Friday, February 18, 2011

TURKEY - an interview


At the coffee shop I normally haunt, I met up with a nice guy named Ozgur (goes by Ozzy) who turned out to be Turkish. Naturally, I immediately pumped him for information on Turkey. Found out a couple of things.

Daruzziyafe: It's a cafe built into a mosque called 'Suleymaniye Mosque'. You don't have to take off your shoes to eat in the restaurant. I checked. This is a place he said a lot of folks (non-locals) don't know about and it would be good for me to check out. Naturally, with me being a fat guy any mention of food got me real interested. It's an 'Ottoman restaurant'. I'll have to check that out.

I had asked him what kind of cultural 'faux pas' I should avoid. He told me that apparently two English sports hooligans were stabbed to death after wiping their asses with the Turkish flag. I assured him that chances of me doing anything like that were pretty slim. I thought that was a safe thing to avoid. Speaking of the Turkish flag, he had made a small language mistake and substituted the word 'Croissant' for the word 'crescent'. Now, this is a very minor linguistic error but I did tell him that I would be proud to have any kind of foodstuff on a flag. There may however be some truth to what started as a small verbal slip, see 'origin stories'.

Pretty much it seems that there aren't a lot of cultural problems I'm going to run into in Istanbul. There are a lot of tourists and they are pretty lenient toward them.

He did warn me of the occasional gang of pickpocket kids and said often times they had older brothers waiting around the corner. So, you can't beat the kids to death. But these gangs are apparently pretty rare.

Some other miscellaneous facts Ozzy told me:

Feel free to ask people for help as they will go out of their way to assist you.

I should be able to see everything I want to in Istanbul in less than two weeks (even for my slow, fat ass).

If I get invited to someone's home to dine, chocolates are acceptable but something like 'Turkish delight' (called Lokum locally - say that word a couple times and you'll see why it didn't catch on in English) is just as appreciated.

The internet is most accessible in/near tourist type areas. A bit iffy in other spots.

Due to altitude, the winter is more mild in the North of the country than the South.

Eastern and Western Turks are very different.

They have the Arabic conception of personal space (ie there is no personal space).

There are underground water cisterns I should check out. They weren't used to prepare for siege or anything like that, just to keep the population watered. They aren't used any more but tourists are shown them.

There is a nice train that goes from Istanbul to Ankara (about halfway through the country). He wasn't sure past there.

He said I should be cautious if I go to the south eastern part of Turkey as they are more religious there. Also, Iran, Iraq, Syria and such are there. I should be OK as my 'general current plan' is to wander toward Georgia. The country, not the state.

I would like to thank Ozzy for giving me some 'insider information' into Turkey and Istanbul! He has a knowledge and appreciation of Turkey's interesting past and culture. [Unlike Matt L who has pieced together what he knows about England from small facts gleaned from packets of sugar and tabloid magazines.]



On one of the travel shows I watch (don't know the title, sorry) they had mentioned that Vatican City had the lowest age of consent at 12 years old. I thought "That is completely insane! Who the hell would have that?" I mean, even 18 can seem a bit dicey sometimes. But, I did some research and found out it is not 12. It use to be 12 but they decided that was rubbish and wanted to go with what Italy is going with. So no more of that 'aged 12' nonsense. It's now 14. WTF. Apparently, this is not unusual.


"An Idiot Abroad". Wow, is this guy clueless and small minded. But that's why he got the show... One of the executive producers (Ricky Gervais) described it as the most expensive, cruelest practical joke he's ever played on someone. I do like the cruelty of it, that appeals to me. I also like some of the 'honesty' of it. Unlike most other tourists who tell you all of the great stuff, he tells you what he doesn't like. Actually, he never stops telling you what he doesn't like. He doesn't like any of it. He's a bit whiny too. I think a lot of people are a bit like him - and don't want to get out of their comfort zone. More on this show after I've watched all of the episodes. I'm not sure if this is the kind of show that will make it for a second season.

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{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

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