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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

THOUGHTS ON GOREME

Both of the tourists I've spoken with were unhappy with their 'set' tours. The tour booking agencies set up their accommodation and transportation but the people who were disappointed still wanted something else. I think they had expected to be with a group of people instead of on their own. Make friends and all of that. I think there is good and bad points with having someone else make your itinerary. For people who are trying to get their two weeks of freedom, it may not be a bad thing. You pay someone else to do the thinking and planning if you can't be bothered. For long term travelers, I fail entirely to see the benefit.



HEADING TO ISTANBUL

Despite wanting to play Backgammon with Denge, I was feeling extremely underwhelmed by Turkey. I decided to burn hard to get to Istanbul. I'm not sure what I was wanting out of Turkey because I had to expectations of it other than getting to eat Turkish food.

I had the good fortune of meeting up with Annaka, a mad Scotts woman. She hit the nail on the head when she summarized the situation. Turkey is bad after experiencing Georgian hospitality. In Georgia, you felt they were very glad to see you. In Turkey, you feel they are very glad to see your money. This fails to fill my heart with joy. It is my belief that it will be just as bad if not worse in Egypt due to their self fucking of their tourist economy. I've heard they are extremely desperate for tourists. Perhaps Turkey will get me ready to some extent for that shit.

The bus from Goreme to Istanbul is not an easy one. First, you have to take a service bus to a town called Nevshehir about an hour away. You then wait for an hour or two to get onto a double decker bound for Istanbul. They held up the bus for fifteen minutes for five people who choose to be late. I'd have left them but the bus companies here don't work that way for some reason.

I was thinking I might find less gross commercialization in Istanbul. I thought that a bigger city would dilute to some extent this. I was wrong. I had toyed with the idea of spending some time hanging out here. I decided fuck that. If you're not having a good time, get the fuck out.

Travelers have told me that you can see all of the major sites by walking - clustered nicely together. [This later turned out to be true. At "Logan speed" I did most if not all of the major sites - and certainly everything I wanted to see - within eight hours.]

We got crammed into our 'award winning' bus for Istanbul (how??) and I felt like I had as much room as a dick in a condom. I'm really glad that the guy sitting in front of me didn't decide to suddenly recline his chair. I'm certain both of my legs would have snapped. Although I've been told that all Turkish buses have bathrooms, if this one did it was well camouflaged. No worries about going to the bathroom, however. The bus stops every two or three hours for about twenty minutes.

I have an old friend named Derek. Once, when Derek and I were headed into my apartment, I stopped to say hi to a neighbor of mine who was sitting on the steps. Derek was a bit surprised at this behavior and explained that he had never talked to a neighbor he'd lived next door to for seven years. I told him that my neighbor had just moved in and we introduced ourselves. So, it won't come as a surprise to Derek that I was talking to one of my fellow passengers at a bus stop. What might surprise Derek is that the passenger approached a sleepy Logan to talk to him first. The man's name was 'Sally' (though I'm sure it has different spelling, that's how it is pronounced) and he was about my age. He explained that he was taking his daughter (young and pretty) off across the country to Istanbul for college. I sure hope college is a very different experience in Turkey than it is in the states!

When we were within twenty or thirty kilometers of Istanbul, we hit a large traffic jam. It turns out that people were busy rubbernecking at two buses which had gotten into what looked to be a tremendous crash. Yes, I was rubber necking (well, as much as I was able) but I wasn't driving or holding up the vehicle. We came across two other crashes after that which were more minor but it set the 'traffic situation stage'. We call that 'foreshadowing'. [Sadly, thus far, nothing else of interest has happen making it 'non-congruent foreshadowing.]

On the eight hour bus trip, I was literally forcibly subjected to Turkish TV. It is the most god awful stuff you can ever see. The camera work is absolutely rubbish, following the actors smallest movements, and they don't use a good 'finishing'. I'm not sure what I mean by 'finishing' - whatever the process used that makes the film not look like cheap rubbish. Naturally, everything is in Turkish or dubbed into Turkish. The soap operas I was subjected to till I started screaming and weeping were totally incomprehensible with dramatic cuts to the person being talked to for a 'reaction shot'. Apparently, nobody told the other actor they were suppose to react. It made me want to bite the heads off of whippets. They then forced me to watch music videos. I have categorized them into two different types. Naturally, I despise both. The first is sung only by males and it is the dramatic soulful expression as he sings about the girl he use to have. She left. Now, he is sad. The second type of music video is made only by woman and I have entitled "Fuck my pussy". My guess is that the Turkish music industry markets cross genders with their shitty production values and "1980's music videos at their worst were where these guys are at now" set up.

Thankfully, we were eventually let off of this bus to transfer onto another bus that would take us to 'sultanimate' (or some crap) which is the district I needed to get to. This bus was free as well. A note of caution on this bus. You put in your pack then the bus will take off just as soon as it is full. Hence, if you put your pack in, immediately get your ass onto the bus. Don't hesitate, smoke or talk to someone else. Otherwise, you may go through the 'I got separated from my gear for many hours' scenario. I didn't but I can easily see it happening to someone. The door was literally closed in the faces of some people who were thinking they'd get on. I'm sure they have buses running regularly.

When I finally got into Istanbul proper the first thing that happened is...people wanted to sell me shit. All the time, people want to sell me shit. Good shit, bad shit, stupid shit. I managed to get directions out of part of the "My friend!" crowd and went to the hostel.

When I got there, it was pretty much chaos. After resisting getting charged more for a room than advertised, I settled in. By this time, I was already thinking "Well, lets see some shit so I can get out of here." That didn't take long. When I went initially to Batumi I had thoughts like "What a quirky little town. Lets see if I can live cheaply and explore it for a week." Here, I am at an ancient town, surrounded by hordes of tourists.

I apologize to my Turkish friends, but thus far Turkey has been a completely over commercialized, expensive, disappointing when I see it bust. This is odd to me as many other travelers are seeming to enjoy it. The amount of commercialization makes it seem more of a tourist ride than a real country to me at times.

I found one of the doorways to Hell in Istanbul so I immediately took it. I treated myself to an overpriced Starbucks coffee and found it to be pretty good indeed.

Naturally, I've met a lot of great - and very interesting - people at the hostel. It's always kind of a 'United Nations' feeling there. And yes, everyone speaks fucking English.



GENERAL TURKEY NOTES

Turkey respects all religions, much like other countries I've been to such as Bosnia and Georgia.



CARPET VENDOR
Hakan; wealth of knowledge.

A rug as old as the USA.

After I got done seeing the Sophia thing, the guy who helped me to get into it (and skip the huge line) took me to his families carpet store. They've had this carpet store in their family for five generations. The store itself stocks about 3600 carpets.

The family business is more of a collective effort rather than 'many mouths to feed'. there are thirty five people in the extended family not including children. If the family needs something it pulls together as a group to get someone a marrage ceremony, new house, whatever. It kind of goes on the old IMC ("e-mag-ah") system. This was the people who help each other out in the village system.

A great quote I got was "Carpet buying and selling is a trust business." - Hakan.

Rugs wildly vary in price depending on everything. Pattern, region, etc. Just knowing the number of stitches in a centimeter is simply not enough.

Hakan told me that carpets are like 'mother's breasts'. "If you don't love carpets, you don't learn them." and "Carpets are our mirror to the past."

there are twenty two carpet making countries in the world. All of them call carpets 'halla' or 'hallie'. this is Arabic or Farsee meaning 'situation'. Carpets show the situation of the person who weaved it. Her life, religion, economic situation, everything. Carpets are a library to the person. Only in non-carpet weaving countries are they called 'carpets' or 'rugs'. 'Carpet' means covering.

For this family, they say that friendship is more important than business. Their principle of business is that friendship gets you recommendations.
The family store.



DRIVING

If you don't get off on traffic jams, don't drive in Istbanbul.




FRUSTRATON

So many people kept asking me 'Where are you from?' They didn't care - they were using it as a rather obvious lead in to 'I will attempt to sell you something!' I got frustrated with this and started telling people I was from R'lyeh, a small island in the South Pacific ruled by president elect for life, Cthulhu. I gave this up soon simply because it raised more questions, solved less and it made me feel a bit of an asshole.



CUSTOMS

At a Muslims house, if they have you stay the night, they will send a kid with you to your room to 'take care of you'. Basically, he just watches over you to make sure you are OK. He may even sleep in your room. It was a bit odd to the traveler who was telling me about it. He said that while he was their guest, he was never alone.




TRAVELERS LORE

According to Kara (nice lady I met at the hostel) Greece is much more expensive than Turkey. Screw that, I responded.

The tourist season in India is from October or November until April. Some cool places to go in India include Cashmere, Rajestian, Leh. (Note, these names may be misspelled. I'll do research when we get closer to India time.)

Pakistan may also be interesting - apparently the people there are really nice.



COSTS

Tea from Goreme cafe, .5 TRY

Cheapest food in Goreme, 12 TRY for a meal

Entry fee, bassilica 10 TRY

Laundry service, 8 TRY (more if your clothing weighs more than 2 KG)

A kebab and soda off of the tourist area, 8.5 TRY

Two small pieces of sweet pastry, 4 TRY. Passed on that crap.

Starbucks, 11 TRY. Surprisingly good. Don't know if it was $6 good, but I was celebrating my upcoming escape from Turkey.



VIDEOS

Tourists Everywhere

Dead Sultans

Blue Mosque A

Blue Mosque B

Yousef and Hagia Sophia


Hagia Sophia PART A, PART B, PART C, PART D

Drugs 4 U a

Drugs 4 U b

Georgia, who?

Call to Prayer

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PICTURES

{{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

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan | Portugal: Faro

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