Changing Travel Plans: Safranbolu and Turkish Hospitals

Weaving in and out of traffic–-20 mph to 60 in two seconds, and then braking and weaving again to avoid hitting a motorcycle or slamming into the back of a truck-–this was our welcome back to Istanbul. As the good American I am, I instinctively reached for my seat belt. There were none in this taxi. My friend and I both looked at each other laughing-–partly out of the excitement of the experience and how crazy this taxi driver was driving, but also from the fear and nerves that Istanbul traffic induced...

Ataturk: Ankara and Cappadocia

Last night I was in Ankara on my way from Cappodocia in central Turkey to Safranbolu near the Black Sea. Even with its 4.5 million people, there isn’t too much to see as far as tourism and sightseeing in Ankara, since most of it is a fairly new city built up since Ataturk moved the capital here in the 1920s. Nonetheless, it is nice to wander the streets a bit and take in a more “authentic” Turkey, away from the hordes of tourists. I like to do this from time to time while I travel, to just take in a city or neighborhood away from the tour groups and the sales people hawking kitschy junk at you. Wandering the Kizilay (university area where we are staying) was nice and pleasant. American pop music and traditional Turkish tunes coming from apartments blend together with the honks and beeps and revs of car engines and busses. Young men eat a large dinner together on curbside tables, perhaps breaking the Ramadan fast with the Iftar dinner. Old men play backgammon and drink tea in cafes. Grocers close up shop. A young boy in Levis takes a stroll with a girl wearing a headscarf and ripoff Converse. Groups of women with shopping bags head home from a day out and about. Seeing these things is what I like about traveling. I like to just see how people live and interact, and outside the US, while there are differences, it makes me think that more often than not we are more the same than different. This something we usually don’t like to admit...

Hanging in a Hammock: Olympos and a Gulet Cruise

Sitting and relaxing in a hammock is what life is about in Olympos, Turkey. The place is a sort of backpackers’ paradise with an off-the-beaten path feel–though it seems like that had been more the case 3 or 4 years ago. (From what I’ve been told, the area has been developed a lot in the last few years.) Olympos (also spelled Olimpos) sits in a rustic, forested canyon an hours drive south of Antalya. Lined along a dry river bed/road are a bunch of cafes, “treehouse” pensions, bungalows and campgrounds built in old fruit orchards. Each is packed with backpackers from all over the world. Further down the river bed and along the beach are the ruins of Olympos, a Roman and Byzantine port city. We are staying at the Saban Pansion Treehouses which are nice and comfy and we are served a tasty breakfast and dinner everyday. Tonight we were going to head to the Chimaera (not the fire-breathing monster of mythology but a natural gas-fed fire spewing from the mountain side), though it’s probably a tourist trap. Instead we will just hang out playing backgammon, and tomorrow we are off to Cappadocia in central Turkey...

Taksim

“Pop! Pop!” Muffled bangs echoed off the tall buildings along Istiklal Avenue, the main thoroughfare of the Beyoğlu District of Istanbul. Taksim Square was a half-mile down the road where the blasts originated. The police were moving in on the protest. The street was lined with the department stores and fancy designer chains. Shoppers and protesters walking among the crowds of passersby. Suddenly yelling and shouting began. A large crowd began running by us from behind. We ducked down a side street to escape before things got too out of hand...