Friday, June 26, 2009

Cappadocia- Land of Fairy Chimneys and Beautiful Wild Horses

We took the overnight bus to Cappadocia and it is the most amazing place I have ever seen! The name is a derivative from the old Persian name Katpatuka, meaning land of beautiful wild horses. It is a surreal almost alien landscape made up a these things called 'fairy chimneys' created by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Over time due to erosion the unique cave structures we see now were created. The town we are staying in dates from Biblical times (and is mentioned in the Biblical Book of Acts). We explored many churches hewn into caves that date from the 7th to the 11th century as well as an underground city that served as a refuge for prosecuted Christians that were located in the area.

Cappadocia is famous for pottery, rugs and red wine!
A typical Fresco in the churches which have been preserved through the centuries. This one in particular is probably the most well preserved that we saw. It is disappointing though because many of the faces or eyes have been scratched off over time before these churches were included in the UNESCO world heritage sites in 1985. The most likely explaination is that many muslim farmers resided in the area in later times and many inhabited these caves. Conflict of beliefs (and also creepy eyes staring at you while you sleep) prompted this defacement.

A typical cave house exhibited in the area, people still live in these although in Goreme many have been converted into Pensions, hotels or bars.

Our amazing Cave hotel, complete with pool, Yahoo! It is quite nice staying in a cave as it is well insulated, meaning it is cool in the summer and warmer during the winter monthes. Cappadocia experiences strange weather patterns, it is either really hot or really cold. It gets snow as well, amazingly enough.

The very happy camel we saw on our walk to the Goreme Open air museum. I just had to include him!
I will post some more pictures of some of the sights we saw on our tour yesterday! For everyone I promised a postcard they are on their way!!! I pinky swear!
P.S I cannot believe Micheal Jackson died...Insanity! My cousin is obsessed with anything MJ and she declared to me via Facebook that her summer is RUINED. I send my condolences out to her. RIP MJ. My Mother is also astounded that Farrah Fowcett died as well. RIP Farrah.


Hagia Sophia from behind

We have been busy busy busy doing a whirlwind tour of Istanbul with the units...but having a fantastic time!

Went to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi palace...did a night on the town where we made friends with Huesyn, a Turkish drama actor (or so he tells us). He took us to his favorite bar, a place we would never have found without him. There was an amazing band playing traditional music and he treated us to beer, wine and nibbles. One of the band members and his wife showed us a turkish folk dance. Huesyn had us all dancing, even Daddy-O! It was the best night we had in istanbul thus far!!!
Blue Mosque from the front...
Jack's battle wound.... walking down the infamous steep street our apartment is on I was carrying the groceries when 'POP!' as bottle of mineral water poking out of the bag went flying to the ground. It shattered spraying Jack's leg with shrapnel. We were shocked at the amount of blood! It ended up being a small one centimeter cut but wow it gushed as you can see from the sock. He was O.K, it was nothing a shot of vodka could not solve.
Walking down the Kabatas to take the units to the Topkapi palace...
Finally, Jack outta that freaking urn! Hahahahahaha!!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Parental Units Have Arrived Safe and Sound!!!!

Jack and I collected Big Hmac and Daddy-O from the airport on Monday and have been busy showing them around istanbul...the first night we kicked back with some beers after taking a stroll down Istiklal Cadessi (the main shopping district). We did a cruise of the Bosphorus Strait yesterday and then went to lunch in a little village we got dropped off at, near the mouth of the Black Sea.
All the people milling about Istiklal Cadessi (meaning independence avenue)
The boat we took.....NOT! See below!
Delilah and Big Hmac taking in the sun on the boat cruise!
Daddy-Os delicious fish lunch... not really expecting three little fish but pretty tasty nonetheless, I managed to steal bits of skin to feed the cats begging under the table heh heh...

Now I will hand the keyboard over to the Chief aka Big Hmac who has been eager to let everyone at home know she arrived safe and now will impart her initial impressions:
Hello from Istanbul! We expected a culture shock and boy did we get one!!! D and J's apartment was a major surprise. Well, not actually the apartment which is very nice and comfortable apart from the bathroom, which has the shower right in the room. This means it sprays on the sink, floor, toilet! Very strange indeeed!!!
Outside, as Delilah has explained, are numerous kids, old muslim mama's and men carrying on until late into the night. Oh, and lets not forget the cats everywhere (and curiously the herd of sheep outside the window when we arrived... one of which was slaughtered in the street). Apart from being jet lagged, the general uproar coming from outside keeps you awake. So chess and cards have been our late night entertainment. Daddy-O beat Jack in chess which imparted quite a shock!!
The boat ride yesterday was beautiful and we also visited a mosque which was very interesting and beautiful. There are so many people everywhere! A very busy city ! The weather is hot hot and still hotter! Anyhoooo today we are heading out to the Blue mosque and Hagia sofia. We are also going to the bazaar to find gifts and hopefully our haggling skills are up to par! I tried to pratice at home before I we will find out if it has paid off.
Signing off now... Updates to follow soon, 10=4 over and Out!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some more pictures of Gallipoli!!!

The absolutely beautiful view from the campground.

The beach!!! Oh how I long for thee...
Our pathetic little camp...except for the fact we have a fridge. We kind of got attacked by the mosquitoes at night, but at least it was warm.

Our South African friend has departed, until we meet again in Canada in one year we will hope your travels are safe! But my parents arrive on Monday and we will be busy helping them navigate their way around istanbul, and we might be heading back to Gallipoli! Woot!


Friends of Jayyous Interview

I am sure I have mentioned our Indian-American neighbour Karan who occupies the apartment above ours. I have been meaning for quite awhile to interview him about the NGO he started while an undergraduate student at the University of Washington. Tonight is our lucky chance!

We have been kicked out of our studio size apartment for a luxe sprawling one bedroom apartment complete with three...yes THREE....burners on our hotplate...that's right... a TV and a real shower! (not the kind you can pee on the toilet while being pummeled by the shower head) while they fix the leak in our washroom.

Anyways, back on track. Koran is over this evening making his 'famous' pasta sauce and entertaining us with his philosophical meanderings.

*D is Delilah
*J is Jack
*K is Karanvir (Koran for short)

D: So Mr Singh, describe to us how this all started? When did you visit Jayyous?

K: Visited 2003 and 2004, I was in the Middle East typically as a tourist, having a good vacation and it was friend Mark who went to Jayyous first. When we met in Seattle having travelled abroad we discussed how we noticed the different quality of lifestyle we were privilaged to in the West. It seemed some people struggled to buy day old bread while others lived didn't seem right.

D: What happened next?

K: We had a long discussion. What could we do in the name of citizen diplomacy to make some difference or some small change. The village of Jayyous came up; it is located in the West Bank and there was proposition to have it blocked or walled up by the Israeli apartheid. In many ways this proposition directly affected the livelihoods of the villagers. The legal implications of the wall impeded the people of Jayyous to travel to sell their product and greatly reduced their standard of living.

J: What did the Israeli's expect them to do?

K: Israel wanted the peoples to begin to farm tomatoes instead, in that way they could maintain a monopoly on the produce by having strict control of the water sources. It effectively put the villagers in a strangle hold as they would have absolute control.

D: What made you want to get involved? Seems like a lot of work...

K: Obviously, it is the disparity of lifestyles. The multiple layers of depression. We are about the revolution, of making things accessible to the disadvantaged.

J: I just want you to clarify some of your sentiments towards Israel, especially as it is a very touchy political subject.

K: I want to make it clear there is no animosity to Israel. It is a powerful state and the other [the Palestinians] are a disenfranchised group who lack political and economic power compared to their neighbour. There is existing disparity and social immoblity. If the situation was reverse and there was a powerful Palestinian state oppressing a Jewish portion of society we would act in the same manner. Whether they are Jewish or Palestinian does not matter to us. It is the fact that there is oppression.

D: So tell us the first steps in getting Friends of Jayyous started.

K: Well, I was just graduating but Mark was still a student. Mark applied for the Mary Gates Scholarship which existed to promote idealist projects and progressive ideas in the social sciences.

D: How long did it take?

K: It was quite a lengthy process, there were interviews and they filtered ideas down. We were accepted and received a fund of around 5,000 US to start a fledgling project.

D: O.K what were the next steps after this?

K: At first it seemed daunting, we had no business experience, no experience creating web sites...nothing. We knew nothing about taxation or legal requirements. At times it seemed as though the project would not happen. But we prevailed.

J: Any extra difficulties dealing with Palestine specifically?

K: Well it really depended on this one guy we met Abdel Latife who really facilitated communication. We then used money from the fund to pay for initial bottling and Mark kind of had to pay a bit out of his student loan to pay for the label design.

D: Who designed the label?

K: It was a friend of Mark's from Palestine, a known local artist who I was introduced to when I went back to Israel and Palestinian territories.

D: What happened when you went back? What did you expect?

K: There was no expectation how we would be treated. It really was about social difference. We connected with the people on a level 'I see you, you see me...let's shake hands.' I feel we really bridged a gap, the mystery surrounding the 'other' had disappeared. These were no longer people on TV or in the paper. Palestinians were not so unlike us. We really wanted to promote a cultural bridge. It is like a carpet, we are all unique strands woven together to create a world community and together we create something beautiful.

J: What happens when you purchase the olive oil?

K: First of all it is 100% a non-profit endeavour. We only pay for shipping and the rest of the funds go directly to the community fund for the people of Jayyous to determine how it is used. We are as non-involved with the process as possible. When you purchase the oil you enable the kids to get clothes, school supplies, sufficient food.

J: Is it self-sustainable?

K: We have yet to find out if this is achievable. So not yet, it is an eventual goal, but the project is totally non-profit.

D: What is the most important thing derived from the experience?

K: Most important thing is that we would someone to look at we did on an individual level, not two experts, like anyone out there who wants to make the world better. If anyone is inclined do not think twice. Pick your cause. In the end, all you have done is try to be a better person and that is not too bad.

J: Was it worth it? Did you learn a lot?

K: It is not about Jayyous itself. It is about keeping the spirit, the mentality of concious buying alive. We learned that two students can start something like this and feel good about what they have done. It is about anti-typical consumerism, not your run of the mill capitalism. For me it is spirituality, human outreach and what it means to the dude who squeeze these olives...

CONTACT FRIENDS OF JAYYOUS VIA: and email them for details while their new website gets set up!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


So Lauren and I discovered we were kindered souls because we both scrap booked and thus it was logical for us to travel together. Often times we serenade Jack with Beatles songs while we work cutting up paper and colouring (much to his disgruntlment...we are not exactly good singers).

Included is two of my many pages completed in istanbul...depictions of nargile, turkish tea and backgammon! The two of us are little vultures, tearing off labels of beer bottles, snagging travel pamphlets and picking up newspapers...heh heh great minds think alike!

Au Revoir Haminator

Our New Zealand counter-part has sadly departed for Scandanavia before he heads to South-East Asia... And once again there are three. We had a lovely departing dinner. Jack and I prepared a special going away gift... a Turkish eye for protection, a beer, chips, pistachio nuts for sustainance among other things. Hamish gave Jack and I a piece of Jade which we will get carved into a pendant known in Maori as Hei-tiki. It is a traditional Maori gift in New Zealand and I believe it must be given by a friend.
Watching Man vs Wild will not be the same without him. Hamish joined our entourage way back in Prague and we have had many grand adventures! We wish him all the best and will continue to try and coax him to visit in Canada or meet us in Cuba next year! We already know Lauren is coming to visit...but I will still be sad to see her depart as well :(.....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Loaded up the crew and set forth for Gallipoli, a peninsula situated on the Aegean coast of the Mediteranean sea. We were astounded by the absolute beauty of the aqua blue coast line, sprawling beaches and decidedly overall atmosphere. Our campground was a minute walk from the beach, and from that vantage point we could see a Greek Island.

We spent a few days relaxing on the beach, swimming in the salty water, trying to tan and hanging out with the extremely friendly Turkish university students who extended their hospitality to us. Our neighbours were so kind as to turn up at our camp bearing gifts and food... likely because of the state of our situation they assumed we were poor. We lacked a tent and slept under a rudimentary tarpaulin strung between trees. The last night we smoked nargile (water pipe containing flavored tabaco) and indulged in Raki, a traditional Turkish liqour which you mixed with water. As soon as I took a sip of the Raki (which is an anise-flavored apertif) I shuddered and I got goosebumps running up my arms! I was just researching how to spell Raki and this is what Wikipedia revealed to me "In Turkey, raki is the unofficial 'national drink' and it is traditionally consumed mixed with water; the dilution causes this alcoholic drink to turn a milky-white colour, and possibly because of its colour, this mixture is popularly called aslan sütü (or arslan sütü), literally meaning "lion's milk" (a(r)slan is also used to mean strong, brave man, hence milk for the brave)."

On our last day we hiked to Anzac cove, which was the landing place for the Australian and New Zealander troops during the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915. After galavanting about, and running into a very poinsonous snake in the depths of a bunker we investigated we managed to arrange a guided tour we a cab driver for 60 Lira. We learned much about the campaign and the role of the Ataturk in the battle. There is one quote we stumbled upon in particular which was enjoyable uttered by the Ataturk himself and immortalized in a memorial of Anzac Cove, commemorating the loss of thousands of Turkish and Anzac soldiers in Gallipoli.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
—Atatürk 1934

The New Zealanders who flock to this area of the country are embraced by the Turks and no traces of animosity exists. Hamish was excited to meet a few people sporting New Zealand motif t-shirts and hats. Our guide was hilarious and well versed. On our trip back into town he cranked a disc and 90s music and we rocked out to MC Hammer 'Can't touch this' while racing around bends in the road with the windows down and hair flying.

Overall, Gallipoli was beautiful and we are planning to take my parental units to visit when they arrive in istanbul next week!

Ohh la la, Delilah

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Turkish Bath

Hello, this is Lauren. I'm a single gal who attached myself to this entourage of travelling folk in order to get the benefits of their free pad in Istanbul and access to their culinary wizardry. Lekker ek se!* I interrupt this blog owing to the fact that Delilah is an exemplary house wife who happens to know her place in the kitchen, and does not possess the skills to prepare my dinner and update this blog simultaneously. Hence this compromise... :)

Adventures in a Turkish Bath House

After an arduous journey led by the Haminator himself, we found ourselves on a rather grey street corner somewhere in central Istanbul wondering which road would lead to our destination, a Turkish Bath House. Ham Sandwich insisted on continuing straight along the road which we'd come on. Delilah and I disagreed with his navigational skills, owing to the incongruity of the road numbers according to the address we had written down. Jack stood silently on the street corner looking with a seemingly wise air about him. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we were approached by a pair of ancient looking old Turk gentlemen, who informed us we were already standing right outside the ablution house and need only enter (through separate entrances according to sex naturally). All the while two precious little young'uns peered over their shoulders, interested in the alien behavioural habits of real life foreigners.

Delilah and I migrated slowly toward the female entrance. The door was made up of two swinging portions, one of which was fully open. We went inside, half expecting a neat reception with a sweet lady who would gesture towards a changing room and provide us with towels. No such luck. Greeting our virgin eyes were a bunch of rather voluptuous old Turkish women, half of which were naked and the other half sporting rather sexy panties. The leader of the pack came forward and spoke: "Hello lady, bath lady?" Simultaneously, we smiled, and indicated that a bath was exactly what we'd come for. "How much," Delilah responded. "1 ten bath, 2 ten special." This was a fraction of what any of the tourist houses we'd found online had quoted, so unanimously decided that a special bath it would be.

We were ushered into a small room with a bed in it, where we stripped down to the bare essentials (panties and a towel). We then moved into the actual cleansing area, and poured water on ourselves using the buckets provided. It was so incredibly humid that the cold water was rather welcome. The walls were covered in moss, presumably a couple of years worth at least. We then lay down on a central slate, as per the pack leader's instructions, and awaited further commands. As we turned our heads to the left for a more comfortable lying position, we spotted her. A rather over sized lady with a spectacular display of rolls hobbled past...she was wearing a gorgeous pair of pink knickers, which exposed her equally rolley bottom when she bent over to reach for some shampoo. Delilah and I suppressed a giggle, and awaited the return of the pack leader to her lair (Here in after referred to as Mustafina). She brought with her a second worker, who stood beside me and started a scrub down exfoliation, followed by a hair wash. Mustafina took the task of cleaning Delilah into her own paws.

*Delilah is done with cooking, cleaning and other house hold chores not fit for a South African of my social stature who is accustomed to having a personal maid to take care of such pleb tasks. We will continue writing this together*

After the bath itself, we stood around for a while and until we were beckoned into the main entrance parlour by Mustafina and Mohamaddina (my washer who sported a pair of sheer chiffon lace under garments-and nothing else). We have already mentioned that the ladies in this area of the bath house were rather naked. What we failed to mention was their preoccupation with other activities which did not have anything to do with some kind of mysterious pasta mix, smoking fags and the act of receiving a bikini wax rather kaalgat* in the middle of the common room. Now was time for the massage...wooooooot!

Delilah was shoved into a small room that came off of the main one, while I was plonked right in the middle of every-man's land for all present to take in. Mustafina and Mohamaddina both got down to business, breasts freely swinging in time to the rhythm of their massage routine. I was rather spoiled in that Mohamaddina serenaded me, making sure that each recital made me smile more than the one before. I could hear the gum chewing of Mustafina despite the fact that she was in another room.

So frequently, those who are not fluent in English are the same who have a healthy curiosity for English culture and long to discover where people hail from. When asked this, I replied: "South Africa." The most common response was exactly the one which I received from Mohamaddina, echoed by a couple of Turks spotted about the room: "Africcaaaa?" She then slapped her cheek and slowly repeated her response. She beckoned to my white ass and relatively underdeveloped anatomy (in comparison to the stereotypical mamma), and made it clear that my failure to have a darker complexion equaled an impossibility to have hailed from this "dark" continent. She gestured to my companion: "Canada," Delilah responded. She seemed much more relieved at this information than the disclosure of my African roots. "Ah, lady, Khan-a-daa."

We finished off and found ourselves outside the bath house beneath the strong rays of Turkish sun before we knew it. The boys had exited only 2 minutes before us, and we sat down to compare tales of the Turkish Hammami. We had had visions of the boys being accosted by large, hairy, greasy samples of machismo. It seemed that their experience was much the same as ours, minus the breast swinging and singing. They also failed to receive the same level of pampering as we did. While we enjoyed a relaxing massage, they were having their backs cracked and being slapped with wet towels (grrrr).

All out, it was a very satisfying experience that both Delilah and I would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity (and guts) to strut their goods in the wilds of a Turkish bath house.

*Lekker ek se: Good, I say
*kaalgat: butt naked
*Note on the names: We were aware that Mustafa and Mohammad were common male turkish names, but being in a misogynist society our knowledge of common female names was lacking. We therefore added the feminine suffixes "ina" for lack of a better option.

Over and out, Lauren and DDeellilah

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Turkish Delicacy

MMM delicious.....NOT! You see these things everywhere, and apparently sheep's heads are a Middle Eastern delicacy, with the eyeballs being prized for their uptmost deliciousness. I tried to find some recipes and all I found was Organically Cooked Sheep's Head with Orzo Rice. Gotta try that one....hmmmmm...anyone who knows me knows I would not even enter a kitchen where this recipe was unfolding!

Went to a Turkish bath today...I will write a follow up post about the experience when we get back from Gallipoli. Got to finish packing, camping out on the Mediteranean coast, woohooo!

Good Night!


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The picture I promised!

Checked out some mosques today and spied a .....wee little Sultan! remeber the outfit I mentioned earlier? There were a few little sultans running about the mosque getting their pictures taken by a professional photographer. Purpose? Unknown.

The mosques were very beautiful. We visited the Blue Mosque and another that we did not catch the name of. You had to remove your shoes and it was a relief...the carpets were amazingly soft.

Jack and I are entertaining the idea of heading to Gallipoli for a couple of days with the Kiwi and South African...Not sure whether we will or not....updates will follow!

The Curse and the Fall

Yesterday we were cleaning up the apartment in the morning and in the spirit of cleaning I grabbed our little rug and hung it out the window to shake it out. I was gazing out onto the street and shaking the carpet...not noticing anyone about. After a minute an old lady came trekking, but she was on the other side of the street so I thought nothing of it. Then she proceeded to raise her fist and shake it at me, yelling something I didn't understand! I was taken aback; it was not like I was deliberatly shaking dirt at her...
That night we were talking to our neighbour, Koran, who is studying Turkish culture and knows a bit about it. He told us that the people in these areas are very superstitious. the act of me shaking the carpet in the path of the old lady was cursing her to ill fortune or death! Opps. I felt bad, but I am sure she will be alright.

Had a lovely day relaxing in the park, reading and playing chess. The other incident of the day was when we were heading back to our apartment. The street we are on, as I think I mentioned, is steep and uneven. People set their trash out at night and stray dogs come and ravage the bags so sometimes there is wrapping floating about. Trying to step gingerly down the slick cobbles I did a weird fall twisting my ankle and scrapping the top of my foot. I made a quick recovery and continued walking when out ofa side alley there was an eruption of laughter. A bunch of little hooligans (six year olds) were laughing at me. I didn't have the presence of mind to stick out my tongue (plus I am not sure if that gesture is universal) so I limped back upstairs without my dignity. The foot was ok, Jack bandaged it up... I will survive.

In the evening, our South African counter-part Miss Lauren rejoined the crew after her hiatus in Bulgaria which she raved about. She couched surfed with some very generous Bulgarians who fed her very well and gave her a tour of the country. We now have four people in our little studio apartment... so it is snug but comfortable!

Friday, June 5, 2009

There is a concert outside our window!!!

Last night there was a live concert in a random side street in our neighbourhood. Playing traditional Turkish music it was blasted through the streets so we could enjoy it in our apartment. Jack and I went out to investigate, a lot of the neighbourhood parents and children gathered around while the band played and women danced. One large woman in a huge sparkly ball gown danced while people threw bills in the air around her. It was quite interesting. Our landlord, Yilmaz, always reiterated every time we see him that it is 'a very colourful neighbourhood'. Our street is mainly Kurdish people, we really stand out as some of the only westerners. We were introduced to a few of the women but I cannot remember their names nor how to pronounce them! So many kids playing outside all the time, large trucks rumbling down the narrow, steep cobbled streets hawking their wares (everything from plastic clothes baskets, tables cloths, fresh produce, propane to suitcases). there are also a plethora of stray cats everywhere!!! and once in a while a stray dog sleeping which looks well fed!!!!

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out with our upstairs neighbour, Koran, an American grad student writing his thesis on Turkish media censorship versus Iran. We had many political debates with him (right up our alley) and we share some similar views. We are hoping to make a dinner with him one night, he bragged about his cooking! We are thinking curry, I have been dying for some, and he says he is pro ( his parents are from India) so I am looking forward to that!

Gonna play some cards and annihilate the boys hee hee!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Spice Market

Headed to the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi) which is, as our guide book laid out, one of the largest covered markets in the world, with over 4000 shops, several banks, police stations, mosques and could be a city within itself. It is well known for its jewelry, pottery, spice, and carpet shops.
Apparently you could get lost for hours, we managed to get lost and wander directly out of the bazaar...don't ask how! Got an idea of what was there...some beautiful handcrafted things but also dozens of streets hawking made in China clothes which came in bales which we saw old men lugging on their backs. Predominantly out of the clothes shops they sold head scarves, long skirts and these strange little suits for kids that looked like something a sultan would wear (they were white and gold, with tons of glitter and embellishments, often with a turban and feather) I did not get a picture but I will mission there again to procure one!
Went to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and bought spices to make Chai. The last photo above I think sums Turkey up quite nicely...Polis sign (cops are everywhere with those daunting automatic weaponry), backgammon and chess (at every cafe where men enjoy hookah and drink turkish tea) and pictures of the Atatürk whom is the adoration of every good citizen (I will do a follow up post about the Ataturk and why Youtube is restricted!).
Good Night! DDDDDelilah

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jack! Outta that Urn!!!!!

I love this picture! Of Jack inside a weird urn in the Bran castle garden in Romania...heh heh, reminds me of SuperMario for some reason?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The train to Turkey took 23 hours...very intense... but it was a sleeper car and we met some very interesting people on the train (we shared out cabin with a a young guy from Brazil and a girl from Japan who was studying politics in the US). We parted ways with Lauren as she headed to the South African embassy in Bulgaria to figure out finger printing to retrieve lost bank cards from her robbery. Four became three and the three muskateers headed onwards to Istanbul, not quite sure what to expect.

The one surprise on the train which we were uncertain about was the Turkish style lavatory AKA a hole in the ground you squatted over. There were some very nice Turkish men on the train who were eager to help us but we had to accompany Mutsuko, the japanese girl to her hotel to pay back money she lent to us to pay for our Visa. In terms of visa's Brazillians paid 0, Japanese paid 0, New Zealanders paid 0 and Canadians paid 45 euro each! The most out of every country in the world! Double the Americans which was a bummer!

When we arrived we managed to catch a glimpse of the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque but Jack and I are saving our tour until my parental units arrive in three weeks (so maybe they will pay for the tourist-ee stuff heh ehh).
We arrived to the area that our apartment is located and called the landlord who sent his helper to meet us outside the police to the giant police tank pulled up on the sidewalk. Yes, Police TANK. Many officers were milling about outside the station caressing their automatic weaponry. It was a bit disconcerting.

The apartment is perfect. Studio size with many windows. The landlord, who is a university professor went out and bought a new blow up mattress for Hamish to sleep on which was nice. It is near Taksim which is kind of the art district, which is not too touristy. The neighbourhood we are in is a bit of a slum, there are kids EVERYWHERE but it seems very safe and beats staying in a fancy hotel in the tourist district. Plus the police with their guns nd tanks are only a hop skip and a jump away! Everyone in Turkey seems so helpful and nice, we have noticed a big difference from eastern Europe.

Anyways, out to sight-see and live it up in Istanbul!!!!
Over and out.


Romania was much different than the countries we had been to so far, although I noticed some similarities with Poland. On the train we made friends with an older Hungarian-Romanian couple who spoke a bit of broken english. The man a was big jolly guy, who seemed keen to communicate. After the train had been rolling for a bit he pulled out a bottle of vodka and took a swig. He swished it around in his mouth, then followed with a sip of water. He proceeded to pass it around the small cabin in which we were jammed. He took a keen liking to the boys, teaching them some Hungarian swear words and with them returning with english ones. It was commedic to say the least.

At one point of the trip to Brasov (it was an overnight train with no sleeper cars) there was much commotion outside, a group of Gypsy (Roma) women had been thrown off the train with no tickets. Jack witnessed then exit the train (all fifteen or so) and march down the track to the front of the train and enter another car. When I looked out the window they had bee thrown off again. I saw them outside, old women and little girls with dirty faces, crouched on the pavement. They stared longingly with dark eyes as the train left the station. I wondered where they had been going.

Romania was beautiful but very dilapidated. It is a country impeded by its history of communism and the even harsher realities that capitalism brings. Many beggars, gypsies and children looking desolate. It was strange being approached by little boys (maybe six or seven years old) with an outstretched palm looking for money and a chocolate bar in the other. It seemed the norm to see kids alone looking for anything anyone would give them. In some instances we saw the parents dir
ecting them where to beg.

We spent a few days in the town of Brasov, where we managed to visit Bran castle. It poured for two days straight so much of the time was spent indoors writing and reading.