When Angie arrived in Istanbul our travel plans were still unsettled as she was coming out of one of our war-torn regions and didn’t know her arrival date until the last-minute, nor did she have a ticket home. We’d emailed about traveling through Eastern Europe since I’d found several cheap flights home from Germany, but decided once she arrived to stay in Turkey, which was definitely the right decision.
Unfortunately I’d packed for Eastern Europe in September so I had a few useless sweaters and a jacket, but I’d brought so little for traveling this time around (in response to my serious over packing for travel in the Middle East) that it didn’t matter much. We planned the next ten days on the fly, keeping our options open and probably (on my part) adjusting plans a few times too many.
We also traveled relatively cheap, which Angie was a good sport about given she was coming off what I would call a “slightly” different pay scale. I’d told her I was going to backpack but I don’t think she quite understood what that meant until we were walking through the back alleys of Bodrum our first night out of Istanbul looking for our pension rather than flagging down a taxi. But we both compromised: I ate out more than I would have liked and she shopped less and took more buses than she would probably have liked.
And despite how that might sound, it was a nice, comfortable trip, with wine and sunsets and mosques and ancient ruins. Regular showers. And as payback for my laziness while traveling in the Middle East, I was in charge of figuring out the travel details. Which I think I did fairly well.
In fact, I developed enough smugness in sorting out the miscellaneous buses and metros and ferries, in actually arriving at my intended destinations a good ninety percent of the time, that I was definitely due for a knock down. It happened in Germany. In Germany the public transportation defeated me. But that is a blog to come.
In Turkey, public transportation is efficient and friendly and you have only to ask and you will be escorted across a parking lot, even across town, to step on your bus leaving in five short minutes.
Our first few days we explored more of Istanbul then flew to Bodrum along the Aegean Coast. Bodrum is apparently a British beach package destination, which we sorted out based on all the fish and chips being advertised, but we just passed through. Twice. From there we took a bus to Marmaris, where we spent a night, and then a ferry to Rhodes for a few days, and then back to Selçuk, where we settled for four days at Homeros Pension, which we both loved. We explored Ephesus, and the nearby wine town of Şirince, and rented a car for a day to see some more archeological sites along the coast.
And then Angie left and I went on, to travel for five days on my own. I’d been a little concerned about traveling alone in Turkey, which is why, pre-Angie joining in, I’d settled on Eastern Europe. But Turkey was easy to backpack through, even as a woman alone. It’s touristy, for sure, but the hustling is minor and the rug dealers always accept a “no thanks” and move on to the next tourist. The men, yes, they are friendly. I had a few minor incidents. But that too, is for another blog.
The mix of secular and conservative Muslims with the Western, tourist culture was a little odd. In Istanbul, while I saw more woman wearing burqas then I remember noticing in Jordan or Egypt, there were also Turkish women in tank tops and short skirts with no head scarves at all.
One of the stranger scenes was at Parmakkule, a world heritage site in Southwestern Turkey. The town is just a tourist enclave supporting the mountain slathered in white calcium deposits that rises above rolling scrubby hills. From a distance it doesn’t look like much. It’s not until you remove your shoes and step into the pools of water rolling down the slopes of white carbonate terraces that you notice the beauty. Not to mention the pious Turkish women, covered head to toe, stepping around the girls in their g-strings posing for photos in the pools of powdery, blue water.
Odd, yes. Yet no one seemed to mind.