Bulgaria & Turkey, November 2001 Travelogue
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Monday, Dec. 10th, 2001

Urgup and the bus back to Istanbul

On Monday I was in no hurry to do anything, so I got up late & was immediately disappointed by a lack of hot water. Since I was alone in the hotel, I wandered out to the front desk in my pajamas and asked where the hot water had gone. The guy there seemed very concerned, talked to another guy and started rushing about. He said, "let it run". I let it run for about 15 minutes, decided that nothing was going to change, and jumped in. This was the third time that my stay at a hotel had ended with a cool-water shower.

I suspected a grand conspiracy to spoil my trip.

I checked out around noon and took a cab back to town, depositing my bag at the tour company office so I could walk around until my bus left that evening.
I had seven hours, so I went hiking up and in the shallow cliff-caves around the surrounding hills. It didn't take long at all to find some interesting photos of semi-rural life. I liked the caves, it was like looking into a time-warp back to life two thousand years ago. Usually, when you wander through a vast complex of foreign caves, it is a good idea to have someone with you. I was very careful.

I ate a late lunch at a little deserted restaurant. It was impossible to judge which restaurants were popular because they were all empty during the day due to Ramadan. This one was warm, but the food was very plain. The lentil soup tasted like the flour-and-water mixture I use for paper mache.
After lunch I did another circuit around town & found a little internet place with a nice young brother & sister running it. Sundown approached & the girl invited me to break-fast with them with some soup and youvarlaki (cabbage rolls). I resisted at first but then agreed and we made our way through with hand signals and a tiny bit on English.

A couple of their friends or customers came in while we were having some tea & played a 6-string Turkish instrument and sang. The girl joined in singing while she washed the dishes. It was awesome.

Just as we were getting to know each other, I had to leave to catch my bus back to Istanbul.

And what a bus! About 20 minutes into the 11 hour, overnight trip, the bus stewardess motioned to my laptop, saying, "no problem". I thought she meant that it was going to get in the way as she served me some coffee, but she reached over and tipped the screen down & shut.
A guy across the aisle tried to explain it to me, "she says you cannot use your laptop because...ah..." He didn't know the words. I was infuriated. I had used it on 4 busses already, not to mention commercial jet aircraft, and I didn't have the words to argue the point. The busses in Turkey have recently been outfitted with complex speed-monitors that track their speed for the entire trip. So maybe she thought it would scramble that, or the lit screen would keep people awake, or my tapping the keys would annoy the other people on the bus.

So next the monitors went on, and a dubbed version of John Hughes' "Baby's Day out" came on. Oh man, this was going to suck. Next, the bus stewardess saw me taking off my shoes and wrinkled up her face in a horrible death-mask, waving her hands in front of her nose, "oh nooo!".

I was mortified. Apparently my feet were the worst thing this woman had smelled in her 45 years in Turkey. I put my shoes back on.

I was bored shitless with hot feet, pissed and confused about the laptop thing. I wanted off the bus. Unfortunately there was snow on the ground outside.

So then, when the movie is over and the lights are off, the bus driver real slyly starts smoking cigarettes, and the stewardess starts dousing the bus in this rose-perfume stuff to hide it from the passengers. I was so mad.

I took my shoes off and hid my socked feet under my coat. I smelled my shoes and they were fine. She must have just anticipated a stank.

I made up my mind to get to the bottom of the no-laptop rule once I arrived at in Istanbul.

I got some sleep & managed to not die of boredom.

In Istanbul I unloaded my backpack and was motioned toward a service-bus headed out of the bus station and into Sultanahmet. It left immediately, so I didn't have a chance to chew out the bus company. For future reference, the Nevtur bus company sucks.

Looking down on Urgup from the cave houses

Sparrows on barbed wire

Caves in Cappadocia

Local woman hosing down her carpet

Melons and squash stored under straw in a cave

Dinner at the internet cafe

Snow on the ground at a roadside rest-stop

Tuesday, Dec. 11th, 2001

Istanbul return, Taksim and Vincent

I went back to the Hostel I had been at before, and a two-week absence had seen some changes put into place. The price was a million less, there was free breakfast and they offered free beer in the bar between 9 and 10pm.

I got room 72, with 3 other guys. It was about 7am at this point, so I crawled into bed. My alarm clock, which was locked inside my backpack, started going off at 8:30. With a red face, I pulled it out and shut it off.

Everyone was now awake, and they slowly got up and went out. I got up too, took a shower and went out to explore a little more Istanbul.

I took a cab to Taksim and did some souvenir shopping. It was close enough to my exit time that I was willing to risk finding something heavy.

I didn't find much, and headed back to the room. It was sprinkling a bit. Everyone let me know that this was the first day in three without torrential rain.

I bought a bus ticket to Greece for the next morning, went back to my favorite internet cafe...not much to write about. The guys in my room were from England and Sweden. I tried to convince the Swedish guy that buying things online is secure, and got to see the English guy's map of Pakistan. He was sending it home, figuring a trip to Pakistan would be more advisable in the future.

At 9pm, I went downstairs to see what a bar is like when the beer is free. Indeed, it was filled with people, drinking as fast as their custom allowed. Everyone was in a good mood, some coming in from local hostels to take advantage of the hospitality here.

After 10, as you might expect, the bar was less crowded but fun. I was rethinking the decision to leave tomorrow, but I had already bought my ticket.

Inside the Grand Bazaar

This column base was small enough to bring home...

More free pool in the Istanbul hostel

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Read my other travelogues: Minneapolis 2001 | Burning Man 2001 | Europe 1999 | Costa Rica 2000

Back to main Cockeyed | Write to Rob@Cockeyed.com Last updated Dec. 15, 2001.
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