining the walls, and even some old geometric painting around the windows. It was like something out of the Lord of the Rings. (Actually the hostel is carved out of solid rock and looks a bit like Luke Skywalker's Aunt and Uncle's house for that matter.)

Cappadocia was a place people had said was a must see, and I agree. I still have Greek and Roman ruins to see. (Although I don't think I will find time to see Troy.) Here is the early Christian church and it's art. Turkey has proven to be just amazing.


Strings and Kervansaray

March 22, 2006

Goreme, Turkey

Well it's been good here in Goreme. It is a bit hard to go. Some of this is just being lazy, some if it is it being nice and tranquilo.

I met up with a few travelers here and had a good time hanging out with them. It will be good to be on my own again, but I will miss them as well. It is odd as I reach the end of my trip to meet travelers who have more time left. I may have been on the road for twenty months but with only a few weeks left I am envious with two months more to explore Turkey and will get to see more than I will. Going home will be different. I will be glad to see everybody but I will miss all the travelers I meet. I am getting much more insistent that I really do want to hear from people when I trade e-mails with them.

Yesterday was one of those the trip is the adventure trips. We got going and headed off to see the Kervansaray at Agzikarahan not too far from here. The Kervansarays are one of those places that you hear about and they name restaurants after, but now I am around them and can go see them. (Much of this stuff was on a tour I considered taking, but I wanted to get my feet under me and start off with local transit as well as see things at my own pace.)

The trip started off with the shuttle bus to Nevsehir, where I got stuck on my trip to the underground city, and then on a bigger bus that was going to Aksaray that dropped us off, more or less in the middle of no where.

I have been on the road long enough to know that this is not really something to worry about. People are generally good and friendly and want to help you and as long as it looks like there are people living there something will come up. After all the locals don't have cars and must get to town somehow. My companions were a bit more intrepid of the idea of being dumped from a bus along the road in a wide open windswept landscape with now idea how they were going to get back to their bed.

The bus conductor pointed in a general direction before he dropped us off so we headed off on a dirt road and looked for some kind of building. Eventually we cut over from our dirt road to a nicer paved one that we figured the tourist busses used.

One of the things that has been just amazing to me here is the lack of land mines. If you want to go from one place to another you just can. What a novel idea. After Lao, Vietnam and Cambodia I have been trained in not straying from the path. So it is still a bit of a novelty to be able to cut from one road to the other with out fear of being blown up.

After a little walk we came across the Kervansaray. It's a big old stone building with some neat carvings. It was built in 1231 and added on to in 1239. The little ruined Mosque was neat and had a nice view from the roof. We had gotten a bit of a late start so we mostly had it to ourselves being when all the tour groups are off having lunch. (This visiting places over lunch has done well for me.) Then it was off to figure a way back to Goreme.

We 'asked' the guy who sold the tickets if he knew of busses going back towards Nevsehir. He didn't really speak English but we made ourselves understood; mostly by point at ourselves and saying Goreme. He made some phone calls and told us that a bus would be passing on the highway in about ten minuets. While we waited I pulled out my cat's cradles string. As it went on I had both my companions and the ticket seller with strings on their hands working on things. Then the ticket seller showed us a bunch of 'catches' one of which I have figured out. Fun what you can do without being able to speak.

We headed off to the highway and flagged down a passing bus. I don't think it was the one that the guy had called about. This guy mostly spoke German and was on his way to the airport to pick up a German tourist group so we had the bus to ourselves and he dropped us at the otogar (bus station) back in Nevsehir. I have been missing hitch hiking as a mode of transit and this was getting close.

We had plenty of time in Nevsehir to look around a bit. Mostly we saw is normal town with no real tourist stuff going on. It was a bit refreshing. Had lunch in a kebab shop and made it back on the return shuttle with no mishaps. Again while waiting for the bus we got our cat's cradle strings out and ended up playing with the locals at the bus stop as much as with each other.

Back at the hostel I started working out where I am going next on the internet while Jeremy practiced the string figures I taught him. A Japanese guy came in and was surprised to see someone playing what he thought of as a Japanese game. He didn't have much English but if you number the fingers he started showing Jeremy the one person cat's cradle I have been wanting to learn. I had even mentioned it earlier in the day as one of the things I wished I had copied directions for. When I was off the internet all three of us worked our way through the one person's cat's cradle. I was happy Jeremy had started first as you could tell the Japanese guy wasn't used to teaching it and knew everything as one big movement and had to work to slow down to show it. I think Jeremy slowed him down to a good pace before I joined in. I remember having those problems.

Anyway in the end between learning new things from the Turkish ticket taker at the Kervansaray and the big cat's cradle loop from the Japanese guy and then just general playing with people at bus stops, my strings got a work out. The Kervansaray may not have been quite worth how much we spent in bus fare and entrance, but the adventure of there and back was great.

There are a few things that could have been a bit better. Although I like the pansion I was staying at, the first few days there was a crazy woman staying here. When I first met her I though she maybe was trying to scam me somehow with a big story about being harassed and scared to go to the police. I offered to, and did, send an e-mail with her information to her embassy, but I didn't give her money, get involved with the police for her, or give her any of my personal information. I figured if it was real, I did what I could and if it wasn't I didn't set myself up.

The next day I saw her again and she was talking with someone else and it was pretty clear that she probably was having problems with the police, but that was more because she needed to be taking her medication or something. Her view of the world just didn't quite hold its shape and certainly didn't align with the rest of ours. She finally got in argument with the guesthouse owner about the bill she was running up and that she was bothering the rest of the guests and asked for the police, for which he was more than happy to call. In the end, after a short consultation with a doctor that was here to visit a different guest, the police took her away. The guesthouse owner was happy to see her leave, even if he doesn't expect to get any of the rather large bill she had. The same was true for the rest of us as well, as we kept trying to avoid her or her requests for money and almost couldn't use the lounge. I feel sorry for her, but this way she will probably get taken back to her home country, reportedly Italy, and hopefully the care she needs. I figure it is better to be paranoid in your own country where you at least speak the language because in a foreign country it is easy enough to be overly paranoid without any additional help.

Other than the crazy woman there was a fun local I get to chat with as well. I think the short description is a British ex-pat bookworm living in a cave. Actually that sounds way crazy and she really wasn't. First off living in a cave around here is perfectly normal.

She had come here seven years ago and was now running a bookstore and teaching English. I expect she is a good English teacher. Goreme is a small enough town that if you live here you know everybody and here she is known as Maggie the Teacher. We talked about the problems of keeping an English book store stocked in Turkey, life in Goreme and her dogs. She was at the pansion because she had just returned from a trip back to Britain and had become the temporary mother to a couple of travels that were sick and need a place to go and a person to vent to. Her personal take on the situation was that they were actually just very homesick and had a simple cold.

She had formally managed the hostel and was friends of and teacher to the staff, so she had called them for the shuttle to pick her, her luggage including 32 kilograms of books for the store, and the sick travelers. She had stories from when she managed the hostel and the travelers that all magically got better when they were tucked in and taken to the hospital to be fawned over. All in all a neat woman, and when she left she even gave us each a good chocolate she had just brought back from England. When I get back maybe I will send her an M bag of books, address to: Maggie the Teacher, Goreme, Turkey.


I think I will blame it all on Steven L.

March 26, 2006

Bus from Gaziantep to Side, Turkey

Well I have been having an interesting few days. Mostly I havenít been dong much. I first left Goreme to go to Diyarbakir. It was an overnight bus ride which isnít a bad thing considering how nice Turkish busses are. I got into Diyarbakir at a good time and took the jumper bus into the old town. This is where the traveling without any guide book gets a bit more worrisome as it means I donít have a map of town or even a suggestion of where the hotels might be.

As it was, one of the fist things I saw was a tourist information place set into the north gate of the old city wall. The guy working didnít speak any English but he guessed I did want a map and pulled one out almost as soon as I walked in. I had been hopping for some kind of pansion listing, but no luck. I did find a very out of date hotel guide for the entire country, but looking up the couple places I have been staying, and happy with, found they werenít listed. Oh well, maybe it will be good for making up answers to taxi drivers or somethingÖ

The map wasnít bad; it even had descriptions of some of the local sights in English, although some of the transportation information was only in Turkish. Still no information on the housing front though.

I sat down in a plaza near the old city gate and looked over the map and was pestered by some of the children. Who ever thought that ďMoney, MoneyĒ is a good thing to teach kids after ďHelloĒ should be shot. This isnít only true here. In Central America I remember a couple times when well dressed kids caring mobile phones or a nice bag or eating ice cream would do a bit of casual begging. If your poor thatís one thing, although you still arenít getting anything, but if you are eating an ice cream that I currently donít have in my budget, forget it. In my research online I had also been warned a bit about the begging kids in this town. Itís too bad about the begging kids as until then I had been happy that there werenít children begging and that even the shoe shine people were adults rather than kids who should be in school. (Though in the places where I have ended up with begging children the other adults at least appear to be embarrassed.)

I wandered around a bit and found a cheep hotel. I probably should have looked around a bit more as I stopped at the first one and it was a bit of a dive. But I donít spend a lot of time at my hotels and if itís not all that great then if Iím late checking out or take the toilet paper I donít feel bad. (Not that this place had toilet paper.)

Then it was off to see the town. The big claim to fame is the old city wall. They like to say itís the second largest in the world, the first being the great wall of China. It may be true, maybeÖ I was able to walk all of it easily in an afternoon, so if this really is the second largest, there must be a large gap between number one and number two

The walls are thick and impressive though. It started out as a Roman town and like everything here had been conquered and converted a number of times. There were several Christian churches, but I didnít make it in. I think unlike the mostly Catholic countries the churches here keep set hours. Oh well, maybe next time.

I didnít get a very good feeling walking around town. Itís not that Iím not used to being stared at, but this was different. Sure in Cambodia and elsewhere people were clearly talking about me and my beard, or long hair, but it always felt as a kind of curiosity. Somehow here in Diyarbakir it seemed to be negative. Itís not that I can understand a word they are saying, but I still got an unfriendly feeling. This town isnít so much on the tourist track so the people wouldnít be as used to weird farang walking around.

Some of it is almost every time I passed a group they would scowl at me. It wasnít chatter like they were saying how weird I was, but more a quick sniff or dismissive sounding remark all accompanied by a frown. Not very welcoming. (This was especially true with older people, but I also got a negative vibe off people of about my age as well.)

I have a couple theories. The first is that it is some kind of anti-Semitism. The younger people who I talked with often would say Shalom to me in greeting with a special little smile. I would give them a big smile and tell them I wasnít Jewish and say hello and chat as much as their English would allow. So I wonder if the older people are just assuming something about me and being negative on those grounds. Still not very friendly, though.

My other idea is really not a theory but a description a news reporter had used to describe the Turkish. It was that they were an extremely xenophobic people that were in conflict with there extremely hospital nature towards guests. I guess it all comes down to where the line between us and them falls and if your hospitality overwhelms your xenophobia.

Either idea isnít positive as I wish it could be. I am hopping to find something better like that I was wearing blue on a no wearing blue day or inadvertly making an obscene gesture.

I did enjoy my time with some people. The college kids with some English were fun. There were even a couple groups that wanted to take their picture with me; which I am still finding funny. I also played catís cradle with a few people in the park. Mostly itís adult men who have been playing catís cradle with me. It may be some cultural thing about women interacting with male strangers, or maybe itís a guy thing over here, but unlike everywhere else itís been the men not the women who play the game with me. One guy, using gestures even gave the typical thank you of ĎThanks, I havenít done that since I was a little boy.í One group of guys stood out a bit.

I had sat down on a park bench after traversing about half of the city wall. One guy started to approach me looking like he was going to start the basic prefab English conversation I had been going threw with everybody all day. (What is your name? Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married?) When another guy caught his eye and gave him a sharp nod to come over so they could talk. It almost was felt like the other guy and told him not to talk to me. Well I pulled out my string and starting practicing the one-person catís cradle I had just learned back in Goreme (use it or loose it) and a rather old guy came over and started playing with me. He had old worn hands and one finger that was bent, but he was good. After a little time with the old man, the guys who had been talking amongst themselves came over and I played with them as well. If I had been verboten before, apparently playing a childrenís game from their childhood made me OK. All in all I have been pretty happy with my string.

(There was also the mute guy that I played with at the bus station on my way to Diyrbakir who was fun, talk about challenges to communicationÖ.)

As it was I wasnít really in town for the tourist sights anyway. I was doing it to break my trip up a little as I was trying to get out east and possibly going to Van (even further east). While I was in Goreme I met a rather well put together guy who had just been out this way and I had his notes on where he went and how much it cost. He had had a great time. It wasnít that he had, or I hopped to, really do much travel, but more to just spend a couple days out there and see a little bit of the Kurdish area. After my reception in Diyarbakir I decided to head back east and make sure I didnít have to rush and worry about making the eclipse.

Since going east wasnít happening I took a day bus to Adiyaman to see if Mount Nemrut was a possibility. Itís the mountain with the stone heads on it and the artificial hill top. Yet again ancient people carving and moving huge rocks up mountains from a long way away just to confuse us.

Everything I had read about doing the mountain warned you to bring warm clothes even in the summer. Between my being cold most of the time anyway and it still being the end of winter I wasnít expecting much. Sure enough when I asked around there werenít tours going up the mountain due to snow and Ice. Probably just as well. So then it was a local minibus to Gaziantep.

Gaziantep turned out to be another adventure sans guidebook. Part of the adventure is arriving in a town with no idea of where you are or what you are doing. Here they have a lovely modern Otogar (bus station) next to a brand new mall that isnít even quite finished yet; although the Burger King is open. Well Gaziantep is a big sprawling modern town that apparently has become the center of Turkish financial world. The view from the otogar just shows a couple of rolling hills covered with ugly concrete boxes of buildings stretching on beyond visibility. I almost tuned around and got on a bus to somewhere else. Then I figured I should meet the challenge and see about visiting this town.

The reason it was on my list at all has to do with my Morris sideís squireís LiveJournal. He called named it Unzeugmatic. In the beginning of reading his journal and the eventual looking up of what it meant to be zeugmatic or for that matter what a zeugma was, I kept getting unrelated results relating to an ancient Roman town of Zeugma in Turkey. I had largely forgotten all of this until in my limited research I learned that Zeugma had been flooded by the building of the Ataturk Dam but that the mosaic floors had been moved and were being put in Gaziantepís archeology museum. The information wasnít sure when they would be on view, but I figured it was as good as worth a try. So here I was on the edge of a strange town trying to find a museum that may or may not have the mosaic floors of a flooded roman town with a name similar to the name of Stevenís LiveJournal. In other words, everythingís normal.

I hopped the first city bus that came buy, after I found the city bus stop that is, and it promptly turned ninety degrees to where I expect it to go. Since I didnít know really where I wanted to go, let alone the ability to say it in Turkish, this didnít bother me as much as it could have.

After a while we passed some signs that had a word that looked a bit like ĎUniversityĒ and a few, not too shiny hotels and I figured that around the university wasnít a bad place to start. I found a hotel and since it was getting late I plopped down to watch some TV and left the museum until the morning.

I figured that I could get going in the morning and see the museum, if I could find it, and then take a night bus towards the area of the solar eclipse.

When I woke in the morning I glanced at my watch and it said 11:-- and so I thought that this wasnít the early start I was hopping for. I had a quick shower and packed ready to check out. At which point I realized my watch was in stop watch mode and that it was only eleven hours since I had started using the internet the night before and forget to clear the watch. I guess that is one way to get me going fast.

Once I discovered it was only nine oíclock I went up for the free breakfast and then checked out of my room. I left my bag at the front desk and asked the clerk if he knew where the archeology museum was. He directed me to a place two stoplights back the way the bus came around where I remember seeing a brown directional sign pointing off saying museum. I wasnít able to ask if it was the archeological museum but I figured if I found any museum the people there might be better informed and be able to tell me what I needed to know. I walked back following the hotelís advice and sure enough just as I got to the brown sign I saw a building with lots of big stone carvings in its yard. I popped my head in and yes it was the archeological museum and they did have the Zeugma mosaics on display. Yahoo!!! Amazing where the random bus that does take you where you expected will get your exactly where you are going. Dirk Gently would be proud.

I really do like the Roman mosaics and tried not to take pictures of every one. They also had the ďGypsy GirlĒ mosaic from Zeugma that has become a bit emblematic of Turkey. It practically has its own room and many of the visitors give it the respect that I suspect Parisians do of the Mona Lisa. After a few hours at the mosaics I headed off to see the Castle that overlooked the town and then back to collect my bags and off to the bus station.

All in all a nice stop, especially considering I ended up within four blocks of my destination by just getting on the first bus I saw and getting off at a largely random place.


Darkness and fire and Backpacker Hangouts

March 31, 2006

Olympos, Turkey

Oh what have I been up to? Well I guess start from now and work back to the beginningÖ.

This evening I went with a group off to see the local special sight, the Chimera. These are a natural gas upwelling that self ignites and has been burning for centuries. Itís actually pretty cool. There are several patches of flames some up to two feet high just coming from the ground; sort of like being on the worldís largest gas fire log. The sign at the entrance says it is where the Olympic flame comes from, Iím not quite sure I believe that. Another research project when I get home.

Actually the fact that I plan to come home in a week or two is pretty distracting. Half of me is here and half of me is thinking of what will be next. I have started a calendar of things I will / want to do when I get back. It was funny looking back at my note book as every calendar was made up for a time I was in the United States. I apparently didnít need to worry too much about schedule anywhere else. Now if only I can figure out where I am going to live and what I am going to do when I get back. The volunteering stuff is lining up just fine on its own.

Getting here to Olympos was a bit of a wander. I had heard about Olympos which is known for its tree house accommodations, as a bit of a backpacker hang out. I hadnít really meant to come here but when I got up in the morning in Side, where I saw the eclipse, I didnít know where I wanted to go so I just headed into the main bus station. I still didnít know what was up so I headed to Antalya which is the provincial capital and any bus I was considering would have passed through there anyway. When I got there I was tired and just wanted to stay somewhere, but didnít feel like dealing with another big town sans map or clue. I hopped on the internet to see about hostel like places and Olympos came up with only an hour and half shuttle bus ride in. I figured might as well.

The last leg of the trip I met a couple who were coming from the big pysicidelic-trans music festival Soulclipse who knew where they were going so I followed them for the last bit. If you donít have a plan, use someone elseís.

When I dragged myself and backpack into the place they had a big fire blazing, a nice dorm and a big communal dinner was just being served. Bullís eye! Itís like coming home. There is even a creek running by my dorm room window to make it sound like the Black Hills. Backpacker hangouts are a bit like a morris ale where you donít know anybody, but will. There are people from all over the world (most here for the solar eclipse) all ready to have a good time and see what happens. There is less dancing and singing, although if I went to the dance clubs or karaoke bars that could probably be fixed.

This place is good with a communal breakfast and dinner included and a great place to hang out. Itís a bunch of tree houses and bungalows with some good sized dorms. Solar hot water in a good bath house that isnít part of the dorms.

The one down side was a bus tour that came after a couple days. They complained about everything and gave the backpackers mostly a cold shoulder. I was at a table that they decided should be theirs so rather than ask me politely if I could move so they could all sit there they sat all around me and gave me icy stares until I left. It did give me something to think about. If an independent traveler complains as much as they did somebody would ask, ďWell, if you donít like it, why donít you go somewhere else?Ē But being on a big bus tour they can complain all they want and it isnít obviously a reflection on their choices (outside of getting on the big bus tour in the first place.) In fact it doesnít make more work for them at all. Independent travelers are responsible for their own happiness and are probably more likely to look on the bright side of things. Oh well it canít be all paradise.


Back on track/

April 3, 2006

On a bus from Olympos to Fethiye, Turkey

Oh, how easy it is to get side tracked around here. I would sit and write, but then interesting people would come to talk with and then itís 1:00am and time to go to bed. The next day is then a frantic schedule of nature walks and laying on the beach and a few Roman and medieval ruins while strolling between things. It seams like there is never enough time to just lay around and kill time. If it isnít time to eat breakfast, itís time to eat lunch or dinner, or maybe even time sit around the fire and talking. You forever have to choose between sleeping in late or more napping time at the beach and trying to fit in some time for rock hopping up the creek or some gulch.

Iím going to miss this life.

A lot of it is, is this backpacker hangout has a lot of international travelers along with a nice mix of Turks with good English skills so there is lots of stuff to talk about. The last couple nights I have had good chats with a painter about art and technology and different approaches to art. I have learned more about what it is to be a modern young Turk, and played catís cradle with lots of people. Itís been a great little break and place to hang out. In a lot of ways it was like spending four days at an ale or a chorus retreat, except that the unifying factor was that we were travelers. Itís camp for adults.

Anyway I still havenít reported on the eclipse. It was great. Sure I have read about them and knew mostly what to expect but to really be there when it gets cold and goes dark is different. I was in Side which was one of THE places to be. NASA was doing a live web broadcast from the Roman ampltheatre, there were parties on the beach and down at the Temple of Apollo, where I was, there was recorded music intermixed with a string quartet.

I donít really know if one needs a sound track to a total solar eclipse but we had one. The recorded music was everything from Bernsteinís ďSummer TimeĒ from Porgy and Bess to Andrew Lloyd Webberís ďDonít Cry for me ArgentinaĒ. The string quartet was pretty much basic well known rep. I thought it was funny as since they were playing outside under full sun on a perfect cloudless day they had more than enough light on their music, until the eclipse of course. Oh well they canít really complain as it is why they were there. (Part of my job at Ted Mann as to make sure the light on musicianís music was bright enough.)

My favorite musician was the cello player who between movements and pieces would quickly grab a pair of sun watching glasses and look up to see how the eclipse was going. The bass player looked like he was being too stuffy to be interested in such things, but the cello player had the right attitude as far as I was concerned.

For the record I really did see birds go to nest for the Ďnightí, it really is like dawn all around the horizon, it really does get colder, and it is very worth it. The night with no sun rise.

I have met a lot of eclipse chasers in the last couple weeks and I can understand why they do it. It doesnít sound like a bad hobby either. Gets you outside and into different and interesting parts of the world. Anyone up for Japan in 2008?

Now I am off to one or two last stops before returning home. I figure at this point half my mind is back in MSP and half is here. I am still working on the plane ticket that will get me there. (Something I should have done weeks ago.) I meet travelers just starting and think I should have something to tell them. Oh well here comes returning home culture shock.


Helpful people

April 4, 2006

Fethiye, Turkey

Well I may have said this before, but Turkey is a Ďhelpfulí country. Just like Mexico and some other places people really do want to help you. (Except in Diyarbakir, which even the Turks I met in Olympos though was an awful place. Sort of like I think of L.A.) Of course having people want to help you is great, if they know what they are doing.

After getting off the bus I started off trying to find one of the hostels I had looked up. I knew the dolmus (share taxi) I needed to take, but not which direction. After walking a bit I asked someone and he didnít know but he asked in a shop for me. Then he walked with me to the dolmus stop. Unfortunately he wanted to be so helpful he stayed with me and decided we should walk.

Now itís not that I would mind walking, especial had he bothered to get my opinion on the matter, but he didnít know where he was going. Normally in Ďhelpfulí countries my method is to ask someone and then as soon as they are out of sight ask someone else and keep this up until I can find some kind of reoccurring answer. As it seams often the interest in helping is inversely proportional to actually knowledge. This doesnít work if they walk with you.

Again this wouldnít have been bad had he known where he was going but we were literally walking in circles; actually we were spiraling in back towards the bus station I started at. Eventually I spotted an Internet cafe and excused myself to take care of some things and thanked him for his help. I had considered stopping for dinner as I was hungry but thought then I might have to buy him something which would mean he would have to stay and not only would I not be rid of him, I would have to feed him as well.

As it was I found a map of town online and figured out where I needed to go. We had been heading in the wrong direction almost the entire time and had only gotten going in the right direction when I insisted I wanted to take the dolmus. Beware of Turks bearing directions.


Eekk! Decisions have been made!! Iím coming home!

April 4, 2006

Fethiye, Turkey

Well Iíve done it. I have a homeward bound flight ticket. I bought it an hour or so ago and my blood pressure is slowly returning to normal and the adrenaline rush is wearing off. I will be flying into Minneapolis on Tuesday the 11th with just enough time to make it to Morris practice that night. I may not know where I am going to sleep, but I know I will be dancing. Good thing I am carrying bells.

This gives me seven days left in Turkey and then itís off. (I do have a five hour layover in Amsterdam so maybe I can see somethingÖ Who knows?)

Now if I could just get my heart rate downÖ..


The end is near.

April 8, 2006

Bus from Selcuk to Istanbul, Turkey

Well, here the trip goes again. Today was my last day really in Turkey. I will have a couple days in Istanbul, but that will be different than what I have been enjoying lately.

Selcuk, which I am misspelling by not using the 'c' with a little squiggly under it making it sound like a 'ch', is a pleasant little town near the ruined city of Ephesus. Yes, more Roman ruins. They were nice, but what I have been enjoying is the town.

It's actually a pretty touristy town but the people are friendly and it is just a lovely time of year. In the last few days, both here and in Fethiye before, spring has arrived.

The trees are leafing out and the flowers are just beginning to bloom. And it's not just that in Fethiye the streets are lined with orange trees that are flowering making the entire town smell wonderful, it's also that for once these are plants I know. They arenít tropicals or Asian exotics. I have seen, and smelled my first lilac, picked daisies and clover, and even seen blue for-get-me-nots like grow in the Black Hills. I'm not home, but the plants remind me of there. Not to say that there aren't a bunch of plants I don't have a clue about, but seeing some familiar things is a bit new.

Otherwise the last few days have been ruins of one kind of another. In Fethiye I saw the Lyciam Rock Tombs and an old Crusader fortress from the Knights of St. John. I still can't quite get over all the history here. Crusaders? What am I doing here? To some extent you can't help but run into history. (That isn't really true as I suspect there are many vacationers who go home with perfect tans and no additional history lessons.)

The ruined fortress overlooked Fethiye had a big light up profile Ataturk, the revered founder of the country. (Personally I think he looks a bit like a vampire.) On this trip in Central America they had a Christen crosses overlooking towns, in SE Asia it was generally a Buddhist symbols, here it is the founder of the country. I wonder which is a secular country? (For that matter there is a big light up cross on the hill over the town my parents are living in; but then again they are in Wyoming.)

Here at Ephesus I saw all the normal ruins including theatres and markets and political buildings, but the thing I am excited to having seen wasn't in any of the guide books. Just beyond the Grand Theater there is a gate on the Marble Street. As a narrow spot in the road all the vehicle traffic had to follow the same track, leaving ruts warn in the stones. So these are real Roman cart ruts and I can personally find out if they match standard railroad gauge. (If you haven't heard the story about how standard railroad gauge is related the size of the rear ends of Roman war horses see here.)

I don't carry a tape measure while touring sights, but I do have my cat's cradle strings so I pulled a couple out and tied those together and put knots in to mark the width of the ruts. I haven't gotten to my measuring tape yet but I did cross some railroad tracks and I pulled out the knotted strings and found that in fact the wider set of ruts was the same as the local railroad gauge. I haven't checked to see if Turkey uses standard gauge, but I suspect so. (At least it doesn't look like narrow gauge.)

But cool! I get to play history detective!


Bye, Bye Turkey!

March 11, 2006

On a plane from Amsterdam to Minneapolis!!!

Oh my I am really doing it. (Odd, I think this may be how I started this journal, if I didn't it was how I felt.)

The trip is ending how it began. I barely slept last night getting everything packed and doing a few last things. Two days in Istanbul was, of course, not enough time to do all I wanted. I made it two the two museums I really wanted to see, leaving out three more I would have liked to see. It was probably good that one of the days was a Monday and the museums were closed so I finished up my shopping. My main pack is now over one third of my body weight and that's not counting the five more kilos of my daypack. Oh well, I knew this would probably happen at the end. Stuff is a dangerous thing.

Otherwise things are falling into place. A couple from my morris side are letting me stay at their place while they are out of town for a week which get me over that first bit of "what am I doing?". You don't just join a morris side, you gain another last name.

Before the last rushed packing at 1:00am (my shuttle to the airport was at 3:00pm) I did a little final luxury, a nice two and half hours at a Turkish bath. I figured if I got laundry done I might as well be really clean before I spend 12 hours on a plane. Think of it as a sort of baptism into the next phase. Does it show I just was out at the basilica built over his Saint John the Baptist's tomb? Of course he was dug up and taken away and I suspect somehow multiplied in the process. (If I was ever to become a figure of veneration I want to be cremated and dumped in the sea. Make a reliquary out of that!)

If I was to redo the ending, I would have not booked a dorm bed that night and just been picked up directly from the Hamami. (I found one that is open 24 hours so I could have just finished packing and then spent midnight to three napping on a hot rock or in the private changing room. Than having been scrubbed and massaged and folded until it felt like they were trying to break ribs or something, hopped on a plane to drift off to sleep. Oh well, next time. (I wonder what the airport shuttle would have thought of my being picked up directly from a bathÖ.)

Some people asked me how I know it is time to come home, well there are signs. My pants are warn out, my tee shirts are shredding, my daypack is about to fall apart, every seam on my bathroom kit is coming apart in unison, I hope my main pack hasn't burst apart in the plane's hold. I only learned 'thank you' 'hello' and 'goodbye' (but the wrong one) in Turkish and then didn't use them. I am thinking lots about home and who I miss and where and what I want to be doing.

I just flipped my little inseat back entertainment system over to the flight information and noticed we were over Canada and are now west of Montreal. In means since July of 2006 I have passed through all the lines of Longitude. It's official I have gone around the world! Some how I don't see myself ever doing the same for Latitude. I don't like the cold that much.

I did end up doing much at my layover in Amsterdam. You had to be at the gate two hours before flight and everything was a bit expensive with the Euro. I will have to save a lot before I do much travel in Europe. I did go thru passport control just to see how bad it was going to be. It really wasn't even all the much, but I would have been rushed and people had said great things about the Schiphol airport. They were true too. It is probably the best airport to spend time in. They have a lounge with special chairs just for napping. The place is very clean and just pleasantly designed. They haven't decided that to make a little money they should plaster the walls with advertising. The spaces are efficient and calming. Even the food court pulls back from everything trying for your attention. (Now all they need is a Turkish bath.)

The prices werenít bad either. I know they were better than Cairo. Even the internet cafť wasn't too out of line. Sure it was a bit pricy but it was cheaper than Kinko's in the 'States. Part of that was probably because they have the internet cafť in addition to the 'business center' so if you just want to check your e-mail and do a little catch up an open table is fine. They did a good job of scaling services to your needs.

Oh and then there is the art museum. Not a store selling art museum stuff, but real art in a non-commercial setting. (OK they do have a gift shop that you walk thru to get to the gallery.) It's not a large gallery, but it had a little show of the student of Rembrandt which was interesting. I had forgotten how much I liked that style of painting. So much of it is about the light, wonderful.

The flights have been fine. The first one, a little three hours from Istanbul to Amsterdam did not have any toys or moves, but I slept, or tired to, most of the time. The big 13 hour trans-Atlantic has the little video screens in the seats back and you pick what you want to watch and when. If you want to pause the movie, go right ahead. I'm a bit curious of what kind of computing power they have to have to serve individual programming to over three hundred people at a time. But it's fun to play with. Although, I will be glad to get on the ground again.


Contune on to the new adventures back in my 'home' country. (Click here.)


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