Since I don’t really have a home, per se, I don’t have the comforts of a home (or my favorite stuff) to pull me back emotionally from these trips.
And that makes getting on planes and being gone a long time work out much better for me than most.
It does not mean I don’t miss my friends, who have become, essentially, the two places I call home, Seattle & Portland.
(There's a third important place, but it's one I don't call home: The Road.)
That said, I’ll just observe that any day that begins when you put on a money belt and a photo vest has got to get really awful in some fundamental ways to be a bad day.
Well, it was great seeing all those places, and meeting all those people, but I need to admit that one of the highlights for me was getting the Turkey reports picked up and posted on the www.iwasinturkey.com web site.
As I learned to say in Turkish,
Turkey is very beautiful, but the people are even better.
And that began, of course, with the first two we met—Chetin and Jale. They offered up their home to us, Chetin’s the one who came up with the car, he’s the one who took two or three days off work to make sure we could get out on the road, and we kept thinking how lucky we were to hit such great people the first shot we had at it.
But we weren’t merely lucky: people in Turkey are that nice.
Often, when I was lost in a city, I’d stop in some shop and ask, in my dreadful (but much-appreciated) Turkish
Good day. Can you tell me please where X is?
And they wouldn’t tell me.
They’d leave their shop, walk with me to at least the first intersection, sometimes the second, and sometimes whistle up some pal down that street to take me in tow.
And I can’t tell you how many times I was offered part of someone’s breakfast or lunch, or fruit, or the universal chai.
Not to cast aspersions about the Greeks— it’s a different culture, after all, but only one person has offered me food here; on the other hand, no one’s tried to sell me a rug, either. . . .
I think if I had to live outside the US, I’d start the where-do-I-want-to-live list with Turkey.
Kim and I have already started talking a little about working out a way to bring photographers here. We have most of the itinerary mapped out already.
The best city I was in is pretty much Istanbul— it has everything, including some great, old, almost-village neighborhoods and all the big mosques. And bombing around on the water busses with the normal commuters was a treat.
Best Place: Turkish for Lap of Luxury
The nicest place we stayed was the Ephesia, in Kuşadasi, south of Izmir. That’s where we were given the rooms and meals by a friend of a friend. We shot a bunch of pictures for him for his new development, and I hope he’ll be able to use them. Here’s their URL: http://www.ephesia.com/
If Kim and I put the photo safari together, we’ll be staying there for a couple of two-night stops.
Since I averaged just less than $20 a night for lodging, this place was far above the norm. but even if I hadn’t been traveling so close to the ground, it would have been a real highlight.
Crete was also a terrific place, but the people seemed a little more guarded and distant (hell, if you’d been invaded as often as they had, you’d be guarded and distant, too).
But it was also pretty good practice for the 2010 trip, which is looking like Tunisia, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and Provence. Two new countries— maybe three. No Vermeers. Bombing around on islands. And only two languages to deal with: French and Italian.
Athens was terrific, but would have been better about 15 degrees cooler. The last month of the trip, I was dealing with temperatures that were about a month early in the year.
This is a terrible picture, and the last of the 7774 I took on this trip, actually, but it shows the Acropolis from the roof of the hotel where I stayed. It’s a shot from the roof and not from my room, but how cool is it to look up from neighborhoods in the city and see this?
When I was bumbling around trying to find the flower market, I was paying a lot of attention to my city map and the street names up on the sides of buildings, and I saw a young woman standing in the middle of the street taking a picture.
What was there to shoot?
Ah, merely the Acropolis. . . . .
Other than being away from friends for three months, the biggest problem with the trip was weather. The three days of rain early on weren’t the problem that the heat was toward the end.
Especially the last three weeks on Crete and the week in Athens, it was too darn hot. High 80s (at least) during the day for almost a month. And here and there in Turkey, especially the last third of that trip, it was getting so warm that I had to adapt to the heat.
The heat limited how long I could stay out and shoot or prowl around much more than my age did.
I have noticed, even though I’m in somewhat good shape from all the walking all the time, that I can handle only about 6-7 hours before I start to droop and need to find shade and a seat and maybe some cold water and food.
But too much cold water leads to other facilities I need to find. . . .
And I met some pretty hardy travelers— they are the real pros at this much more than me. I stayed pretty safe, while they went 3-400 miles further east in Turkey than I did, and one of them is in Syria right now, learning Arabic.
And there’s a couple here, the Barcley’s, in the Athens hotel, who sold their home in Alberta, put everything in storage, and are taking a year off to travel. They’ve already been to Syria, Egypt, Jordan, some Greek islands, and are off to sub-Saharan Africa next, then to Thailand.
Their travel reports are at www.barclaystaw.blogspot.com, I think.
So while I now have about half the countries that Arnie Panitch and Don Feller have on their Life List, and less than half of what Mary Feller has, some of the people I met on this trip seem like the real adventurers.
The Last Miles
The flight yesterday, from Paris to Chicago, was about 200 miles less than I drove in Turkey.
Yertle the Turtle
And here’s your intrepid (well, maybe trepid at this point) reporter, slightly out of focus
in the hotel room in Athens, with all the gear— 41 pounds of hold baggage plus the laptop in one hand and the camera gear in the front back-pack.
Pretty travelled out, at least for now, down to the last belt notch, needing a new pair of shoes-- this pair is giving out after 16 countries-- and eager to catch up with his friends and family.