Archive for the 'Turkey' Category

I’m not your friend, guns and firetrucks, Ninja!

The Wandering Nerd December 2nd, 2007

I have to admit, Istanbul is wearing on me a bit. Part of it is because I’m trying to suss out where/how I’m going to keep moving forward, but the bigger part is that walking down the street you get labeled as a mark for anything. I met another Aussie bloke, Dane, and we checked out the Grand Bazaar again. There are a few more pics of it this time. It’s chock a block full of shiny objects and rows upon rows of shoe stores. It’s like girl heaven. Only I suspect girl heaven would smell a bit better.


While I was here I decided to hit the Turkish Bath. Probably the highlight of my time in Istanbul. You go in, they give you a room to dump your stuff in. You get changed into a towel and go lay on a giant heated marble slab until you are covered in sweat, then some big Turkish guy comes over and does this mad loofa rub on you - taking off at least two layers of dead skin - then they soap you up and finally dump buckets of hot water over you. After that there’s a 30 minute oil massage, then a shower and they wrap you up in these huge heated towels. Quite the luxury. So if you could mix the bazaar and the bath, that would probably be girl heaven…well except for the big turkish guy doing it. I’m thinking I’m going to learn how to give some of those massages, I’ll need some willing beta test subjects, I’ll be taking applications. For the beta phase I’ll only accept female applicants ages 20-40. :)

Oh, and to squelch it before it begins, no ‘happy ending’, that’s Thailand.

As there’s no one hanging out in the area we’re staying, Dane and I headed to the Aksaray area to find some clubs. Remember me saying how everyone here views tourists as marks? Yeah, we kept getting pulled into these ‘clubs’ that were more restaurants with music so loud that my pancreas dilated, and I don’t even know what that means. More importantly there were no people in these places. All of the ’staff’ would hover around us trying to get us to sit at a table trying to push 20 Lira drinks on us - that’s about $18. We kept walking out and going to the next club as the owner/manager would push a business card into my hand with his name and mobile number on it, telling us to come back in 30 minutes because, ‘in thirty minutes 100 women be here, they dance for you! Belly dance! Strip tease!’ Strangely it was thirty minutes later in each place. We did find one club that had a number of tables of girls…who also happened to be hookers. The manager, who was maybe three apples tall, offered me - in this order - a woman, beer, and drugs. If only he’d offered the beer first… As we were leaving that place he grabbed on of the bouncers, this big ugly guy. I thought he may be trying to keep us there or shake us down, but he just spun the bouncer around and made him bend down so he could use his back as a writing table to write some stuff in Turkish on his card and give it to us. It was surreal. In a simple act of prudence, we grabbed a kebab and beer from a street vendor and just walked back to the hostel.

I’ve figured out a pretty effective method of dealing with people accosting me on the streets, I just tell them I’m German. I speak German more fluently than they speak English so it usually works. While walking back to the hostel a car pulled up beside us asking where we were from, I pulled the German bit but he just kept on in English saying he knows this club that you can’t get into unless you’re Turkish and bring a woman, but he’d take us as it’s a good place, ‘very fun, you like, many girls!’ I know this scam, they get you there, then charge you outrageous sums to get out. I was all, ‘Ich weis nicht! Was? Was? Ich spreche English nicht.’ About this point a police car pulled up and he sped off with the cops right after him. Leaving Dane and I shaking our heads and laughing. There’s an Aussie term that applies to the majority of people we’ve met here, it rhymes with ’stodgy bunts.’

We ran into some Colorado guys - the Steves - we’d met earlier who are traveling around the world in some sponsored trucks, they’ve got a site, The World by Road. I need to get some sponsorships. The four of us ended up at a bar by the hostel hanging out and swapping traveling stories. At this same bar they ran into an Irish guy they’d met seven months ago in Australia. It’s a small world, and it’s getting smaller.

I’m going to have to do some shucking and jiving to continue on, I’m not sure when I’ll be back online or exactly where, but it should be interesting regardless. You guys keep the home fires burning while I’m gone, and no parties with boys.

Wander on!

up to the mountains where Im going to.
if I ever get out of here,
thats what Im gonna do.
-bob seger

Alright, now what? They moved it?!?! Thank you USA…thank you.

The Wandering Nerd November 30th, 2007

Well, the bastards are doing me on all fronts. My plans to go to India are being curtailed as quickly as I can make them. It’s necessary to have a tourist visa to get into India from your home country. Now I’ve been gone for over four months, how exactly was I supposed to get that? I can’t get one in Istanbul as our lovely US Consulate here does not allow Indian nationals to get US tourist visas, so reciprocally they won’t do it for us. So I can’t go forward and I’m loathe to go back. Oh, and did I mention that the US Consulate has moved? So thanks again to Lonely Planet and my out of date book. So everyone remember, important safety tips: 1. Check about visas on places you may possibly concieve of going to within the next six months. 2. Make sure you have the latest guides. I’m going to be quite happy when I’m….well wherever I end up next, and can get a newer guide book. I’ve got some ideas on how to move on, but they are a bit…gambling. Hopefully none will involve a Turkish prison.

I did get a chance to capture the Adhan. It’s a bit sketchy as I had to hack it together by capturing from the little workhorse camera I have. Not the highest quality, but enough for you to get the idea of what you hear in Istanbul throughout the day when they do the call to prayer:

I’ve had to start blocking spam comments on the site, so it looks like I’m getting noticed enough to generate the interest of spammers…grand.

Finally I stopped by the Istanbul Museum and grabbed some shots. If you’re looking for big ass carpets, they’ve got ‘em, 25-30′x10-15′. I don’t think I’ve ever had a room big enough to put something like that in. There are also a few night shots of the Blue Mosque. I almost got arrested there, though not for the reasons some may believe. One of the guards wanted to practice his English so he pulled me aside and chatted for a while. He asked how the best way to get to stay in the US was. I suggested marrying an American girl. From what I’ve seen of the Turkish women though, the only way a Turkish guy could handle an American girl would be with a chair and a whip - and most likely a full gamut of protective gear, at least most of the American girls I know…

Here’s da’ pix:

the king called up his jet fighters
he said you better earn your pay
drop your bombs between the minarets
down the Casbah way

So much for a three hour limit. What am I, your dancing monkey? My friend, my friend!

The Wandering Nerd November 28th, 2007


Ugh, that sucked. The train ride was to be 7 hours long. Planning ahead, I enjoyed one last happy hour at the hostel in Athens. Medicinally mind you. While waiting on the platform I met a couple of girls from Turkey - originally from Bulgaria - Emel and Bilginar (billionaire) who were kind enough to take me in and chaperon me all the way to Istanbul. This turned out marvelously, they were great - even bought me dinner and paid for my metro when I got there - and I would have been in trouble without them to translate. The train was painful. They refused to open the windows, as it ‘would disturb the other passengers’ all of whom were sweating like I was. The only place to get fresh air was the smoking coach. Ah, irony, we meet again. It was impossible to sleep, even medicated.

The second train that I was planning on taking from Thessoloniki to Istanbul was no longer running due to some tracks being washed out recently. The only way to get there was a bus ride…a ten hour bus ride. Another rule broken. It was quite comfortable, though I’m getting to a part of the world where an american is a true novelty. There was one kid on the bus that just kept staring at me the whole time and asking me where I was from, over, and over, and over….and over. I did get a quick education in Turkish though:

Hello - merhaba

Goodbye - güle güle

Yes - everet

No - hayir

Please - lütfen

Thank you - tesekkür ederim

Do you speak English? - inglizce biliyor musunuz?

Ocean (wait for it…) - okyanus

And the utility knife of words: tamam

Depending on context and intonation it can mean, OK, Got you!, Thank you, Enough, Complete, Finished, Cut it out!, ready, etc…

Stopping at the border for Turkey I was quietly herded away from the bus by some armed guy to get a Visa. I thought Turkey was pretty much just like any other EU country but apparently not. It was either $20 or €15. Good thing I still had the US money, $20 is a hell of a lot cheaper.

When the bus finally pulled into Istanbul I said my goodbyes and hopped a metro and tram to where I’d planned on staying I had to ask around a bit and couldn’t find anyone that spoke any english. One guy on the metro walked up to me as I got off the metro and said, “Sultanhamet” and motioned to follow. He then paid for me to get on the right tram and pointed out where I needed to stop. Turkish hospitality again! By the time I’d made it to the hostel I’d been awake for about 40 hours. Those of us who had been awake for almost two days were in no mood for Kaffee and Baklava, we wanted strong drink. We were the absolute cream of the traveling press. Nothing is as good as the first beer after walking halfway across a giant city…and the first Raki. :)

After a snooze I rolled over to the Grand Bazaar, where everyone is my friend, and I’m soooo lucky that they are offering to sell me whatever crap they are selling, and they are selling everything. From what you’d expect, rugs and silver, to chainsaws. Get that on the plane going back. I’m looking for a silver bracelet and it’s damn near impossible to comparison shop in a place like that. I came back and searched for the going price for silver in Lira per gram, as long as I get it for under that, I’ll be set. Heh, heh, these people must hate informed consumers. I stopped for a kebab and had some Shalgam. I’ve had some strange things since I’ve been traveling and, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed them. In this instance, not so much. It’s like someone made Tabasco Sauce into a drink…poorly. They say it’s a hangover remedy here, I can only agree with that in as much as if I had a hangover and drank that shit, I’d go all Jackson Pollock.

It’s actually pretty cool that I’m going to be here for so long, probably five days, before I bounce to India - where it’s 90 degrees *SMILE*. It’s much cheaper and I’m not feeling the normal rush to get to see certain things.

Here’s the start of the Istanbul gallery:

even old new york was once new amsterdam
why they changed it I can’t say
people just liked it better that way
-they might be giants