Friday, June 25, 2010
Planes, boats, trains and taxis
Our trip started and ended with two days in Istanbul (for a total of 4 days). The only touristy thing we did while there was to take a cruise up the Bosphorus Strait, the rest of the time was spent simply walking around the neighbourhoods. As we had been there before (and the weather was soo soo soo hot) we just weren't interested in cruising the major sights.
From Istanbul we took the overnight train into Izmir (if you ever want to train around Turkey, or even Europe for that fact, check out The Man in Seat 61, as he is a bit obsessive about training and can give you the details on nearly all trains and routes!). Nikolai seemed right at home in our little sleeper cabin, and christened the place by pooping in the potty about 5 minutes after we hoped on the train. The squat toilets for adults were a bit more tricky on the moving train. The sleeping was also hard for us, though I'm certain that we would have gotten used to it by the 2nd night. Nikolai slept fine, as I imagine the train's bumping and rocking would be much more soothing than trying to nap in the stroller; something he successfully manages to do for hours at a time.
A hot and harrowing ride in a dolmus bus to Selcuk where we spent two days, primarily hiding from the sun in one of the big outdoor tea shops that were also a favorite on our first trip to Turkey. The sights seen included Ephesus and all that surrounds that well preserved Greek/Roman ruins (they were willing to abide by whomever had the power), and Sirince, the embodiment of rural living... only slightly tainted by the endless tourist shops.
From there we went to Cesme to stay at Umid's very lovely apartment and swim in the salty-sandy waters of the Aegean sea. Umid proved to be a host with endless bounty, feeding us up in a way that was highly reminiscent of other nurturing parental types that I know of... Phew we ate so much meze, and saw all the sights guided by Umid's endless energy and joi de vivre. We even got a complete walk through of Serhat and Gozde's wedding ceremony, which I assure you will be absolutely breath-taking. Nikolai took an instant love to Serhat's 78 year old Grandmother. Even though she spoke not a word of English and Nikolai not a word of Turkish the two of them got along together like two peas in a pod.
A night was spent in Izmir... definitely not on the tourist path, but I loved the city for its vibrancy. Istanbul's heart is a venerable old man, but the population of 12.8 million has made the weight of the city so great that it is sinking in decay even as the new developments arise. With a population of around 2.6 million, Izmir is a city that is only just coming into it's prime, with its arts and culture, waterfront promande and vibrant bazaars. Perhaps even more freeing was the realization that we were not just one of the many badly behaving tourists. (We wittnessed the most badly behaving tourists ever... unfortunately they were staying in our hotel Selcuk, in the room right next to ours! But we didn't realize it when we first witnessed them berating the waiter at the restaurant we were both eating in, for not serving the wine properly. They honestly gave the poor man a 15 minute lecture on the subject, and the restaurant was decently busy, so it's not like he had free time to stand there and listen to a speech on the subject. The couple was cross everytime we ran into them so I don't expect they were enjoying their holiday very much. Perhaps they were also conisours of Alan de Bottom's Art of Travel.).
The return trip to Istanbul featured the train and ferry route as recommended by Seat 61. It was very long... even though I didn't sleep that well on the overnight train... I would probably recommend that route for traveling with small children, because, well, at least they're asleep.
The picture is of Nikolai and Brad partaking in the Roman latrines in Ephesus.