The short version on Turkey: I hung out in Istanbul, went to Ephesus and Pamukkale, and got majorly ripped off for lunch one day. I had a Turkish bath (which was amazing). The group that I traveled to Ephesus and Pamukkale with was one of the best groups I’ve traveled with, and it completely made the trip.
November 7, 2007
“Can I hassle you?”
As has become the tradition, I got up early to watch us pull into port with Ashley. I went up to 7 forward, but it was closed, probably because of the wind. I saw other people out there, so I went out too. I think that I went out just in time, because I walked out right as we were pulling around the Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. It was something spectacular to see. Ashley wasn’t out there, so I assumed she went back to bed because our usual spot was closed.
I went up to breakfast after I got done hanging out in the wind. I saw Laura and Tim and joined them, where Laura let me know that Ashley and Meghan would be up soon. We all ate and then decided to nap until the ship was cleared. I ended up sleeping until 10, but then I figured that Ashley and Meghan would be awake, so I went over to their room. I ended up waking them up, but then slept on their floor because we were all still tired. We finally got the call to get passports about the time that lunch was opening, so we all picked them up and then ate on the ship. During immigration form passout, I had the unfortunate experience to be in Akirah’s line. I couldn’t find the spot on my landing form that I needed to fill in my name, so I asked her. She rolled her eyes at me and sarcastically said, “Where it says name.” Akirah is really the only RD that I don’t like. All of the other RDs are really cool, and Akirah can be just flat out mean.
When we finally left the ship, we were offered so many taxis that it was just insane, but the girls decided they wanted to walk to Kapali Carsi (the Grand Bazaar). It was cold and raining, and we didn’t really have any sense of orientation as to where we were, so I would have just assumed take a taxi, but no one else wanted to. We walked down 2 tram stations and we ran into Dr. Wattenmaker (who lived in Turkey for a long time) and asked her if she could direct us from where we were. She wasn’t oriented herself, so she translated directions from someone else. We got the tram to a stop that let us off right next to the bazaar.
The bazaar was extremely overpriced. I couldn’t afford anything there. We all got hit on a lot. Some of the lines are just classics: “It’s pretty, but not as pretty as you,” “Can I hassle you?” “Do you need a Turkish boyfriend? I’m rich!” While we did get ogled and hit on, we were never groped, which is a huge improvement over India, so we all just went with it. Meghan and I went into a carpet store because the salesman had said his carpets were cheaper than Kmart. Now Meghan and I were not naïve enough to believe that his carpets were cheap. I took the line exactly as he said it: buying a carpet would be less than buying the Kmart corporation. His cheapest carpet was $650, which was completely out of our price range, so we left fairly quickly.
When we left the market we decided to amble around for a while. We actually ended up walking to the Istanbul University area. Everyone had to show id and go through security. We wanted to check out the campus so we asked security if we could, and they let us just walk right on. We found a very picturesque spot and got to hear some Korean students singing. We walked over to the student building and went into the Kantin (canteen). I got to try apple tea (which was amazing) and have a chocolate muffin before we left the campus and walked back to the metro station. We got back to the ship, and Meghan and I figured out what time we were meeting the next morning for our flight. Laura and I went over to the pizza place across the street and took advantage of their free wifi. I came back and got packed for the early day I had coming.
November 8, 2007
“I wonder why they’re all international flights…” “Maybe because we’re in the international terminal.”
Istanbul, Izmir, Selcuk, Ephesus, and Denizli, Turkey
I woke up and got out of bed at 4 to finish my packing. At 4:30 I went to Tymitz Square to meet the rest of the group, but I was the only one there. Jason showed up soon thereafter, but it was just the two of us for a little while. We left the ship at 5, and Kristen said that she had arranged for a taxi to be waiting to take us to the airport. When we got outside there were no taxis waiting, but there was a van that we could hire to drive us. Someone from port security translated for us, and the price was 50 YTL, which was around $10 each. We knew we wouldn’t get a better taxi fare than this because all the drivers were using the double fare that early in the morning. When we got to the airport, we were dropped off at the international terminal, and the driver told us we needed to pay 50 euros rather than 50 YTL. We argued for a long time, and I was to the point that I was willing to pay the extra charge. Eventually the driver got so fed up with arguing with us that he just left with the 50 YTL. When we got through security, Meghan and I told everyone that we were in the international terminal, but we were ignored. Eventually the other 3 came back and told us that they were all international flights. I wasn’t surprised, as we were in the international terminal after all. We found our way to the domestic terminal. Most of the group wanted to get breakfast, but Kristen and I didn’t, so we went ahead through security and then to the gate.
The group showed up right as a line was forming to board. Mind you, we weren’t actually boarding, we were just standing in line like little lemmings. A random Turkish man started talking to me (it’s the blonde hair, I think). We didn’t have any set plans for our second day, so I asked him what was around Ephesus. He suggested Pamukkale, which I didn’t realize was anywhere near Ephesus, but I always wanted to go to. He told the rest of the group what it was, and they misunderstood a little bit as to what it was, but wanted to go. I tried to explain to them what it was, but I was brushed off again, so I just kept my mouth shut about the place. We boarded the plane and I was next to Kristen for the flight.
When we got to Izmir we went straight ahead to look for transportation. We were joined by 2 more SASers, who were going to Ephesus. We found the train station in the airport, but there was no one there selling tickets. We went back into the airport to see about renting a car and driver for the day. They were all way too expensive, so someone went to the information desk and found out that a train would be there within 45 minutes and it would be super cheap. We grabbed a little bit of breakfast from one of the little food stands in the airport and then went back to the train station. There were other people waiting on the train, so we knew we were on the right track. We boarded and headed for Selcuk. Once we got there, a lady at the train station walked us to where we could get a cab to Ephesus. She owned a hotel, so she was really hoping that we would stay at her hotel that night. We arranged a cab to drive us to Mary’s House and the ruins of Ephesus for 50 YTL.
Mary’s house was up a mountain. The house is actually now a chapel and most of the information provided on the boards around the site was provided by the American Society of Ephesus, which is located in Lima, Ohio. Pretty cool, right? There was a spring that you could drink from or wash your hands in, and someone said it was supposed to be good luck. I washed my hands in it. The site where Mary’s House was at was so beautiful. It’s no wonder she lived there. It was just amazing. The next stop was the actual ruins of the city. When we stopped, we realized that we had no way to get back to Selcuk, so we asked our driver what the new price would be if we hired him for a couple more hours. It only raised the price by 20 YTL, so we went ahead and hired him to wait for us. The ruins themselves were just amazing. After all the ruins I have seen on this trip, I still love them. There was a section of the ruins that cost extra to go in. I was straggling behind the group because I was taking it all in, and when I got there to pay the fee, the group (besides Meghan) was way ahead of me. The man selling us tickets was leering at me to the point that it made me uncomfortable. When we got into the building, I saw Nick and yelled, “There’s my favorite husband!” and then he just yelled back, “Damn straight! I’ll kill anyone who touches you.” It was really funny and also nice to know that I was traveling with guys who had my back. We were late to get back to our cab, but our driver didn’t seem to be too upset. He dropped us off in Selcuk right in front of the hotel of the lady that helped us that morning. She ran out of her hotel, thinking we were there to stay for the night. Of course, none of us actually wanted to. We got lunch in town and then went to the train station where we got on the train to Denizli. After getting to Denizli, a few guys stopped to talk to us in the station and help us figure out where to stay. They walked us to a hotel and helped us get rooms and told us how to get to the bus station the following morning.
November 9, 2007
“I got ripped off at Burger King.”
Denizli, Pamukkale, Izmir, and Istanbul, Turkey
We got breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of just bread. We walked to the bus station and found a bus with relative ease. It was a bus used primarily by locals. Someone helped us tell the driver where we wanted to get off. When we got to our stop, everyone turned around and looked at us sitting in the back of the bus, because it was obviously the stop for the five tourists in the back. It was very foggy when we got there. Pamukkale/Hieropolis was a ruins site with carbon hot spring located on the side of a cliff.
The beginning of the ruins was the cemetery of the old city. It was so foggy at the beginning that it was really difficult to see. Jason and I decided that we wanted to walk back through the ruins after we had seen the hot springs. We walked through the ruins trying to find the white cliffs we saw in the picture the day before. We ended up finding the aqueduct the old city used and then the hot springs (which if I had been listened to, we would have found in the beginning, but I was just ignored, as usual). We got to the hot springs soon after. All of the guidebooks said we had to stay off of the white cliffs, but people were walking all over them, so we did too. At about this point, Kristen decided she was so hungry she just couldn’t take it anymore. We went to the little cafeteria and she got a cheeseburger, but the rest of us wanted to wait until we walked into the city. She didn’t even eat it. I ended up feeding it to the stray cats crawling all over the café. Since she was still hungry there was no way that she was going to tolerate walking back through the ruins, so we climbed down into the city. Jason and I actually climbed down the white cliffs, while the rest of the group went down an actual path into the city.
We walked through the city and found a place to have Turkish pizza. It was basically amazing. After lunch we caught the bus to Denizli and then a bus from Denizli to Izmir. The bus to Izmir was around 4.5 hours long. The bus actually had a drink service, which was pretty nice. They showed Kangaroo Jack dubbed in Turkish. Upon arrival in Izmir, Kristen was hungry. She looked around at the bus station to get something to eat, but decided that there was nothing there that she wanted. We negotiated a taxi to the airport after the driver said he wouldn’t stop at McDonalds for Kristen. She was very happy to discover that the airport had a Burger King. It was insanely expensive, but we all got something to eat. The man that took my money said he was out of small bills and so I didn’t get change. I took a bunch of Burger King crowns as my repayment. The five of us all wore our crowns through the airport, which made us look really stupid, but we had a really good time doing it. I got some ice cream before getting on the plane. I was sandwiched between Meghan and Jason on the flight. They were talking about plane crashes and how a lot of people don’t die from impact, but from having their legs broken and being burned alive. It wasn’t really a comforting conversation, so they started doing these weird airplane exercises they found in the inflight magazine to make me laugh. It worked very well. We mostly laughed the whole flight back to Istanbul. Upon our arrival, we got a taxi back to the ship.
November 10, 2007
“If you would be my sweetie, I would care for you like I care for my eyes.”
I met Meghan for breakfast at 8 before leaving the ship to walk to the tram station. We were walking through the port area when we heard someone yell for Meghan, and it was Kristen on the ship yelling for us to wait for her since we were using the tram. We were running late, but we waited for her. We took the tram to Sultanhamet and then went to Topkapi Palace. The Palace entrance said about half of the palace rooms were closed, but it said the Holy Relics room was open, which was good, because it was the only reason that I was going. Meghan, who is not a big fan of museums, was a good sport and followed me around through the kitchenware, weapons, and treasury sections. We stopped at a little café inside the palace that had an advertisement for ice cream, but they didn’t have any, despite the poster saying they did. The cashier gave us some of the pretzels he was eating and we continued on our way. I went into the Harem by myself because it cost extra, and Meghan didn’t really want to see it. It was beautiful. It surpassed the rest of the palace by far. It made the palace worth the visit. After I went through the Harem, we had gone through the whole palace but we didn’t find the Holy Relics room, so we walked back through. We finally found it and it was closed! It was very upsetting. Meghan and I begged a security guard to let us in, and he said that he would have but there were security cameras. We offered him a bribe, which he was very tempted to take, but still didn’t because of the cameras. I was really bummed, but there wasn’t really a lot I could do about it.
When we left Topkapi Palace, we walked to the Basilica Cistern. On the way we passed a few shops. We stopped in them to see if we could pick up some cheap souvenirs. It turns out that they didn’t sell anything even close to cheap so we continued on our way. We passed someone who was probably the only vendor selling ice cream in all of Istanbul and got some. As we were buying our ice cream, someone walked past a nearby candy stand and knocked it over. I helped the man pick up the candy, and he gave me some gum. We continued our walk, and got to the cistern, which really wasn’t far away. There was really eerie music playing in the cistern, which really set the atmosphere for the whole thing. After we walked through it we decided that we were going to try and find a place to get a Turkish bath. There was a place in my guidebook that was recommended and it was on the same street as the cistern. We decided on that one. As we were walking, we wanted to make sure that we were actually going in the right direction. We asked a rug salesman and ended up getting into conversation with him. The entire conversation was a lie. Meghan and I pretended we were sisters and used fake names. We told him we were from Canada (which is what we were telling everyone).
We found the bathhouse after we left the rug store, and decided that since we knew where it was, we would find lunch nearby. We found a little café right around the corner. The café played the Macarena and one other song on a loop. I ordered penne with chicken and Meghan got a pizza. Meghan’s pizza was delivered from Domino’s and my penne with chicken was just a single chicken strip without any penne. We got the check and we were outrageously overcharged, but our only choice was to pay it. I did argue with the café owner, and he insisted that the way the Turkish make penne is actually by breading and deep frying chicken. In the end we unhappily paid and went to the bathhouse. The bathhouse was reserved for a special tour group, so we weren’t allowed in. We decided to walk to the another bathhouse that was recommended to us by a couple of friends. They said that it was located near one of the more famous bathhouses, so we asked for directions from a Turkish policeman (who had a giant rifle) and started on our way. We couldn’t find the one we were looking for, so a rug salesman offered to help us out. He started taking us to the bathhouse that was closed, and we told him we were looking for one in Sultanhamet. He insisted that it didn’t exist and told us that if we were going to get a Turkish bath that we should wait for the closed bathhouse because it was the best. It was pouring down rain so he offered to let us sit in his shop in Kapali Carsi for a little while until the bathhouse opened back up to the public again. This seemed kind of sketchy, but we figured that he would just show us a bunch of rugs and be disappointed when we didn’t buy them. What we got was so much more than that.
We got apple tea and lounged on the couch in the store for a while. One of sketchy rug salesman’s creepy friends came in and sat on the couch next to me, telling me what a nice girl he thought I was and that he wanted me to be his sweetie. I told him that I had a boyfriend, and he said that it was ok; he didn’t mind sharing. He started rubbing my forehead, and sketchy rug salesman made him leave. At this point you probably don’t understand why I am calling him sketchy rug salesman, but you will soon. He started hitting on Meghan because she told him she didn’t have a boyfriend because she couldn’t come up with a fake name for him. He kept inviting us out for the night, but we told him we were going to see the Whirling Dervishes. He said we should skip them because it’s boring or that I could go and Meghan should hang out with him. He escorted us to his other store on the same street as the bathhouse where we hung out for a little while and drank Turkish tea. At this point, we realized that we probably should find somewhere else to go, but wanted to be out of the rain and not be hassled by anyone else. At least in this shop we were being hit on, but not touched. It was a lesser of two evils choice. He told Meghan that he had a bed in the back and that if we wanted he would serve us wine after the our baths were over. He also told us that he would get us ice cream and take us out for hookah. When the time finally came, we went to the bathhouse only to find out that they only took cash. Neither of us had enough cash on us for a bath, so we decided to postpone it until the next day. We went back to the tram, which was extraordinarily crowded. The best way to describe it is that we were packed in like sardines. I’m not sure even that covers just how jam packed the tram actually was. You can imagine that a situation like this made it easy for sketchy Turkish men to grope any foreigner that they felt like, which they did. I was pretty thoroughly groped by up to 3 men when Meghan managed to snag a seat. I sat on her lap all the way back to the ship. Meghan and I were indescribably happy to see the ship when we got there. We decided to go across to the pizza place and use the wifi there.
This was one of those days that if it had been experienced with anyone else, anyone who was incapable of rolling with the punches, it would have been miserable. Meghan and I managed to find ways to laugh at how the day had gone horribly wrong. It was being able to laugh at how badly things had turned out that got us through the day.
November 11, 2007
“Cupcakes?” “They should just pick a side.”
I met everyone for breakfast at 8, where we figured out the plans for the day. Meghan and I hadn’t given up on the Turkish bath idea, so we decided that we would leave before everyone else then meet them at the Blue Mosque at 11. We took the tram to Sultanhamet and walked to the bathhouse that we had tried so desperately to use the day before. When we got there, we were extraordinarily disappointed to see the sign on the door saying that the bathhouse was closed from 9-11 for a special tour group. We didn’t have time to wait for the bathhouse to reopen to the public, so we decided to walk to the other bathhouse listed in the guidebook.
On the way, we stumbled down an alleyway with a bathhouse that wasn’t listed in the guidebook. We decided to give it a shot. It was cheaper than the other 2 anyway. Meghan and I got a changing room to share, and then we were escorted into the female’s side of the bathhouse. My glasses fogged up immediately upon entrance, so the attendant took them away from me and I was basically completely blind the whole time. We were escorted into this little room with marble sinks and little bowls and told to hang out there for 20 minutes. The attendant never really explained what we were supposed to be doing; she just dumped a bowl of water on Meghan and left. I was really confused by the whole situation, but Meghan and I just figured that we were supposed to dump water on ourselves. We did that, and eventually we were joined by a Russian girl. Meghan got taken to her bath first, and I was second. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we both got private rooms. First, my whole body got exfoliated and then I got a bubble scrub and massage. When the whole thing was over, I was escorted back to the marble sink room to dump more water on myself. When Meghan was finished too, we got dry towels and went out into the lobby area. We got apple tea, and then went back to the changing rooms where we realized that it was a big mistake not to bring a hairbrush with us. When we walked out again we actually got our hair dried and brushed for us. We were running a little late, so we booked it to the Blue Mosque.
I think we both half expected that the group wouldn’t have waited for us because we were so late, but we were happy to see that they waited. The mosque was closed for prayer when we got there, so we went across the street to the Aya Sofia. The Aya Sofia was a church until it was converted into a mosque, and it is now a museum. The building was undergoing some renovations, so we got a nice view of scaffolding inside in the main area. I walked around in the upper gallery and took a few pictures without flash, but still got yelled at by a security officer for using flash. When we were done at the Aya Sofia, we went back to the Blue Mosque. The inside was gorgeous. We left and walked to lunch. We went over to a little street near the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia. All of the little cafes were really expensive, but we kept walking until we found a place cheaper. The café had 3 little kittens wondering around inside of it, and they were just so adorable! They really made me miss Monet. I had kofte one last time and then had a waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert, which I split with everyone because it was so huge. I asked for directions to a grocery store, and the waiter told me that there was one on the main street on the way to Cemberlitas. I found it with relative ease, and picked up some apple tea, a couple other types of teas, and a couple of snacks. Afterwards, the group decided to split. We got on the tram and those of us who felt we had spent enough money (that was me and 2 other people) went back to the ship and the other group took the ferry across to the Asian side of Istanbul. I was getting ogled on the tram to the point that it was making me really uncomfortable, so I kept moving closer and closer to the wall of the tram, remembering the groping I got the day before. One of the men who had a seat noticed what was going on and gave me his seat, which was most appreciated. While Meghan and Beth went back to the ship, I used the payphone in the ship terminal to call home. I had a hard time getting my phone card to work, but I finally did. Afterwards, I went back on the ship to get Meghan and Beth and we went over to the pizza place again to take advantage of the free wifi and get dinner. When we got back on the ship, we ran into Caitlin and Sarah, and then went to dinner with them primarily just to hang out.