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Trip to Turkey September 2004
In September of 2004, Tom and I went to Turkey for three weeks.  It was my first trip over the Atlantic Ocean and I had been wanting to visit Turkey for about 20 years.  Tom spent 3 years of his childhood in Izmir and was interested in returning to see if it would be familiar.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

I had an unusually good flight, possibly due to the flight precautions I took. 

Tom and my first introduction to Turkey was the wild ride by taxi from the airport to our Hotel, Sultan's Inn on Kucuk Ayasofya Caddesa (koochook Aye-ah-Sophia Cod-eshee) in Istanbul's "old district" (Sultanahmet). 

Driving in Turkey is an entirely different experience than driving in the USA (or even Mexico).  If you are interested in the details, check here, but the short description is this:  there were red hexagonal signs with the word "DUR" on them that had a similar effect to traffic flow as the lines painted on the road:  none that we could see.

hotel roof top viewWe were on the third floor of Sultan's Inn .  In Turkey, the first floor is one flight up, so being on the third floor meant we walked up three flights of an old spiral staircase without a handrail.  Apparently, most buildings of less than 6 floors in Istanbul do not have elevators.  Handrails are practically unknown.  The hotel was in a charming old building and the walls and ceilings were draped with tapestries, but our room was barely large enough to walk around the bed on 2 sides. 

The bathroom was similarly small, and the shower was the smallest I had ever seen.  After taking a shower and nearly falling on my face trying to get out of it and finding a nozzle in the back of the sit-down toilet, the whole place was feeling uncomfortably foreign and I wondered why were going to waste 3 weeks in Turkey when we could have taken our vacation in Hawaii.

I made 3 unsuccessful phone calls trying to reach Sarah.  All of them seemed to be wrong numbers, but whatever Turkish I heard from the other end was beyond my limited understanding.  On the street, most of the women my age were wearing scarves that completely covered their hair and many also covered their necks.  The street was stone and every so often a merchant with a pushcart would come by and announce his wares.  I turned to Tom and repeated the first thing that came to my mind:  "new lamps for old...  new lamps for old."

We looked at a map of Istanbul and realized that we were perfectly situated to see most of the tourist sites.  Since it was midafternoon and too early to go to sleep we decided to take a walk and see whatever we happened upon.  We found ourselves in the Arista market.  The Arista market is about 2 full blocks of stores full of handicrafts, but, like the other tourist markets we discovered in Turkey, looking for more than 3 seconds in any one direction immediately brought out the shop owner or attendant who would attempt to persuade us to go into the store so we could be better pressured into buying.  As a result of the hard sell pressure we actually purchased fewer items on this trip than what we presupposed we might.  We did enjoy the scenery, and returned to the hotel about 3 hours later.

After asking for help from the hotel desk clerk (who might also be the hotel owner, we aren't sure), I finally reached Sarah by phone.  She wanted to meet us the next day and gave us directions.
hotel roof top view

Tomorrow we were supposed to walk back to the Arista market, find the large yellow hotel, turn right and go to a kilim shop to meet Sadi.  He would phone her and she would come meet us there. 
hotel roof top view After all this foreign exposure I didn't know if I had the emotional strength to meet a stranger, not that we'd ever met Sarah before either; but at least Sarah grew up in the state of Washington, spoke our language, and was fluent and familiar enough with Turkey (having lived in Istanbul for more than a year) that she would put as at ease and perhaps help us bridge the cultural divide (we hoped).  But that was for tomorrow.  Maybe we'd have the strength tomorrow.
We heard the call-to-prayer several times this day and once more before we fell asleep.
Created:  November 15, 2004
Updated:  November 21, 2004
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