...I'll be gone 500 miles when the day is done...

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

He Said:

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when our overnight train between Bucharest and Istanbul started running a bit late. You'd expect there to be a delay or two being given a scheduled nineteen-hour ride with at least a dozen station stops and four passport control checkpoints. We ended up arriving in Istanbul over six hours late, ouch! Oh well, at least we are not in any big hurry.

We spent two nights here as well as celebrated Katie's birthday. Since we had spent three days in Istanbul a few weeks earlier, we had seen most of the big sights so this time we took it easy. On Katie's birthday we rode a ferry out into the Sea of Marmara to go to Bukkade, which is the largest of the four "Princes Islands" located a few miles offshore from Istanbul. We had gone there expecting a bit of a beach day, but were a bit disappointed by the total lack of anything sandy and the abundance of trash floating in the water. That didn't dissuade the locals, but we opted instead to check out the town. The place was quite charming and especially nice since there are no cars on the entire island. We found it a bit strange to walk down the middle of wide paved roads, especially when the most dangerous situations we have been in this entire trip have involved crossing streets! We are taking yet another overnight train south to the town of Pamukkale. Happily it is not an international rail journey, and Turkish trains have a far better reputation of being on-schedule. Once in Pamukkale we will begin a whistle stop tour of South Aegean Turkey. We'll hit some of the big sites as well as a few beach towns before we take a ferry to the Greek island of Rhodes.

She Said:

Gosh, we certainly are learning how to be patient on this trip. I used to get irritated if flights were delayed an hour, or if someone kept us waiting for 30 minutes. But now, waiting for an extra 3 hours for something seems standard, and the irritation doesn't set in until after 5 hours... I think I am certainly making progress on going with the flow (and just in time to spend 3 months in Eastern and Southern Africa where I am sure that things don't run on schedule - if there even is a schedule). We are also learning how to play the world's fastest games of gin rummy. After about 100 games, Todd is winning by about 8,000 points. But don't worry, I am in the process of planning a major comeback.

On my birthday I really wanted to go to the beach, so we took a ferry to some islands off the coast of Istanbul. Todd neglected to tell you about the interesting cultural experience we had. Every time we take a ferry or any kind of boat ride, we always look for the outdoor seating and practically trample others to get there first. This is mainly a cancer prevention strategy because we are just about the only non-smokers, and we have learned from experience that each ferry passenger will smoke at least one cigarette every seven minutes. So we found a seat at the end of a long bench on the side of the ferry, which was right along the outer railing and compact enough so that there really wasn't room for others to crowd us (or so we thought).

Anyway, let's just say that most people don't share the typical American standard of personal space and are content to have full body contact with strangers. There was a tiny space (enough for one small butt cheek) on the other side of the man sitting next to me. A man and his teenage daughter decided to squeeze into that space, and everyone scooted over (keep in mind this was at the start of a 3 hour ride). After about 30 minutes, the man next to me couldn't handle being squished anymore, and decided to leave. So, naturally I spread out a bit to try to prevent someone else from sitting there. This didn't work. A man, his wife and toddler decided this would be the perfect place for them all to sit. The space was literally a foot and a half wide. The wife sat down, put the kid on her lap, and the husband stood in front of them leaning against the railing and banging his giant bag into us every time he moved.

Okay, fine, we are flexible and we can adjust, right? Well, just then 2 teenage boys scooted past us to squeeze between the end of the bench and the wall (really no room here - like 3 feet). One of them was holding a transistor radio that was blaring mostly static and the occasional lyric from a song. Meanwhile, the husband purchases some bread from a vendor on the ferry and proceeds to throw it into the air to feed the seagulls. There were at least 100 seagulls flying along side us begging for food. Argh. Then the transistor radio tunes into a station and started blaring "Don't you wanna dance, say you wanna dance, don't you wanna dance, yeah! Oh, I wanna dance with somebody. I wanna feel the heat with somebody." The two teenage boys were really enjoying this tune and were bobbing their heads and kind of dancing in place. I gave Todd a birthday order and told him to grab the radio and throw it overboard (which seemed like a great idea at the time). He convinced me that this would be inappropriate, mostly because it was against the Prime Directive - it is unethical to interfere in pop cultures less developed than ours. So, naturally I concurred, and after 3 hours we arrived. Luckily, we found out that there was an air-conditioned high-speed catamaran that could make the return trip to Istanbul in 40 minutes for $2 more! Hooray!
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