Days 33 Onwards: Serious Lesson in Procrastination
Notice the date. It is February 2013 and the Gees are only now wrapping up the account of our holiday that took place in July 2012. Talk about poor form.
Why the delay, you may ask. Well, procrastination. And unhappiness. And a bit of a time shortage. See, after Day 33, our time in Cappadocia quickly wound up. We spent five days there in entirety - ate FAR too much pottery chicken and chicken shish, took in amazing views at every turn, and soaked up the rural Turkish hospitality. G1 especially loved this destination and would be very happy to return in the future. G2 was a bit over it all. He tends to get to bit grumpy towards the end of a big, international holiday. Craves familiar food, wants his own pillow, those sorts of things.
After the Cappadocian portion of our holiday came Istanbul - and then home. I challenge anyone to visit Istanbul and not mentally chant, “Istanbul, not Constantinople; Istanbul, not Constantinople,” It was on a continuous loop through my head as I took in the bustling streets and character-laced squares of this remarkable destination.
Istanbul is truly an incredible city, one that spans two continents, as remarkable as that is to consider. One side of the Bosphorus is Asia, the other is Europe: a meeting place of two very different histories and cultures. Istanbul pulls off its delicate crossroads position with great expertise, a teeming city of conundrums. Translucent Irish backpackers, all knobbly knees and freckle-dappled bare shoulders bump against hijab-adorned Muslim girls, eyes fringed with thick, black lashes absorbing their surroundings like lost does. Calls to prayer reverberate across the outside seating areas of world-wide fast food outlets. Ottoman mosques and Byzantine cathedrals stand side by side, giants of the city’s faith. The city swells with every combination of food, dress, and language, a proverbial melting pot the size of America, condensed into a single heaving city.
G1 does not normally like cities. There are exceptions, of course. New Orleans was the first to make that list - a city worth revisiting. Next to be added was Paris. And now, Istanbul. A city worth the frustration, the crowds, the heat, the jostling, the noise, the just-barely-covered chaos. Remarkable, no?
Getting to Istanbul by air was something I was moderately concerned about…but having been completely petrified and unbelievably uncomfortable on moderate-length bus rides already, I figured it was worth a shot. Using the spotty internet at our Cappadocia hotel, I booked in with Pegasus Air. Cheap as chips, and the website was easy enough. Strangely enough: Pegasus was spectacular. I was so uneasy about a small, local carrier in Turkey, but their service was brilliant AND we were in a completely brand new airplane. By brand new, I mean there were still pieces of protective plastic sheeting on some areas of the seats! The flight was flawless. Kudos, Pegasus. You’ve got an awesome name and your flight ranks 9.8 on a scale of 1, dragged along by a vulture through a cactus patch, to 10, actually riding on a winged horse.
We arrived in Istanbul very late at night. Deciding to skip the drama of finding our own way a few kms down the road to the official dolmus (minibus) stand, we decided to splurge on a direct taxi ride. Thanks to my procrastination, I can’t remember exactly how much it was. But it was expensive. ($120? Something like that). We were watching the meter tick and tick and tick. And tick. The ride was almost an hour! But that’s a misleading figure to use to judge distance. Because an hour in a car going 60 kms/hour is different to being in one going 170 kms/hour. Because that’s how fast we were going. No exaggeration. Gee Two remembers topping out at 180. It was a nerve-wracking hour, but not as much as you’d think. The road was very wide and straight, and nearly everyone else out that late at night was driving just as ridiculously fast.
Obviously we made it safe and and sound. And broke as a joke, thanks to that ridiculously expensive fare. Deposited at the front door of our pre-booked hotel, we were already imagining the warm happiness of a shower and bed in a REAL room, not a cave like we had been occupying in Cappadocia. The cave is cute at first, but after a few nights you start wondering if the dust you’re constantly inhaling is going to result in some sort of old age chronic lung disease. Watch this space.
At the front desk, we were unceremoniously told that our room had been sold out from under us because they attempted to run the credit card I had given as security and it was declined. Uh - yeah, with an excess of $5000 standing credit on the card, it had been declined. Add in the fact that our reservations, right there in my hot little hand, covered us until midnight, and we walked in the door at 5 past 11, and they had one angry American on their hands. I was ready to demand an upgrade when the desk clerk flat said they were completely booked out. Awesome. The boys behind the desk started scrambling through their tiny black books of competitors, desperately trying to secure a replacement room so the little blonde in their lobby would stop screeching at them in pseudo-Aus-merican.
It was tense, but eventually something was dredged up. Toddling down the road with our suitcases, trailing one of the hotel employees, we found ourselves with a room at last. As much as sleeping on the streets of Istanbul sounded like an awesome adventure, the end of Gee holidays are not the time for adventures. They are the time for relaxation and settling down, soaking up sleep and comfort in anticipation for the long trip home. Being roomless in a bustling international city is only acceptable at the beginning of a holiday. ;)
We sadly spent little time in Istanbul - I would love to go back and see more of it in the future. I know my own distaste for big cities, so booked in one day before flying out the following evening. With only ONE day to explore such a huge city, we focused on only two destinations. First: the Blue Mosque, one of the most well-known tourist spots in Turkey. There’s no doubt it is beautiful, but with the high temperatures and inconvenient lines, we decided against “suiting up” (covering up) to gain admission to the inside. The outside was remarkable enough. :)
So, that was a minor stop on our day - the number one destination of our time in Istanbul was the Grand Bazaar. THE Grand Bazaar. You know, the name doesn’t suit it. It’s not grand, it’s INCREDIBLE. It’s ANCIENT. It’s STUPENDOUS. Having been built in the mid-1400s, right after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, it remains one of the most ancient covered markets in the world at 600 years old. More impressive than its age is its size - it spans SIXTY ONE streets, housing more than 3,000 shops. These stalls offer up everything from custom created leather jackets to hand-crafted glass lanterns to a daily customer base of 250,000-400,000 visitors. Yes, nearly half a million visitors in one single day!
So what’s it like in real life? Absolutely mesmerizing. High karat gold glittering, incense burning, vendors chatting, a haze of sweet clove smoke hovering over the crowd. The morning was quiet and relaxed, as the intensity of the crowd slowly built over the course of the day. There was something colorful, something new, something enchanting at every turn of the head. Soft cashmere pashminas, knockoff jeans, sweet treats, and silver tea serving sets. A million trinkets I could never use, and a million trinkets I wanted regardless.
The time we spent there slipped by quickly for G1, who loved every second and took the opportunity to stock up on gifts for special family members. G2 tolerated the experience, as men are want to do when it comes to shopping. Before we knew it, our Turkish adventure came to an end as we boarded our Australian-bound Emirates flight that evening…only to come home and promptly forget to finish this blog. What an excellent lesson to learn though - the freshness, the enjoyment of a holiday is so well relived through written words.
Next year when the Gees travel again, blog entries will be at the top of the list of holiday responsibilities!