Sunday, May 16, 2004

Made it to Istanbul...

From Houston to Paris to Istanbul, overall it was an uneventful trip. I didn't have much time to look around at Charles de Gaulle; had to hurry on over to the next plane. I'll write more later; I want to explore a little while there is daylight.

Here's the more I promised:

The flight over was on Air France. Flying as I was to and from Paris on Air France, of course you see a lot of French people. They have a reputation for being snobs, I know, but they are absolutely the most beautiful people on Earth. Anywhere in the world I can pick out the French people. They are the best examples of grace and poise I could ever name. Now about the plane food -- the red wine was fresh (2003!) and served chilled and the Coke Light (That's French for "Diet Coke") was warm. Merde!

Attack of the babushkas: Coming in I had to wait in a long line at customs. While we were waiting there was a huge group of old women who arrived. Think babushka and you're not far from wrong -- a pack of ladies in scarves and bedsheets, peering out at you over thin glasses and never, ever smiling. None of them were over 5' 4". They swarmed around us and as the line crept forward they quietly surrounded us on both sides, standing alongside us instead of behind us, as if they could slip to the front of the line unnoticed. They were pressing up against us so much that for a large part of the time I could feel someone pressed against my back. One of them spoke to me. I don't know for sure but it sounded like babushka for "Respect your elders and be a good sport. Let me in front of you." I told her I didn't understand and ignored her. Didn't let her cut, either! After that she mumbled something else that sounded like babushka for "Screw you then, you son of a Greek dishwasher!"

The Hotel: I am staying at the Poem Hotel. The room is large enough to accomodate two twin beds and a suitcase. The hotel is about four stories high and you can go on the roof for a nice view of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia. I would send out pictures but this computer has Windows 98 and I can't upload off the camera without installing drivers. Typing on a Turkish keyboard is a pain... so many letters have been moved to make room for letters like ı (undotted i) and letters for words like üç, şiş kebap, or Beyoğlu. To type an @ I have to hit Right-Alt Q. Of course the operating system is a localized Turkish version. I have learned the word for Back in Turkish is Geri and Start is Başlat. Pity me!

The landmarks I have seen are so much more impressive when you see them for real instead of in pictures. They have a quiet and stately majesty. I haven't been inside any of them yet; I signed up for all-day tours Tuesday and Wednesday. Not tomorrow because some of the sites are inexplicably closed on Monday. I am staying in an old part of town called Sultanhamet. The streets are narrow and the shops are geared for tourists; many of the signs are in English. They all sell the same stuff: backgammon sets, water pipes, coffee pots, and carpets, carpets, carpets. I am within a ten minute walk of all the main attractions.

The people are friendly, but anyone who has been to Turkey knows about the sales people in the shops and how pushy they are. "My friend, hello. Do you need a rug?" No. "Then let me ask you one question: where are you from?" Texas. That was one question. Bye now! Normally when I travel I use Greek to ward off sales people. "Δεν καταλαβαίνω; μιλάτε ελληνικά?" But you know, the Turks and Greeks don't seem to get along too well, so I'm not using it. So far no one has reacted negatively to my saying I'm from the US. No one has even asked me about world events, my political views, nothing.

The food is wonderful; for dinner I had apple tea and İskander kebaps. I can foresee being sick of kebaps by Thursday, though! I tried rakı, the Turkish aniseed drink that is basically ouzo with a Turkish name. I couldn't finish it; it tasted like Milk of Magnesia.


At 10:43 PM, Blogger Cynthia said...

What a great idea to use a blog to document your trip! I wonder who ever could have inspired such a thing. Remember to sign the GuestMap while you're there, preferably from both places.

I learned in Amsterdam that it's easy to get confused and lost when you drink whatever they give you in a foriegn country by yourself. Also, instead of Greece, my co-worker (who is from the region) told me it's best to say you're from Belgium of any place in the world. They're supposedly popular over there.

Glad to hear you're okay. Just be careful.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Major said...

I decided to blog or whatever so I could communicate with you.

Sounds like you found the French to be your type people. Not sure about the cold red wine and warm coke. Hopefully the French are not as backward as their drinks.

Be carefull drinking the Milk of Magnesia, it can be a downer.

I sort of wish I was there sharing the sites with you. I haven't heard you so excited in a while.

I am submitting my paperwork for teaching at Alvin Community College. They want me signed up this week. No openings but you never know when one of the old guys creates one by some means. I'll teach Process Technology to students working for an Associate Degree. Hey, I may even get one myself. Booring stuff compared to what you can see, touch, smell, and taste. I envy you right now.

I love you Son, take care and stop telling folks you are from the USA. I want you back in one piece, breathing, and smiling.



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