Saturday, October 11, 2008

 

Homeward Bound

After 19 days abroad, Dave and I are heading home.

As always, my travel anxiety is starting to rev up. I do, after all, have the worst travel luck of anyone I know. Need proof?

In 1998, we spent two days post-honeymoon on the floor of the Honolulu airport because of the pilot's strike.

In 2000, we left for our two month sabbatical the day the dot.com bubble burst (and Dave was working in high-tech).

We had a flight home on September 12, 2001, and ended up being stranded in Europe for an additional 10 days.

When I traveled to Poland in 2002, I was pulled out of line, searched, and when they gave me my passport back, I didn't notice until I was sitting in the plane that it wasn't my passport. They had switched mine with another man's during the security search.

I've been evacuated from a plane due to a tornado.

I've been in the Houston airport when it was hit by lightening and lost power.

I was scheduled to fly out the day South Dakota got a record-breaking 19 inches of snow in April.

I've been one of those sad saps stranded on the tarmac for four hours on Christmas Day.

I've flown in to Florida only to burst an eardrum and break a tooth.

I landed in New York last January on the day the stock market plummeted and Heath Ledger died.

I was in Spokane with a six week old baby when the FAA grounded all Horizon flights back to Seattle.

Last time in was in Florida, I was standing in line when they announced the cancellation of my flight. I started joking with the man standing next to me that he should probably move away from me and my bad juju. He was on his way to a high priced hunting trip. As we were checking luggage, I looked down just in time to see my Seattle sticker being attached to his Montana-bound hunting riffles. They made the change but I think I freaked him out a bit.

I'm hoping that the WaMu melt down, which happened on the day we departed, was the bad luck that I can attribute to this trip. However, I never underestimate how many things can go wrong with my flights and the world when I am outside of my home town.

Wish us luck.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

 

And You Thought Your Mother-In-Law Was Bad

Today we visited The Harem in the Topkapi Palace. Unlike our visions of a Harem, it was actually the "carefully administered social institution that ensured the longevity of the Ottoman Empire" (credit to our hero, Rick Steves)

While the Sultan is the head of the household and lived in the Harem, his mother really ruled the roost. She selected his wives (of which he could have up to four). She selected his "favorites", of which he could have four. And then she dictated and recorded which night he could visit each of them. As a matter of fact, her quarters were situated between his quarters and the wives and concubines quarters.

Could you imagine?

The Sultan's mom wielded tremendous influence in state affairs as well. In the mid 16th century is known as the "reign of the ladies" because the mom and the wives had so much power. By all accounts, they ruled better than their sons, husbands and fathers.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

 

Greetings from Istanbul

Three days ago we docked in Bodrum, where we explored the little sea-side town for the morning and then water skied the rest of the afternoon (solidifying our rep as the ship's adventure duo). Not that many of the people on board don't water ski - many of them have summer homes by lake - it's just that the conditions were choppy and the water cold. And oh, by the way, I kept my bathing suit top on :)

The next day was the amazing ruins at Ephesus.



Then we had a day at sea. We have become friends with a reporter at NPR. She asked the cruise director to tape the VP debates and play them in the mezzanine so we could have our own public forum afterward. They told us no. I joked with her that just because she is comfortable with plane wrecks and terrorist attacks (which she covered a great deal in her last job) that doesn't mean the cruise ship is. Not that anyone would be nasty BUT most folks on the ship were categorically Republicans and the few Democrats liked to wear politically provocative tee-shirts. It made for interesting dinner conversation.

Yesterday we landed in Istanbul.

Did you know that Istanbul has twice as many people as New York City? Did you know that half of the city is in Asia and half in Europe? It's true.

Also, 98% of the people who live here are Muslim. The call to prayer can be heard throughout the ENTIRE city five times each day.

The people that we have met so far (with the exception of the carpet salesmen) have all been so warm, thoughtful, and friendly. As one of our tour guides pointed out - do not judge a religion by its fanatics.

In the morning, we visited the breathtaking Haiga Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Then we went to my favorite, the cisterns. In the 500's A.D., Emperor Justinian built an amazing underground water repository, with 336 magnificent columns. But during the dark ages, people simply FORGOT they were there! It wasn't until a few hundred years later someone rediscovered them. You take a few steps under ground and suddenly there are columns as far as the eye can see. It is so amazing. They don't use it to capture rain water anymore, but there is about two feet of water. They have a restaurant and concerts down there. It's cool.

For dinner, we went to Asia. We actually went to Asia twice yesterday. How cool is that? The people we have met are quick to point out that they are Asian decedents, rather than Arabic, although many Americans assume Turkey is Arabic. One guide even told us they share DNA with North American Native Americans. I will have to fact check that when we get back.

We went to the Spice Market, which is a sight to behold. We bought some Turkish Delight (think applets and cotlets but way better). It is so amazingly addictively good. We actually went outside and gorged ourselves on it. Not a pretty site.

Hookah Pipe bars are very popular (think water bong bars). We passed by several water front restaurants that had hundreds of yards of brightly colored bean bags with patrons smoking fragrant tobaccos from the foot tall pipes.

I must leave you now. There are others waiting for the computer. Today we are going to a museum, a Turkish bath, and then to see a Whirling Dervish show.

I will try to write more tomorrow.

Hope all is well with everyone back home. We miss you!

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