From Ecuador, and an overlay in Colombia, I flew to Madrid, Spain. During the first 5 hours at the Madrid airport, I was already beginning to wonder if I would enjoy Europe. I was not allowed to bring my two small bags on board, and there was a predicament that I could not pay 30 Euros for one of them. The representatives of Easyjet were not helpful at all and other passengers seemed angry and they were all yelling and demanding in the lines. It was not like the Latinos in the west with the “mañana” mantra. I wondered if the urban Europeans would all be crazy uptight.
But I had passed the draconian check-in and finally arrived to the ground of Paris, France.
The slow injection of culture shock began to hit when I observed the crowd of polished light color heads all looking down into their touch screen gadgets. And from the Gare du Nord station to the apartment of Paul’s mother, in downtown Paris, it was a little strange not to see the street dogs, or hear the Huayno Peruvian music at obscene levels. I wanted to believe that I arrived back into the familiar after nearly two years of camping and tramping in Latin America. Yet, it was all becoming more foreign.
All the building stood very tall, very big, entirely grey, and very, very old. Within 5 minutes Paul could already point out 18th century architecture. The streets were actually quiet for midnight. Only small crowds of hip Parisian youngsters crowded at the corner bars and cafes.
The apartment of Paul’s mother, Brigitte was a quaint old building with the tinniest elevator space. A neat and cozy home, I felt the biggest relief to be “home” after the sleepless days of transportation. But the night was short as sleep was a small squeeze between late night dinner and introduction and early morning wake up call to catch a cab to the airport. And when I say Parisian cab- I mean a Mercedes private car. Where were the haphazard tuk-tuk drivers?
Again, where am I?
We arrived into Antalya at night- and there we were, in Turkey! We were picked up by a Turkish van transport. I already had confusion because I didn’t know how to thank him: “Gracias. Uh- I mean, Merci? Uh- I mean, thank you?” So, how do you say thank you in Turkish?
A: “Teşekkür Ederim.”
So I had some fun learning some French and Turkish, and mixing the two. We had spent the entire week on a boat with Bridget’s friend Geneviève and François Xavier, and their Turkish host Leila and Ahmed who spoke some English. Well at least Leila, since Ahmed was a strong silent type who kept to himself. Yet he always kept busy whether he could be simultaneously steering the boat with one hand and fishing with only a line, on the other or spraying the exterior of his boat with wd40. Lelia was the conversationalist who kept everyone fed on schedule of delicious Mediterranean meals, Turkish coffee time, and in charge of some boat operations.
Joining us were Emmy, the young Turkish village girl; and Ellen, Geneviève and François daughter. I adored Geneviève. We couldn’t exchange because we lacked knowing each others language. But after translation I found that she had many interesting thoughts and facts about history and culture. And François, at aged 85 he acted his age… minus 80. His quirks made him the loveable baffoon of the boat. He was the main communicator for everyone, since he spoke French, English, and Turkish. He and Geneviève use to sail, a lot. But these days they retired from sailing, and instead have a deal worked with Ahmed and Leila.
And how was a week off the coast of the south Turkish coast on the Mediterranean? You ask?
Çok güzel! (Very nice!)
The tour began from the harbor of Üçağız (again, totally strange Turkish letters. It’s pronounced Outchaheuze) and explored the Lycian ruins of the 4 mile long Kekova Island and around. Some of the tombs and ruins were on land and others were sunken cities submerged foundations. The sea water was clear and turquoise blue, and there were no beaches, but the large stones of Travertine plunging into the sea. Sharp and porous limestone does not offer a comfortable condition for climbing, but Paul and I managed to not cut ourselves while solo climbing. And while swimming with our snorkels, we could see the remnants of Lycian civilization. There were no exotic sea creatures, but sea turtles curiously swam around the boat.
On land of the villages Simena and Aperlai we hiked some area to see more ruins and tombs and a castle of Simena. It was an inhospitable land of red earth and gnarled ancient olive trees, and in the late summer season it was dry but perfectly cool by the sea. Walking there felt very special, because these grounds date back to the 5th century, foot printed by ancient civilizations like the Romans.
We visited Kaş, a tourist town full of traditional homes and buildings and small bars and cafes, and docked there for the night. The following day, we were stamped for entry to visit the Greek island, Kastelórizo. On land, we explored around the ruinous homes and hiked to the summit of the island.
And the secret surprise visit was to a cave, which was a small cave opening only big enough for the boat to dash through, and only by all of us laying on the floor of the boat. inside was a high ceiling cave, and the small opening cause a really cool effect of the light to illuminate the entire cave of blue light.
Geneviève and François set up a wonderful itinerary of activities that I didn’t expect we would be presented. I thank them, Lelia, Ahmed, Brigitte and Paul, for this wonderful and unforgettable vacation on the Mediterranean Sea.
One week of leisure on the boat came to an end when the van came back to pick us up in Üçağız. We were dropped off at the domestic airport, and flew off to one last Turkish delight- Istanbul.
It was a night landing in Istanbul. An arranged vehicle took us from the airport to our hotel in the center of the city. It was more than I could expect in this significant city, situated as “the door’ between the worlds of Europe, Asia, and Middle East. A night walk through the lively city, we attempted to enter the mosque, but it was closed. So we strolled though the city between parks and restaurants. The city was lively and excited the senses of music, smells of Mediterranean food and hooka tobacco. The people were a mix of international foreigners, Arabic street vendors, women dressed in head to toe abayas, and the sophisticated Turkish class. And here, there are no stinky street dogs, but cute street cats, in the city, and some we’ve seen in the villages of Turkey. The cat seems to symbolize a contrast to the western world- that is ancient, sophisticated, and mysterious. Here is a blog article about the cats in Istanbul.
A fascinating event, second to the mosque, were the prayer dances. Our walk ended in a big outdoor hook lounge. We picked a comfy sofa and table, ordered dinner, and smoked tobacco from a hooka. A 4-man-band played and sang hypnotizing music and during the show, a man in a long white robe got on stage and made a dance- which was just a constant spin and arms in air. It was fascinating and beautiful. It is known as Sufi Whirling and it is an active meditation prayer that is performed by Dervishes. I won’t get into explaining but more can be read here.
Following day, after a rooftop breakfast at the hotel, we entered the Blue Mosque.
It all went by so quick! In a flash, we were already back in the hotel in time to be picked up and moved to the airport.
I had an amazing time in Turkey. Thanks to Paul and Brigitte, Geneviève, Lelia and Ahmed for inviting me on their boat. Teşekkür Ederim!
And now.. back in Paris…
Teşekkür Ederim for reading,