Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Turkish Odyssey - Travel and Day 1

What follows is a direct transcription of my travel journal.

3/16/13 (Recounting 3/14 & 3/15): 
In the worlds smallest plane, I fail to stand. We are told to expect turbulance. A fifty min. flight. So fast we never climb over 12,000 feet. Eternities move faster than the final approach. Lurch, jolt, bum. A thesaurus is needed to describe the movement of the plane once we dipped into the marshmallow clouds. Never has joy to thump onto the tarmac been so sweet.

Brief layover complete, round 2. 9h35m from fabulous Newark, NJ to the unknown. Istanbula, so the flight attendant calls it in "bad Turkish, phonetically read" a Turkish passenger is overheard to say.  Grand movie selection, but an ill fated trivia game renders our screens incapacitated until we ascend above 10,000 feet. Now safe to use your electronics, thank goodness. Skyfall was worth the wait, screaming infants should have waited a few more months to make the trip, but when travel calls one must go. Cries on cue every 30-45min. If it were my child, 50 shades of red I would turn at keeping an entire section of the plane up. Woody Allen missed the mark in some disconnected sorrowful tale about Rome. Crying infant again, sleep never really comes. Still have to figure out how to sleep on a plane w/o getting that nasty dry throat patch. Give up and watch Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow for the fourth time. Solid, but I am not sure where else you can go with that series Mr. Depp.

Final approach, Mr. Toads Wild Ride Part 2, a foreign city in a foreign land. This place is massive. It must have a gravitational pull. 18million people are here for some reason, and it is not to speak "A polite sounding language." It is to stand in front of a shop drinking apple tea from tiny clear glass cups, delivered on silver platters by men and boys hailing from unknown places. It is to pack on trams, in cars, on sidewalks, and restaurants. The city of Istanbul creaks strains under the weight of its human gravity. It bursts at the seams. Our word, oft repeated as we stumbled jet-lagged and dazed through the throng of humanity and clutter of traffic, was overwhelming.

We made the most of our time. From the airport, which is like an airport anywhere, to the evening meeting and dinner 2 naps were taken and sights were seen. Anymore might have sunk me for the rest of the trip. We are picked up by a company rep at the airport and taken to Hotel mosaic. A bewildering hour walk brings us, 20tl later, to the damp smelling dark cistern. Water was delivered to a space the size of 2 football fields from at least 30km away. The Romans built this, no idea how. Boggles the mind. I keep thinking of the weight of the earth and city above, of earthquakes and crumbling stone, but this place has stood the test of time. Hippodrome, 2 obelisks later (1 Egyptian, 1 Roman), and 1 bronze stick celebrating Roman victory of Persia. My mind fails to think on such scales of time.

Trek back, Grand Bazzar. Bizarre Bazzar. Oppressive heat. Eyes fall on us, pitches, pleas, "hello American...where are you from?" Combined lack of food, sleep, and the heat...I feel dizzy and want to run away from this place never to return. Thankfully we make it back, nap most welcome, and drift to sleep with the haunting intoning of the Koran bellowed from a minaret somewhere in the sprawling city beyond the tightly shut window.

We get oriented, discovering that yes we are the youngest on the trip, apart from a college sophomore from Amherst on the trip with his older Aunt.  Levent is our guide "for next 10 days." Don't drink the tepid water or eat the street food because you don't want the "diarrhea problems." Dinner is most welcome but it is all I can do to not fall asleep in my overcooked dry pot roast. Sleep comes and my clock is reset, jet-lag over...made it.

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