Thursday, December 3, 2009

We both made it out with our wallet and only one of us was hit by a car...

Turkey was amazing! My friend Nick and I flew out of Portugl on Friday afternoon, had an uneventful flight and arrived in Istanbul Friday night at about midnight. Nick's friend, Chadis, I think that's how that is spelled, met us at the airport and we set out on our adventure.

After briefly getting lost on the highways of Istanbul we successfully drove through the ridiculously think fog to Chadis' mother's house in Edirne. Although we arrived after 2 in the morning his mother and sister were still up to greet us with large amounts of food and his friends even stopped by to see everyone and share in the food consumption. Everyone was really friendly even though there was little English spoken round the table. The highlight of the night was when one of Chadis' friends was leaving and after having spoken only a word or two of English throughout the whole evening/morning he poked his head around the doorway he'd just left through to say, "I must go now...because I'm married". Being that almost the only thing I'd understood for the previous hour was the nearly constant ribbing he'd been given over his being married and needing to be accountable for his hours it was really funny.

The next morning we woke up to a feast of a breakfast complete with Turkish tea. Being a non-tea drinker I was a bit apprehensive but drank through a glass with the help of two sugar cubes. It wasn't too bad, but I politely declined a second glass. After breakfast we all, mom, sister, Chadis, Nick and I piled into the small family car and drove to the grandparent's place. As we drove Nick and I learned about how to great the older generation with respect. So when we met the grandparents we both took their hand, kissed the back, touched our foreheads to their hand and then gave lose hugs with a kiss first on the right and then the left. After that we were treated like family. They were wonderful people and, while I once again didn't understand most of what was being said, we all got on very well. At one point during the visit each person was given a small cup of Turkish coffee. I have consumed even less coffee in my lifetime than tea and managed to take a few sips before realizing that I just couldn't get through it. There was no problem though, Gulce, the sister, (it's supposed to have two dots over the u but I don't know where that key is) nicely dumped my coffee but brought back the cup with the residue in it. We were told that mom could read our fortunes and that we ought to flip the cup onto the saucer. A few minutes later I learned that I will soon come into a large sum of money, that I will be taking a big trip in either four days or four weeks or four months, she wasn't sure about the specific time and that currently I am thinking of courting two young ladies and I would be better served to make a decision. The whole experience was done with a sense of seriousness that let me know that while it wasn't concrete it was still taken with some level of respect within the family.

After visiting the late father's grave, which was my first time in an Islamic graveyard, they have raised graves that are covered with soil so that families have planted flowers on the graves, we all went to the Eski Camii. The Eski Camii is an enormous mosque in Edirne. It was amazingly huge and absolutely spectacular. As with most old cathedrals that I've visited there was an overwhelming sense of awe of how many hours went into building such an amazing place for the sole purpose of honoring and worshipping something greater than the people who built it.

After the mosque the five of us walked around town for a bit before going to a local restaurant that is famous for it's local quisine. Our new friends didn't feel the need to tell us what we were eating until we'd already devoured half a plate of whatever was put in front of us. It turns out we were eating fried liver. And loving it. The drink was something that Nick and I didn't go back for seconds on, a sort of salty yogurt. I never imagined I would like liver more than yogurt, it even feels weird to say, but man that was a great meal.
After leaving the Chadis' mother and sister in Edirne with hugs, well-wishes and hopes to one day see each other again the three of us went back to Istanbul. We spent a few hours seeing the Hagia Sofia, an ancient cathedral turned mosque, the Blue Mosque and a basilica, which we all decided had something to do with holding water but we weren't really sure what we met up with another of Nick's friends for dinner. After dinner we drove to the Asian side of Istanbul, (I've now been to Asia!!!) to rest and get ready for a night out. As we were driving around I was struck with the immensity of this city, it is easily the largest and most confusing place I've ever been. Nick and I quickly realized how fortunate we were to be traversing the city with people who knew their way around.

That night we went out for drinks, before Chadis, Nick and I went to a rock bar. It was great fun. We were out dancing till just after five in the morning. The band was great and I even tried to sing along at one point. I'm not sure I sang any of the right words, being that they were Turkish, but we gave it a valiant effort. I then got to drive home, being the non-drinker of the group, which was cool, I've now driven on five continents, before we all crashed at Chadis' place.

The next day we went walking along the Marmara Sea. It was nice looking out over Istanbul, just relaxing a bit. Even though we'd woken up at two we all decided we could use a nap before going out that night. We later met up with Nick's other friend again for dinner and drinks and had a nice relaxed evening.
The next morning we woke up early, made sure our bags were packed and went back over to the European side to check out the Grand Bazaar. Nick and I agreed we were expecting more of an outdoor market but it wasn't that at all. It was kind of like an ancient mall with lots of small shops selling lots of very traditional Turkish type things. I managed to pick up a little magic genie lamp, which is now residing among my "trophie collection" of knick-knacks from around the world.
After the bazaar we walked around for a few more hours before heading off to the airport.
I really had an amazing time in Turkey. The people were all very friendly, the city was amazing to behold and it was a fun adventure. One I would certainly recommend to anyone looking for something very different from the norm.

Oh yeah, and the car thing...
We were walking down to the ferry port and weren't sure which way to go. For some reason, which I definitely don't remember now I stopped in the middle of the road to look at a sign, not that I could read any of the signs but I must have thought it a good idea. Anyway, the driving in Istanbul rivals that of Freetown for the craziest drivers I've ever encountered and stopping in the middle of the road is unadvisable. I heard the briefest of "heads ups" shouted by my friend before I found myself flat on my back and a car wheel rolling up on my foot. I was more surprised than anything else at the moment and popped up laughing like an idiot. I think it was my bodies way of dealing with the stress. I limped off the road, waved to the man who looked aghast at hitting me that I was o.k. and trudged off down the road. I was and am fine, my leg ached for a bit and my shoulder was sore, but I'm fine and can now say that I've been hit by a car in Asia.


Jessica said...

Okay......that was an amazing account of your adventures and then when I got to the end I nearly died laughing when I envisioned you limping away after being hit by a car.

I'm sorry, but that's really, really funny.

And um.....I have to say it. I tried not to, but I can't avoid it any longer. Here it is: You went to TURKEY at THANKSGIVING. HAHAHAHAHA. Come on. I can't be the first one to comment to that effect.

Weezer said...

Looking pretty good there, Justin. More like your dad than ever. I was asking Kelly just the other night about you. Glad to see that you're living the life. Stay well. Come see us when you're home again.