What can I say? The spontaneity that began this trip certainly continued with our adventures in Turkey. After blowing it out during our first night in Istanbul, we decided to head South and check out the scenic coastline that so many people have recommended. Fortunately, flights in Turkey are dirt cheap, so we were able to book roundtrip flights for something like $75/person. Unfortunately, we still had to get from the W to the airport…and getting anywhere in Istanbul, at least during normal hours, is an absolute nightmare.
How this city functions with the volume of traffic is beyond me. If you know Rome, multiply it by 20 and you’ll get an idea of how congested the streets are in Istanbul. Going a couple of miles can take a half hour and getting from point A to point B is like going on a bumper car ride at the state fair with no speed limit and no room to move. Our taxi ride to the airport was one of the more interesting taxi rides I’ve ever taken. It goes something like this: We get in a taxi and tell the driver to take us to the airport. After spending 15 minutes trying to confirm our destination, we finally realize we’re going in the wrong direction. Once we’re able to convince the driver that he needs to actually take us to the airport, he then performs a series of U-turns and one-way reverses and ends up at a gas station…where he proceeds to fill up the car. At this point, we’re convinced that we’re not making our flight. He then gets back in the car, takes us to another ‘barrio’ looking
part of the city, stops the car in the middle of the street, takes the keys and then runs into some random building with a bunch of dudes standing outside. Now we’re convinced we’re hosed and begin to nervously
think about the global kidnapping headlines that are bound to run the next morning. A few minutes later, a different guy approaches the taxi, gets in and starts the car and proceeds to drive like a bat out of hell. He gets us to the airport on time and we can only laugh a taxi ride that includes pit stops and driver transfers.
The trip South was fairly uneventful. The seafood on the coast was absolutely amazing and was highlighted by an amazing meal where we got to choose the actual fish that we wanted grilled. For the most part, the entire area is dead this time of year so we headed a bit North and visited some of the more historic sites. Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis and the House of the Virgin Mary were all incredibly cool, not only for their historic and biblical value (where Paul addressed the Ephesians), but also because this stuff is so damn old. It’s hard to believe that people were living in relatively the same manner 2500 years ago and trying to understand how they built these cities is mind-boggling. If you do make it to Turkey, definitely take some time to go check out Ephesus….awesome place.
We came back to Istanbul on Friday afternoon after spending Thursday night in an all-inclusive beach resort with a bunch of older German tourists who were on a bus tour through the region. We randomly stopped at this hotel and negotiated a sick deal with the hotel manager. For about $60/each we got one room with 3 beds, all you can drink alcohol and the opportunity to eat buffet style dinner and breakfast with 300 Germans in a cafeteria style auditorium. We even had Spring Break style wrist-bands to prove our worth and to ensure that nobody kicked us out of the resort. It was humorous, especially given that the vast majority of the tourists had an average of 30 years on all of us.
Istanbul was capped off with more partying, including celebrating my buddy Arol Jahn’s 40th birthday at a swank restaurant/bar near Taksim Square and meeting numerous friends that we all knew from our different travels. In addition to checking out all of the different landmarks (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Archaeology Museum, Grand Bazaar), we felt that our
trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a traditional Turkish Bath House. There’s no way I can accurately describe the scene, but try to picture this: Three 6 foot plus Americans walk into a 600 year old bath house with absolutely no clue how the process works. They walk into the ‘steam room’ and are immediately surrounded by 20-30 half-naked Turks wearing small towels around their waist and writhing in pain. After several minutes of complete and utter confusion, they’re each grabbed by a personal ‘bather’ (who doesn’t speak English) and taken to a marble slab in the middle of the room…where they are scrubbed clean and pummeled on for approximately 15 minutes. After 5 minutes of relatively tame hair washing, face cleansing and foot scrubbing, they’re led outside and asked to stand in line with a bunch of other dudes who are recovering from their recent body-beating. 30 minutes later, they’re each led into a community massage room where, for another half hour, they’re pummeled again…surrounded by other bath goers who are screaming, moaning and grunting in pain. And as they leave the massage room to go shower, get dressed and recover from their afternoon of ‘luxury’, they’re reminded to tip those who have just tortured the hell out of them. One of the most ridiculous, interesting and humorous situations I’ve ever experienced.
All in all, an awesome time in Istanbul. The city has everything to offer, is absolutely beautiful and has an energy to it that I wasn’t expecting.
Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to post below. And don’t forget to check out our pictures of Turkey.