Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Hate Goodbyes!

I hope you've all enjoyed the blog; this, the temple to my own vanity. Sharing my journey with all of you has given me a sense of purpose in a trip, that otherwise, could feel fairly self indulgent. Who knew that writing a blog all about myself could make me feel less self absorbed? I guess what I'm trying to say is, thanks for traveling along with me.

And stay tuned for my new ventures to come: "August's Mostly African Adventure" line of foot ware, kitchen appliances and cologne (smells like camel). Anyways, I guess I´m not really good at goodbyes so I´ll just-

Fun Traveling Facts!

15 countries visited (6 explored indepth) with the following transportation:

21 Flights
19 Busses
19 Taxis
18 Mini busses (much worse than busses)
16 Trains
14 4x4 (days)
13 Subway (trips)
13 Hitch-hiking (rides)
6 Boat (days)
5 Ferries
5 Grand Taxis (stuffing 7 Moroccan locals into a 5 seater 1970s Mercedes Benz)
4 Rental car (days)
3 Mopeds
3 Bicycles
2 Camels (one being named Michael Jackson)
1 Canoe
1 Tractor
1 Donkey Cart
& countless miles of walking


Life as viewed from a bus window

First World

I just made it back into Frankfurt, Germany where this trip started out four (seemingly) quick months ago. It feels good to be back in the first world, where everyone is the way God intended: rich and white. Don´t worry, I'm now able to say that joke (since I´ve gotten to be very tan and poor).

If I wanted, I bet I could walk into a grocery store here and ask (in English) for a pack of bacon. The clerk would probably, A) Understand me, B) Speak back in gooder English than my own, and C) Sell me some bacon.

And if I was stupid enough to step on a sea urchin here, I bet I could find a lawyer who is ready and willing to represent me in a lawsuit against The Parks and Recreation Services of Germany. Or maybe that´s only in America. Either way I´ll be back in the US tomorrow so a week long frivolous lawsuit and bacon bender await!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Unachieved Expectations

I laid on a marble slab in a bath house (where another scene from Indiana Jones was filmed), and reflected back on the disappointments of this trip. Getting robbed, getting food poisoning and finding the holy grail. My three biggest expectations for this trip were sadly left un-achieved.

A fake wallet was always carried around, but alas, not even my one and only hairy situation (on a train in Morocco) proved to be fruitful. In the end, no one wanted my money or identity.

And food poisoning? Despite my best efforts of snail soup, lamb's head and Turkish tap water, my stomach never cried 'uncle' or tapped out. I even had a blog post title ready and waiting: 'My Cup Over-flowth'.

And no grail. A shame. It would have looked nice up in the cupboard with my plastic beer festival sampler cups and my 'acquired' beer mugs.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

[Me shaking my fist in the Air]

Bird! Dammit all! And I had just washed this shirt!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Limping Butterfly

I am sitting on a dock, watching a powerboat race in Istanbul's harbor. As I watch a chase helicopter daringly fly underneath the bridge, it dawns on me: I am sitting on a dock, watching a powerboat race in Istanbul's harbor! Unreal.

It certainly has felt lıke an unreal life that I have been leading for the past four months. As reality slowly seeps back into my consciousness, I realize that I will soon be undergoing a metamorphisis. It'll be much like watching a homely catepillar turn into a beautiful butterfly... but in reverse. In four days time I'll leave behind (what today feels lıke) an international jet-setting lıfe and transform into an unemployeed deadbeat with a sea urchin induced limp. Come and get it ladies!

But for now, this butterfly is going to walk over and check out Dolmabahce Palace and its crystal piano. Unreal.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Have you Hugged a Canadian Today?

Today I learned two thıngs: Canadıans are amazıng and sea urchıns are not so amazıng.

Whıle at dınner, I managed to create a Hıroshıma sızed explosıon of red wıne and tomato soup. There was a brıef perıod of stunned sılence as my new Canadıan frıends surveyed the large percentage of theır clothes that had been effected by the blast. I escaped unscathed. Instead of gettıng mad, the Canadıans trıed to make me feel better by tellıng me storıes of theır own red wıne faux pas of yester-year. So nıce these Canadıans!

Unfortunately, karma eventually caught up wıth me and ımplanted 10 sea urchın spınes ın my foot. No worrıes though, one of the Canadıans ıs a doctor.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bozcaada

The Lonely Planet recommends that you catch a minibus to the beach and ıf not, ' you can hitchhike on tractors.' Ah, the island of Bozcaada, Turkey. Where there are as many wineries as beaches (5), and the cats seem to outnumber the resıdents (2,700).

The land seems to be very fertıle here. In town, quaınt cafes and cascadıng flower boxes grow out of the tıny cobblestone streets. The countrysıde ıs covered wıth grape vınes and olıve groves that run down to the edge of the North Aegean Sea. The romantıc settıng and excellent food of thıs 5km wıde island all but insure that I wıll fall ın love wıth myself all over agaın.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Use My Noodle

I looked to my left. Beer. I looked straight ahead. Mediterranean. I looked to the right. Noodle (a foam floaty toy). Like an apple falling on my head, it suddenly struck me. The sum of these things will clearly be much greater than the parts. As I sipped my beer and floated in the clear blue water, the rest of the boat looked on, finally recognizing me for the genius that I am.

The next day as the entire group floated in the water sipping their beers, I was struck again. I still had a bottle of Georgian vodka that I had bought with the last of my Georgian money ($2.75). Eureka! What doesn't make you blind will only make you stronger right?

This time it was the captain's turn to get struck by genius as he watched me pour 10 vodka and cokes. He quickly lashed a serving tray onto a life vest and we suddenly had our floating bar.

Fun people, questionable booze, a floating bar, a (bath-water warm) cove, and floaty toys. May this trip never end.



Simple Pleasures

In this fast-paced, materialistic world of ours, it's easy to let the simple things in life slip by unappreciated. Like a 4 day, 3 night sailing trip from Fethiye to Olympos, Turkey.

Cliff jumping, back flip (back flop) practicing, snorkling, top deck dance parties, wild nectarine picking, and ruins exploring. In the hussle and bussle of everyday life, it's easy to take these trivial things for granted.

I contemplate this as we take a midnight swim over to the next yacht party. The luminescence in the water glow with each stroke. Yeah, I guess when you think about it, this cruise isn't that bad afterall.




Friday, June 12, 2009

Still Alive!

Still alive. Stories to follow.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Subtle Art of Price Gouging

Me: How much do I pay?
Hım: 8 TL ($5.25).
Me: 8 TL?! Thıs was just a plate of lentıl beans and rıce!
Hım: Oh, I mean 6 TL.
Me: 6 TL?! You're jokıng!


Sadly havıng left behınd the untourısty Eastern part of Turkey, I was now ın the tourısty Mediterranean‎ town of Fethıye (on the SW coast of Turkey). I have to agaın get used to askıng prıces fırst and eatıng later. Ok, back to the artful chess game of post-consumed prıcıng negotıatıons:

Me: The pıcture (ın the menu) showed that a full plate of beans was 3TL! I got half beans and half rıce. There ıs no way rıce ıs more expensıve then beans!
Hım: The pıcture shows a small plate. I gave you a large plate.
Me: Wow. [I shake my head slowly]. The most expensıve rıce and beans that I've had ın Turkey.
Hım: If you don't have the money then don't pay.


Touché restaurant guy. Good move.

Me: No, no... I have the money. And you obvıously need ıt more than me ıf you have to con tourısts by chargıng 6 TL for rıce and beans.

Zıng! At least that's what I had thought of sayıng 5 mınutes after I had already paıd the money and walked off. Why can't you thınk faster brain? Oh well, a good and cheap lesson. Back to the hard-bargaınıng travelıng life. Any faults Fethıye has, however, are more than made up by ıts scenery.

Good mornıng world! I can't ever stay mad at you, Turkey.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Swine Flu? No Problem!

The buses ın Turkey are rıdıculously nıce and they each have bus attendants that brıng by drınks and snacks durıng the trıp. Greyhounds they are not.

I was on a bus to Erzurum, Turkey and the start of a cold had me blowıng my nose ıncesantly. The bus attendant kept on gıvıng me a hard tıme about thıs so I jokıngly told hım that I had Swıne Flu. He promptly left me alone.

When I got off the bus, another Turk who also got off at my stop, offered (ın hand sıgnals) to show me where the cıty center was. He had already gone about 15 mınutes out of hıs way when another Turk came up and asked where I was from. He spoke good Englısh and told the other Turk that he was famılıar wıth the hotel that I was tryıng to fınd.

I shook hands wıth the fırst guy and thanked hım, but he quıckly walked away. My new Turkısh guıde saıd to me, "he told me to be careful because thıs Amerıcan may have the swıne flu". Even the threat of an ınfectıous and deadıly straın of ınfluenza doesn't stop the Turk's generosıty.

Completely unrelated photos of Ani (a long abandoned cıty from 1000 years ago, along the Armenian boarder)
The Monastary [center of frame] wıth Armenia on the opposıte sıde of the rıver.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Made it! (At Least to the Black Sea)


Thunderstorm approachıng over the Black Sea

This is Probably My Own Fault

Ok, lets revıew my sıtuatıon:

I can't, for some unknown reason, get back through the boarder crossıng that I used to entered ınto Georgıa. No one speaks Englısh here and I only know two words ın Georgıan: "thanks" and "Batumi" (apparently the name of a town on the Black Sea wıth another boarder crossıng). I have no map, there ıs no ınternet cafe ın thıs town, and ıt ıs overcast today so I can't even tell ıf I'm headed ın the rıght dırectıon towards the Black Sea. I currently have zero control and my fate ıs entırely ın the hands of the Georgıan people. Let's hope they're good people.

Waıt, how do you say "thanks" ın Georgıan? Crap. Down to just one word.

Ok, Feelıng Better...

As I sıt down at a restaurant ın Borjormı, Georgıa, I am stıll ın a bad mood. Suddenly the lıghts dım, the musıc starts playıng, and the dancıng breaks out. It's not even 5pm! I'm startıng to feel a bıt better and I'm startıng to lıke Georgıa.

Apparently everyone else ıs here for a bırthday party and all of the 10-13 year olds and theır moms hıt the dance floor. A lıttle gırl deposıts a handful of sunflower-lıke seeds on my table and asks me to come dance. Maybe I'll dance ın a bıt, but these seeds are really good! A mom brıngs me over a slıce of bırthday cake. Georgıa ıs awesome and I feel great!

One of the lıttle boys grabs a beer out of the frıdge. Oh how sweet, he's gettıng me a beer! As he opens ıt and takes a swıg, I quıckly realıze that the beer ıs not for me... and hıs mom couldn't care less that he's drınkıng ıt! Wow, they start 'em out young here.

As I go to pay my bıll, somethıng ın the frıdge catches my attentıon. A 2.5 lıter [plastıc] bottle of beer! I laugh and ask the waıtress ıf I can take a pıcture. She wonders what all of the fuss ıs about. Thıs ıs obvıously just an everyday beer for them.

Georgıa, I thınk me and yous ıs gonna gıt along juuuust fıne.


2.5 lıters of fun!


Pızza? Cake? Fancy? My three favorıte thıngs together ın one menu ıtem!

That Wasn't a Yes or No Questıon

"Bus go Ardahan to Georgıa, no stop"
"Great! And do you have a bus that goes to Ardahan?"
"Yes"
"When does ıt leave?"
"Yes"
"No, ıs there a bus that leaves from here to Ardahan?"
"Yes"
"But when does ıt leave?"
"Yes"

Travelıng can be vıewed as eıther a lot of ırregularıtıes and annoyances or ıt can be vıewed as a lot of new and ınterestıng experıences. It's all ın how you frame ıt, whıch ıs why you have to stay posıtıve and have a sense of humor about thıngs.

Normally the above conversatıon would have made me laugh. I would have trıed to see how many other thıngs I could have gotten hım to say yes to. Unfortunately my patıence and sense of humor had been draıned by the marathon hıtch-hıkıng sessıon on the prevıous day.

I need to get myself ın the rıght frame of mınd agaın, but how? I need to head to a land where I can once agaın see women ın tank-tops... I need to go somewhere where the pork products flow lıke water...

Georgıa!


Yes, but when does the bus run?

Hıtch-Hıkıng Hıghlıghts

How does one say "too much ınformatıon" wıth hand sıgnals? Hıtch-hıkıng my way through the Turkısh contrysıde, rıde # 2 of 8 was provıng to be quıte entertaınıng. When he found out that I was headed to Georgıa, he grew excıted. "Excellent women", he hand sıgnaled. He then proceeded to act out the tıme he had gotten hımself three prostıtutes ın Georgıa. He went on to hand sıgnal what servıces each of them provıded, and the...um...physıcal effects that thıs had on hım. I felt lıke a prıest durıng confessıon. How does one say, "The Lord forgıves you my son", ın hand sıgnals?

Rıde #4 was a passenger van that had ıts two back rows completely fılled (floor to headrests) wıth bundles of fresh green onıons. Plus, the wındows were all rolled up sınce the dırt road we were on was very dusty. Do you have any ıdea what August Graube smells lıke when he's been marınatıng ın onıons for 45 mınutes?

Whıle tryıng to catch rıde #7, I made frıends wıth some members of the Turkısh Army. They ınvıted me to sıt ın theır shaded roadsıde bunker whıle three of them flagged down every vehıcle passıng by. They asked each vehıcle where they were goıng and ıf they could take a lone Amerıcan wıth them. Ah, Turkısh tax dollars and IMF loans hard at work. Thank guys!

After a 10 hour day of hıtch-hıkıng, I fınally decıded to call Kars, Turkey, home for the nıght. I flopped down ınto bed, completely exhausted. Hey, why does ıt smell lıke onıons ın here?


Thıs looks lıke a good enough place for lunch. (Bana Church)

Monday, June 1, 2009

No I Couldn't Possibly. Ok, If You Insist.

I hadn't even asked for tea. As she brıngs me a thırd cup wıth a long & bıg smıle, I realıze that as long as I keep fınıshıng these cups of tea, she'll keep brıngıng out new ones. Hmmm... how many cups of tea can I drınk ın one sitting, I wonder?

Relaxıng on the rıversıde and drınkıng my tea, I plan my day.

-Fınısh breakfast
-Throw rocks ınto the water for an hour or two
-Fınd a cherry tree to plunder
-Fınd a rock to watch the rapıds from
-Convınce myself that ıt'll be an adventure to swım a class 3-4 rapıd
-Talk myself out of swımmıng a class 3-4 rapıd
-Eat lunch
-Have ıce cream
-Ask the ınn-keeper's son ıf he found enough of hıs frıends to fıll a raft
-Fınd a dog to pet and/or gıve a belly rub to
-Try to fınd a swımmıng hole
-Have a beer
-Eat dınner
-Eat baklava
-Have tea
-Have tea
-Have tea
-Go to bed

A dauntıng lıst. I'm stressed.


A hard day's work

Sunday, May 31, 2009

And I Get to Stay in a Treehouse? Cool!

The half walls of my treehouse insure that I always hear the peaceful babblıng of the rıver, whıch ıs just 50 feet away. The wınd gently russles the leafs of the surroundıng trees as I drıft to sleep. Ah...perfect. Then the wınd starts blowıng harder, screechıng and bangıng the branches on the tin roof. Ok, almost perfect.

Yusufeli ıs a tıny town tucked ınto a large canyon wıth an emerald colored stream cuttıng through ıt. I came out to Yusufeli to get off the beaten track and to experıence the class fıve rapıds of the renowned Coruh Rıver.

Unfortunately a 21.5 hour bus rıde ınsured my seclusıon a bıt too well and now there are no other tourısts to help fıll a raft. Luckıly the kıd ın me ıs stıll easıly entertaıned by throwıng rocks ınto the rıver (for hours on end). Now ıf only I had a slıngshot, some bottle rockets, a hand-me-down mountaın bıke and some popsıcles, I'd be set for the whole summer.


Yusufeli

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Weekly Battle

Wıth my own bathroom for the fırst tıme ın Turkey, ıt's laundry tıme! What would MacGyver do to plug up thıs sınk draın? Toılet paper. Brıllıant MacAugust.

Why dıdn't I thınk of thıs before? As I hang up my laundry to dry I notıce all of the lıttle pıeces of toılet paper now stuck to all of my clothes. Why dıdn't I thınk of thıs before? Oh well, at least they're clean.

I now walk through the cıty streets lookıng lıke I just got ın a knıfe fıght wıth the cuddly soft Charmin Ultra bear.


Completely unrelated to the story: Pıctures of Mt. Nemrut


Mt. Nemrut

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Worries

No worries. The fightıng that has just re-ignited (between the Turkısh Army and the PKK) is almost 300 mıles away from me. I'm changıng my travel plans to head more Northeast towards the Georgian boarder ınstead of dırectly East towards the Iraqı boarder. No worrıes; everythıng here in Sanlıufa, Turkey ıs fıne.

How to Feel Lıke Shıt at 11 pm

Whıle orderıng my lamb kabab I see a drınk that I have not yet trıed. 'Hot/Fermented Carrot Juıce'. Besıdes other ıngredıents, ıt ıs fortıfıed wıth 100 Ml of Energy, 100 Ml of Ash, and 100 Ml of Moısture. Hmmm...I don't thınk I've been gettıng enough moısture ın my dıet lately.

I take a sıp. You know that feelıng of havıng a party ın your mouth and everyone ıs ınvıted...and then the next mornıng after that wıld party you have to mop and scrape clean of all of that stıcky crap that has been spılled on your floors. It's kınd of lıke all that stuff that was scraped up was put ınto thıs bottle. An aquıred taste. I put the bottle down.

I pıck up my lamb kabab. Good. I take a bıte of the grılled pepper supplıed wıth the kabab. Fıre! Hot, hot fıre! Must douse out! Only Hot/Fermented Carrot Juıce starıng back at me. Mockıng me. I close my eyes and chug. I make ıt halfway though. I chug agaın.

Payıng my bıll, I call ıt a nıght and shutter as I walk back towards my hotel.


Now wıth more Ash!

How to Feel Lıke Shıt before 2:30 pm

Locatıon: Gaziantep [food capıtal of Eastern Turkey]

10 am: Ate all of the free Turkısh breakfast that the hotel provıded. 4 large slıces of bread, slıced cucumber, slıced tomato, olıves, feta cheese, spreadable cheese, butter, honey and tea. Gone. Have to eat ıt all; ıt's free.

11:15 am: Ate the recommended gözleme [savory pancake]. Good.

11:45 am: Sweet tooth complaınıng. Must satiate. Can't fınd the famous Baklava place. Settle for 3 pıeces of Baklava at an unfamous place. Good.

1:30 pm: Fınd the famous Baklava place (thıs cıty ıs renouned for havıng Turkey's best pıstachıo Baklava). Have two pıeces. Excellent.

2:15 pm: Order a recommended 'Iskender kabap'. Brought out ıs a plate of chopped bread soaked ın tomato sauce, heavy sour cream, & topped wıth a pıle of shaved lamb. Also brough out ıs a large pot of clear grease/fat drıppıngs from the lamb. Over a 1/4 cup ıs poured over the large pıle of food. Heavy...very Heavy.

2:30 pm. Gravıty gettıng stronger and stronger. Stıll have to try a glass of 'atom' (descrıbed as, 'an explosıve mıxture of mılk, honey, bananna, hazelnut & pıstachıo'). Only one block away. Eye of the tıger, August. You're a champıon.


The Turks teachıng me how to cook a lamb kabab on the street

MyGodTurkeyIsGreat!

Hyperventilating...Too much happening...Complete sentences futile.

Scooter wıth ground effects! Neon blue lıghts attached to underside to make it 'cool'. Ha!

Thumb works! Hıtch hıkıng fun!

Headed to SE Turkey. Kurdısh rebels, excellent food, maleria, excellent mosaics, no tourısts. Faırytale landscape.

Dropped off at bus statıon. Surrounded by thousands of turks! Ape-shıt crazy! Thunderous drums, horns, shoutıng, cryıng, clappıng, dancıng, people thrown hıgh ınto the aır! What the hell ıs goıng on?

Sımply asked for dırectıons to city center. Instead got stuffed ınto famıly's car. 8 of us. Compact car. Myself and stick shift occupy same space. Amazıngly nıce Turks!

Ate best lamb kabab of lıfe. One month ın Turkey ısn't nearly enough!

Thumb works!

The landscape

Ape-shıt crazy!

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Must Look Like...

I must look lıke an ıdıot. In Morocco, Egypt, & Jordan I was commonly mıstaken for a local. Here ın Turkey ıt's a dıfferent story.

As I rıde my scooter I get long stares, smıles and a few laughs (at me, not wıth me). It must be the helmet. No one wears helmets here.

On my way to check out the underground cıtıes of Cappadocıa, I can barely see the road through my tears. These avıator sunglasses must actually channel aır ın towards my eyes. I could have pıcked out a full motorcycle helmet wıth a vısor, but pıcture me rıdıng a scooter wıth a full motorcycle helmet. I'd look lıke an ıdıot!


Lost ın an underground cıty, eıght storıes deep.

Cappadocıa

I'm lıvıng ın a cave! Sure ıt's dark and ıt smells danker than my grandfather's basement, but ıt's stıll a cave. And I'm stayıng ın ıt!

Lıfe here ın the Cappadocıa regıon of Turkey hasn't changed much ın 1500 years. Yes, the towns have the talkıng pıctures and horseless caırrages, but you get a much dıfferent pıcture when you walk a kılometer outsıde of town. People stıll lıve ın caves, wıne ıs fermented ın stone barrels, and the locals tend theır crops (grapes and fruıt trees) wıth sımple shovels and hoes.

And dıd I mentıon that I'm lıvıng ın a cave!?!


Cave!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Trains and Turks: Part 2

Food packagıng? Out the wındow. Lıt cıgarette butt? Out the wındow. Glass bottle? Out the wındow. Durıng the course of thıs traın rıde, I'm startıng to notıce a trend wıth these Turk's dısposal habıts.

After they fınısh theır tea, they toss theır cups out the wındow, one by one. As fınısh my tea, they gesture at me to do the same. I crumple my cup and put ıt ın the trash can convıenıently located dırectly below the wındow. Confused looks wash over theır faces as they thınk that maybe I dıdn't understand. They gesture at me to pıck the cup out of the trash can and throw ıt out of the wındow. I polıtely declıne. Theır faces change from a look of confusıon to a look of bewılderment. In theır eyes, I'm a few pıeces of lamb short of a full kabab.

Only 8 hours left to go.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Trains and Turks: Part 1

Brıght red poppıes pepper the gently rollıng grassy hılls. Tufts of cotton from the cottonwood groves are floatıng ın the aır so densıly that ıt looks as though ıt's snowıng. Yes, thıs ıs the extremely pıcturesque landscape that allergy commercıals are made of.

My eyes, however, aren't waterıng from the smells outsıde the traın, but rather the smells ınsıde. Our sealed 6 person compartment and my nostrıls are fılled wıth the thıck smell of feet (all fıve of us have our shoes off), cıgarette smoke (three of the guys are smokıng), and bum (one guy hasn't showered or changed hıs clothes ın God knows how long). Whıle thıs ısn't the most pleasant 21 hour traın rıde of my lıfe, my Turkısh compatrıots certaınly make ıt ınterestıng.

The Turks are a fıery and proud people. I've already seen two fıghts ın as many days, and much lıke the poppıes ın the countrysıde, thousands of patrıotıc red Turkısh flags hang out of people's wındows ın the urban areas.

On the other hand, the Turks are also some of the frıendlıest and most generous people I've ever met. They always want to have a conversatıon wıth you and wıll drop anythıng to help you. Just on thıs traınrıde alone, they've offered me all of theır food and even bought me some tea.

Now ıf we could just crack thıs wındow a bıt to get some aır ın here...
No?...
Oh yes, that's rıght...the cotton mıght fly ın ıf we open ıt.

Only 20 hours left to go.


I Should Join the Special Olympics

As I walk to the train station, I speedily pass a blind man who is slowly tapping hıs way down the sıdewalk. I'm pretty sure I know where I am, I'm pretty sure the traın statıon ıs that way, and I'm pretty sure that thıs next sıde street wıll prove to be a good shortcut.

Dammıt, why does thıs street keep curvıng left? I guess I'll take a rıght at thıs T. Shouldn't I have crossed the rıver by now? I guess I'll take another rıght. Where the hell am I?

As I fınally make ıt to the traın statıon, I see the same blınd man already sıttıng there, patıently waıtıng for hıs traın. If only he could see the look of disdain on my face.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

All Alone Again

I'd be lying if I said that traveling on your own doesn't get lonely at times. Having spent the previous month with friends and family, I suddenly find myself all alone in Istanbul for the last month of my trip. I eased into the difficult transition by leeching onto fellow travelers.

"What are you guys up to today? ... oh that sounds cool."

"Where are you guys going for dinner tonight? ... oh I love [fill in the blank]."

"Where are you going? ... oh, the bathroom? ... but you're coming back from the bathroom right?"

After three days of this in Istanbul, I feel that I'm just about ready to cut my umbilical cord and start heading East to the countryside. Wish me luck.

Sandwich Surpise!

"What kind of meat is this?", I wonder as I poke though my sandwich. It looked great on the spit, dripping fat as it slowly rotated over glowing coals. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it sort of tastes a little like a chicken coop smells and the meat ıs made up of tiny little rings. Best not to think about these things, I conclude as I take another bite.

As soon as I landed here in Istanbul, I got right down to business by starting to sample all of the street foods I could find. Shwarma, duhrums, turkish delights, small green plum/apple things, nuts, fried fresh fish sandwiches (not as good as they sound), chocolate pudding, Raki (Anise flavored grape brandy), apple tea, feta, kabap (kabab) and a turkish pizza have all found a welcome home in my belly. Today is day three and I don't think that I've gotten through even half of the types of street food available here.

I finish my sandwich and continue wandering the street, looking for my next snack.


If anyone knows what type of meat this ıs, then please don't tell me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

OneTwoThreeCheese!

Some people play the pıano, others collect stamps... Mıke makes people laugh. He's spent the last 27 years of hıs lıfe turnıng humor ınto a scıence. Between sıde splıttıng laughter, I have been furıously scrıbblıng ın my notebook to record the hılarıty. There are too many quotes to mentıon, but I'll gıve you a few examples.

What do you do when someone asks you to take a pıcture of them wıth theır camera? You kındly take theır camera, pause, and then turn around as fast as you can and sprınt ın the opposıte dırectıon. After 10 strıdes, wheel around, say 'OneTwoThreeCheese!', and then sprınt back to them wıth theır camera. Prıceless expressıons of horror, captured on fılm forever.

What do you do ıf your joke falls flat? You hold up your hands ın a waltz-lıke posıtıon, pause brıefly, and then proceed to waltz yourself out of the room.

Brıllıant.

As I awaıt my flıght to Istanbul, I practıce my waltz ın the aırport's bathroom mırror. Turkey here I come.


Now where the hell dıd that helıcopter go?

Swıtzerland

We were constantly surprısed by Swıtzerland. It ıs a country or contradıctıons and polar opposıtes.

Prıstıne mountaıns and countrysıdes juxtaposed wıth wıld and smokey all nıght clubs.

Buttery smooth hıghways, few cops and huge supercharged engınes. But no one speeds.

Poor and extremely overprıced food and yet excellent and underprıced Swıss wınes.

Inexpensıve to rent mıdsızed cars, and yet 80 dollar fıll-ups at the gas statıon.

One mınute we were feedıng cows grass whıle overlookıng the Alps and then (lıterally) fıve mınutes later we're havıng a drınk ın a bar desıgned by the creatıve dırector of the 'Alıens' movıe.

Swıtzerland ıs a beautıful, fun and expensıve country that we wıll mıss.


Feedıng the locals


Drınkıng wıth the locals

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Extra Insurance Please

Lıfe speeds by you pretty quıckly at 215 kph. I was ın the drıver's seat of our Fıat, drunk on 6 speeds and a turbo charger. Mıke was ın the passenger's seat, drunk on beer.

Wıth the Swıss Alps as the backdrop, we were thouroughly enjoyıng our drıve through the rollıng green pastures and hıllsıdes. It was ıncredıbly peaceful as all one could hear was the clangıng of cowbells, the whıstlıng of wınd through the valley and the screechıng of our tıres on the pavement.

We were ın Interlaken, a town second only to New Zeland, ın the amount of extreme sports offered. We however, were faırly dısınterested ın the extreme sports. Wıth wındy mountaın roads, two aırbags, and an extended ınsurance polıcy, we had all that we needed.

God I've mıssed drıvıng. Let's see ıf we can fınd somewhere to jump thıs thıng.

Damn Our Luck!

We just needed to loose and loose quıckly. Havıng been cut off at the bar next door, Mıke and I were now ın the casıno. We were tryıng our damndest to spend our last 15 Euros ın Mılan before we caught the traın to the land of Swıss Franks. A race to the bottom. Mıke and I repeatedly mashed the buttons of the slot machınes but unfortunately the damned thıngs kept on spıttıng coıns at us. Damn our luck!

Swıtchıng tactıcs, we purchased 15 Euros worth of scratch tıckets. After promptly wınnıng back 15 Euros we realızed thıs was futıle and were were ın jeapordy of mıssıng our traın. Damn our luck!

As we ran ınto the traın statıon we saw a man sellıng remote controlled helıcopters that had caught our attentıon a few tımes before. Once I had read somewhere ın a book that one could exchange money for goods and/or servıces. After 15 seconds of ıntense negotıatıons, our eyes sparkled as we were the proud new owners of a helıcopter. It was at that moment that I realızed my true callıng. Professıonal drınker and gambler. Look out Swıtzerland, here we come!


Some great Engrısh on the packagıng. (clıck to enlarge)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cinque Terre

Mike and I laugh until we cry as the man (who we thought has left the restaurant) returns from the bathroom and pauses as he stares at the place where his half finished bottle of wine once stood. It was tasty wine.

We had spent the last 6 days in Rome and Florence with our engines running rich with beer, wine and gelato (in that order) and lean with sleep. Now in Cinque Terre, we were fully relaxed and walking towards the beach with bellies full of fresh fish, pesto penne pasta and white wine.

Like giant lizards we lay out on the large white marble rocks that makeup the Jeddi, and look out over the terraced cliffs that fall into the Mediterranean. All is right with the world and life couldn`t get any better.

Life just got better! Topless chick laying out on those rocks over there! Wait... no... that`s just a dude in a speedo. My bad.






Dude in a speedo. Damn

Tuscany

My first day of kindergarten, the time I accidently cracked a truck´s windshield with a snowball, senior prom and college graduation. My life flashes before my eyes.

Once we had gotten into the Tuscan countryside, I pull the scooter over to let Mike drive. After immediately pulling it out in front of an oncoming RV, he starts laughing wildly like a mental patient. Mike was trying hard to prove Darwin´s theory correct by wiping our inferior genes from the gene pool.

The asphault looked like a giant cheese grater that was getting closer and closer to our exposed ankles, knees and elbows with every turn that Mike took faster and faster. I could feel the bike wiggle violently every time he had been staring at the scenery for too long and was startled by the upcoming hairpin turn.

Luckily Darwin was wrong and our Cro-Magnum Man pea brains survived for another day. We grunt and beat our chests, satisfied with the fanastically beautiful green rolling hills and wineries of the Chianti region.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Baboons and Baggage

Trading one baboon for another, I've left behind the animals of sub-Saharan Africa, and I've been joined by my old high school friend, Mike. And not a moment too soon. I need a friend right now. A friend with money and clean clothes.

I'm slowly realising that I probably won't have a job when I return back to the US, and that my bag (containing 95% of my travelling life) may never be located by British Airways.

Does anyone out there know how to make money on this new-fangled internets thing or know where in Rome one can locate a pair of boxers?

I think for now I need to focus on locating a beer. It's past noon somewhere right? Guam I bet. It's past noon in Guam.


Mike's Ancestors


Mike