After two flights, we arrived in Barcelona Wednesday morning, May 11. Our flight to Turkey was exactly two days later. So, we didn’t have a lot of time to do the capital of Cataluña. Our hotel, selected online for its proximity to the airport, price, and positive rating, did not disappoint. In fact, we had a small suite in an ultra-modern hotel complex in the midst of a mixed residential-industrial neighborhood across from the university hospital. The hotel staff was friendly and my Spanish adequate. My cell phone worked, so we were able to arrange to have lunch and walk around town with our friend and Boulder Subud sister, Judith, who was just finishing a Spain trip of her own. We could also hook up with the local Subud contact and take part in the regular Thursday-night latihan, which we found after the Metro and a short cab ride. The weather cooperated the entire time with sunny days in the mid-70s. So far so good. But nothing is perfect. First, my suitcase got left behind in Newark. (Fortunately, it arrived in our suite the afternoon before our departure for Istanbul.) More significantly, as we raced to board our first Metro—it turned out to be the wrong train!—a passenger getting off all but ran into me. When I stopped short to avoid a collision, my good right knee experienced some kind of trauma that still has me limping around the sites of Anatolia two weeks later. For her part, Cedar hurt her lower back, probably from handling one of our suitcases. So we are both bearing up under our overseas owies. Oy! One positive experience that occurred our first night in town none the less sticks in my mind. We went to one of the restaurants in our hotel tower. I told the pretty young woman who seated us that we were just beginning our luna de miel, or honeymoon. It turned out that she herself would marry in a month. For the rest of the evening, she insisted on inviting us to a free cocktail and several dishes, which turned what started out as a modest but delicious dinner into a true feast, with smiling servers who nodded knowingly as they presented each plate.
So how does one get to Turkey? In our case, with Swiss Airlines via Zuerich. The flights were smooth and uneventful. However, the connection was short, and the race from our arrival to our departure gate seemed interminable, especially with my now compromised legs. Anyway, we made our flights; all our bags arrived this time; we successfully changed money into Turkish lira (TL) for a cab; got our 90-day visa for €15; and after a longish but touristically fascinating taxi ride made it to our destination. As it turned out, our tour was beginning in earnest a day after we had thought, so we might have spent another day in Barcelona. Instead, we found ourselves in a “modest” hotel 15 minutes by foot from the Aya Sophia Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Our digs were clean enough, just small and dingy. Turned out, it belonged to friends of our tour guide whom he wanted to support. Never mind. There was so much to see and photograph and do. Sights, sounds, and smells of the Orient abounded. Apropos, our Hatay Hotel was a mere four blocks from the Istanbul “Gare,” or train station on the European side of this bi-continental city, where the famous Orient Express arrived each day. We were also walking distance from the large site-seeing boat that would take us on our six-hour trip up the Bosporus to near the entrance to the Black Sea on the first day of our official fourteen-day guided tour.
If I were to touch on even just the highlights of our Turkey trip to date, now just two days from its conclusion, this blog would become a mini-thesis. So I’ll stop for today and try to focus more on my impressions of Turkey in an addendum a few days from now.
By the way, Turkey is way more modern, industrialized, and clean than I had thought, as befitting one of the newest members of the European Union. Yet evidence of its condition as a still-emerging nation appears in a number of little things. One is that although every hotel we’ve stayed at so far—they were all better than that first one, I’m happy to report—provide free wireless internet access in one’s room, so far I’ve actually been able to get connected in only one case. For the most part, a laptop user has to sit in the hall or in (certain hotspot areas of) the lobby in order to get online: places usually dominated by traveling students, who seem busier Facebooking their friends back home for hours on end than in actually visiting the exotic sites offered by the places they are in. (Do I seem like a fussy 71-year old with a hurting leg? I guess I do.)
All in all, Cedar and I are doing fine—loving the treasures of civilization we are seeing each day and happily taking the 2,000+ photographs each as well as several videos we have downloaded so far. These we intend at some point to cull for the best of the best—probably when we are staying at Samuel and Amalia’s place in Andalusia in mid-June—and begin to send you some. Meanwhile I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with our word pictures, or else we’ll end up like the kids, stuck in our hotels rather than experiencing the glories that were Greece, the wonders that were Rome, and the incredible mélange that is present-day Turkey, a secular state with as many covered women and calls to prayer as the country has fields of poppies and statues of Kemal Pasha, better known as Ataturk.
Anyway, more soon. And as they say here, in a word that sounds almost like “gobble-gobble,” guley-guley: Bye-bye! We’ll talk more Turkey soon. Love, Ren Ruslan and Cedar
ur post here.