Friday, April 24, 2009

Two Days After

Back for two days and I already feel as if I never went. Some people go on vacations; I travel on a budget. It’s usually a lot of work and I rarely feel relaxed afterwards. Maybe when I’m 60 I’ll be content lounging on a beach or relax on a cruise but for now I like the work. Each destination is a project and every time I complete a trip I feel a sense of accomplishment.
Although I’ve got the itchy feet travel bug I still get homesick when I’m away. There’s nothing better than sleeping on ones own bed. I’ve stayed at lots of hostels over the last couple years. Some of them are very pleasant and some are just the bare minimum. I don’t have any problem sleeping in a dormitory but I do get a bit more particular with bathrooms and hot showers. This time out I didn’t even brush my hair for two weeks. Luckily, the sights have always made everything worthwhile. Traveling has made me more appreciative of many things I would have otherwise taken for granted, things like hot shower, central heat, air condition, drinkable tap water and regulated traffic system. Rochester has to be one of the most comfortable, convenient and stress free place to live. It’s good to be back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Long Way Home

I left the hostel this morning around 8, same time as I checked in three days ago. I took a seat outside and had a cup of tea before I headed towards the airport shuttle station. It’s a tradition around this part of the world to have tea before a long journey, a good way to collect ones thoughts. I can’t say that my feeling for Istanbul was too overwhelming at first but now that I’m leaving I do feel a bit melancholy like one would feel at the end of a good book.

Turkey has been great and I’m grateful for my stay here. Two weeks is not a long time but it’s what most people get from a year of work. I’m obliged for having the luxury to explore the city on my own pace and ventured out to Troy and Ephesus. In a short time I’ve learned a bit more about history and another culture. In a country with more Roman ruins and minarets than American cars I’ve learned a little bit more about myself. A quote on the Sky magazine said something like “Wander if for distraction; travel is for fulfillment.”

The ride to the airport was pleasant. I saw lots of tulips on the side of the roads and countless ship liners on the Marmara. I came to the airport more than 3 hours in advance just to be on the super safe side only to find out that my flight is delayed for 6 hours! Now I’ve got a good 9 hours to kill in the airport….thank Ali for wifi.

I contacted Delta and it turns out that by the time I get to JFK I would have missed the last connecting flight to Rochester for the day, which means I’ll have to stay overnight in JFK to catch the next flight out at 9:35am. This way I won’t get back home until almost noon tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll at least get a decent hotel room tonight for a hot shower. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day of Two Shanks

By now I have exhausted pretty much all of the sights in Istanbul mentioned on Rick Steves guidebook except the archeological museum and few minor sights. Since I can’t take Istanbul back with me I decided to eat as much as possible before I leave. So today will be known as the day of four meals and two shanks.
Shank #1

Shank #2

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New District Walk

It was a warm Sunday afternoon. After lunch I decided to walk around the surrounding streets and eventually to the Galata Bridge and maybe checkout the archeological museum.



Evening Tea

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Other Side of Istanbul

I took the overnight bus back to Istanbul and finally had some food good enough to travel for. This time I’m staying in the Taksim Square/Galata area just off the main pedestrian street Istiklal. The direction to the hotel suggested people to follow the crowd to the main street but at 8am on a Saturday morning that just wasn’t a viable way to go. Instead I stumbled around the very confusing Taksim Square, which is more like an irregular traffic cycle but not in a perfect cycle either. I had to ask few people and eventually checked into the right place. The owner was a bit strange and I made it clear that I didn’t appreciate strangers petting my head like I’m a 3-year-old. Later he was quite apologetic and offered me some tea and simit (Turkish bagel with sesame). I checked my email for Myland stuff. Even though I’m on the road I’ve still kept up with ongoing business at home. It really makes me feel that I’m in the middle of two worlds, China is 6 hours ahead and New York is 7 hours behind.

Taksim Square is across the Golden Horn from the Old City and it’s considered to be the new city center of Istanbul. The area immediately surrounding my hostel is full of shops and restaurants and is especially lively late at night. Istiklal Street has three Starbucks, two McDonalds, one Burger King and countless connecting side streets and alley ways. However, most important of all there is a Self Serve eatery on every block with endless tasty looking ready to eat dishes displaying through large class windows. I’ve eaten at couple places like this in the Old Town but due to the fact that it’s more of a touristy area, the food was average and pricy. The worst meal I had was at a called the Pudding Shop recommended by Rick Steves. The Döner kebab sandwich was also pretty dry except a lamb one I had in Kusadasi yesterday. I’m finally at the right place for some good meals! And I’m quickly decided this is exactly what I want to do for the last three days of my trip. Eat and relax with little bit of walk between meals.

I started lunch promptly at 11am just as the Self Serves started to open. I figure I could just get a plate of food here and there throughout the day! First stop was a place across the street from the hostel with people grilling chicken and kebabs through the window. The food there looked particularly delicious and fresh just as they are being taken out of the oven. I sat down for two of the best grilled chicken tights I’ve ever had in my life! They were tender, juicy and flavorful but not overpowering with crispy skin on the outside. No sheep intestine, cow stomach lining or pig feet. After all, everyone can appreciate simple food made extremely well.

The other end of Istiklal Street, opposite of Taksim Square, is lined with music shops displaying all sorts of instruments including the popular Turkish string instrument called bağlama. It sort looks sort like a lute with long neck and 7 strings (2, 2, 3). I spent sometime at one of the stores flipping through an English instruction book trying to get a better understanding of the instrument. Instead of one semi step between two notes in western music, the folk music here divides a note into 9 parts! Holy dissonances. So the frets on the bağlama are bit different from a lute or a guitar. There can also be many different tunings depending on the music. The bağlama is played with a tezene, like a guitar pick. There are also many variations of bağlama, some big and some small with different tunings.

After the Istiklal Street I hopped into another Self Serve place for my second lunch: a big slice of moussaka with zucchini puree and meat patty and cheese. I’m still not too convinced that the top was made of zucchini. It tasted like super smooth and buttery mash potato. It was very good and filling. Leaving me no room for another plate anytime soon.

So instead, I took a short nap in the afternoon followed by a not so pleasant cold shower. Apparently there is no hot water at the hostel. I haven’t taken a shower in two days so I didn’t have a choice. I guess it’s a price to pay for budget travel. Many people come here to experience the Turkish bath, just not sure if I’m really up to that. Lying on a slab of marble with people rubbing me down with soap just doesn’t sound all that appealing.

By dinner time there was still one thing missing: eggplant and I corrected that with another trip to the Self Serve across the street. A plate of delicious eggplant toped with small chucks of pork. Like I mentioned before the people here really has a way with eggplants. The stuffed eggplants (Karnıyarık in Turkish), one with onions and the other one with lentil beans, are probably the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever had other than things made with tofu. The Turkish version of moussaka is also extremely tasty with sautéed eggplants, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and minced meat and parsley. I also had a plate of sausages, or Kofte as they are called in Turkey. Adding an ice tea the total came to 12 liras, or $8US. Great deal for a great meal.

In the evening I went to a milonga just a block down the street called TangoJean. It’s a small place with couple dozen people. I danced few sets and when the people started to thin around 1am I walked back to the hostel soon after, figuring milonga is something I can easily live without.The streets were completed jammed with people, mostly locals. Many bars and restaurants have tables outside in the side streets. Friends gathered around having coffee and tea, some sharing a hooka filled with dry fruits, some playing backgammon. It was definitely quite the scene.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009


A day in Ephesus has made this whole trip worthwhile. It was amazing to walk along marble streets and witness magnificent buildings and stadiums that have survived since 10th century BC. The area itself was already inhabited during the Neolithic Era about 6000 BC! Ephesus was an ancient Greek city in the Ionian League on the west coast of Anatolia. The city is situated just up the coast of the Aegean Sea in the valleys between green mountain ranges; just the scenery itself is breathtaking. Back then the coastline was more inland, almost to the end of Harbor Street, which leads up to the Grand Theater, one of the largest of its kind, seats up to 22,000 people.

Some of the other interesting buildings include the Library of Celsus completed in 135 AD. According to Wikipedia, “the library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus. It was unusual to be buried within a library or even within city limits, so this was a special honor for Celsus.”

After lunch with few people from the hostel I spent the early part of the afternoon at the archeological museum looking at artifacts found in the Ephesus region including status of emperors and gods, coins, daily utensils and etc. These offered a better understanding of how the Romans lived their day to day lives.

Most of the stones used for the buildings and temples are removed to be reused for other structures such as the Hagia Sophia and surrounding castles. One thing that didn’t get reused much was the public bathroom and probably for good reasons. This bathroom served up to 50 people at once and might even had musical performances in the center atrium (I saw that on some documentary show).

There were many statues of Aphrodite, Eros and a funny little god called Bes, as you can see in the picture. He is supposed to be the protector for mothers and children… The bronze statue of him was found in the brothel in Ehpesus.

By 3 in the afternoon I was quite content with all the things I’ve seen so I traced my steps back to the hostel for a lazy afternoon nap. Afterwards I ventured out to the Temple of Artemis, completed around 550 BC, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, now only one mighty column left for the storks to call home. I wasn’t very interested in going at first but was glad I made the stop soon after arrival. I know the picture of a single column doesn’t seem all that impressive. To appreciate its massiveness one must stand underneath and imagine the marvelous temple that once stood. Later I had tea in a municipal park watching the locals unwind after a day of work.

The day was completed with another tasty meal at the ANZ hostel; this time rotisserie chicken with potatoes and vegetables. Tomorrow I will take the ferry to the Greek island of Samos.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Another day of bus rides but this time the scenery was quite pleasant. We traveled mostly along the coast of the Aegean Sea and at times through sloppy mountain sides. It was another cloudy day with light rain which only made the silvery waters seem more drastic with mountain ranges in the far distance. It took almost 7 hours from Çanakkale to here with bus transfer at Izmir, birthplace of the Greek poet, Homer.
I had no problem walking to the hostel from the bus station. Aggressive vendors and tour guides flock to foreign tourists like vultures. I’ve learned to avoid eye contact and always walk with conviction as if I was born here. The Australian owner at the hostel was very down to earth. He sold me a plate of BBQ chicken for dinner. It was convenient and pretty tasty. There are many other Australians here, including a big tour group. I don’t feel like socializing. Sometimes I feel like small talk is what I do for work. I’m a vacation, call me antisocial.

Selçuk will be my home base for the next two days to explore the ancient city of Ephesus. This area is known to have the best Roman ruins east of the Mediterranean Sea.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The wind brought wealth to Troy and I brought a sweater for the wind. The visit to the ancient site of Troy was a surreal experience. The names and places in the Iliad and Aeneid have intrigued me for years both from literature and Latin classes. I longed to step on the same grounds the heroes once stood and fought for what seemed to be the hottest tabloid in history, the face that launched a thousand ships. No war s glorious and no man are foolish enough to leave his own wife to purely fight for the wife of another. The Greeks were here for wealth and power; I am here on a personal pilgrimage for a little slice of history that we have thoroughly romanticized over the ages. Having been warned by numerous guides on the limited amount of edifices left at the site my expectation was at minimum. Any trace of the legendary city would be sufficient as to see is to imagine.

Having opted to go to Troy on my own I can afford the luxury of going at my own paste. I feel similar sentiment towards organized tours as organized religion, they are for the weak travelers (but of course, there are always places and times for the occasional organized tours). Dolmuses, or local mini buses, are great way to get around town. I caught one not too far from the hostel. I was the only tourist on the bus and I always prefer it that way. The locals here are helpful and friendly. The hills immediately outside of the town were barren at first with everything chopped down to a short tree trunk. Other than offering an unobstructed view to the turquoise water below it was a rather horrendous sight. Midway to the park greeneries started to reappear, forest covered hills with fields of oily green grass in between. Sheep, shepherds and dark ominous clouds in the distance made it rather picturesque. The drivers dropped off the villagers first and eventually made his final stop for me in front of the park gate.

I was surprise to notice that I was the only one here and for the next two hours I had Troy all to myself. I walked upon steps, ramps and foundations of ancient city walls and residences. Troy is a hodgepodge of 9 different cities built on top of each other some of which date back 5,000 years ago! The Troy as we know it under King Priam is often referred to as Troy VIIa between 1300-1190 BCE. The whole site is set on top of a hill less than 90 meter in diameter. I wondered around leisurely, feeling the wind and watching the surroundings. The long weeds moved like waves in the wind. I can still see the shepherds herding in the distance. They are called Koyunbaba, like the name of a piece of guitar music I’ve played by Carlo Domeniconi. I sat down on a slab pale white stone and played the tune on my ipod. I’ve heard and imagined such landscape but now I see it, I hear it and I feel it. What a great feeling.

Near the end of the short circuit tour was a Roman Odeion, intended for musical performances and Troy VI fortification.

Monday, April 13, 2009


To travel means to have to get up early in the morning for bus transfers. This time I’m going to Çanakkale, a small seaport town on the southwestern edge of Turkey, the Asian side of the strait connecting the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The name of my hostel is ANZAC. Before this trip I had no idea what it stood for. After checking into the hostel in Istanbul the people there were curious as to why I was interested in going to Gallipoli since it’s more of a popular spot for Australians. Gallipoli = WWI and it’s near Tory? Guess I’ve never made that connection before. My only interest of heading to Çanakkale was to see Troy after translating Virgil’s Aeneid in high school Latin class. In fact I emailed my Latin teacher Mr. Pellegrino before I left figuring he would really appreciate it. It feels good to thank the people that have inspired my travels.
ANZAC = Australian and New Zealand Army Crops, which fought against the Turks in 1915 at the Balle of Gallipoli. When the hostel people finally convinced me to purchase my bus tickets from a nearby travel agency the agent told me the prices are particularly high at the moment because of it’s the high season. I’m always suspicious of these travel agents and this one although had rather stunning big eyes is no exception. Haven’t she heard of the global economic downturn? Afterwards I learned that April 25, the day of the first landing at Gallipoli in 1915 is also known as Anzac Day (like Memorial Day in the US). I ended up paying for twice what a regular ticket costs at the bus terminal, a total rip off but at least I’m here and that’s the important part. I’ve always been a do-it-yourself type of gal. This is just one more example of why I should stay that way.

Çanakkale the town itself is pretty low key, no big sights or crowded streets. The vendors here are respectful and not aggressive like the ones in Istanbul. Things are cheaper, people are more laidback and for the first time on this trip I can afford to smile and greet people without the risk of being hassled or followed. I took a short walk around the hostel before dinner; things get a bit sketchy farther out but nothing I haven’t seen before. I had dinner at one of the Self Serve restaurants again. It’s fast, easy, affordable and tasty! Who knew I would develop a new found appreciation for eggplant on this trip. This is the third day in a roll I’ve had some form of eggplant! They sure know how to cook them here!
Tomorrow I will take a small public bus to Troy, which is about 20 miles away from the port, for a self guided tour.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern might not be the most magnificent sight in Istanbul but it’s definitely my favorite so far. The massive underground water reservoir featured in the Bond movie From Russia with Love, was built before 532 by Emperor Justinian and can hold up to 80,000 cubic meters (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The interior of the cistern is very cool and damp, making it a nice spot for a hot summer afternoon. The water now is only a couple feet deep housing lots of happy fishes. Some of the columns are lit with spotlights while many corners are left in the darkness concealing its true size and sending off an eerie feeling.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Topkapi Place and Grand Bazaar

I started the day in Gulhane Park, once the outer garden of the Topkapi Palace on the edge of the Bosphorus Bay is now one of the most expansive parks in Istanbul. Spring is in full session here with rolling landscapes covered with colorful tulips. I’ve always wanted to see the tulip fields in Amsterdam but for now this will have to do. After all, this is the country that went through the Golden Age in the first half of the 18th century and called it the Tulip Era.

The Topkapi Palace (according to Wikipedia) was the official and primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans, from 1465 to 1853. It is one of the most touristy spots in the city, the other one being Hagia Sophia, which I still owe a visit to. After paying 20 Liras to get in and 15 more for the Harem I find the whole complex to be a bit underwhelming. The structures were stiff, most rooms were unadorned and the living quarters seemed crowded. The Forbidden City would put this place to shame and it’s nothing compare to the intricacy of the Alhambra. But since I’m here I feel obligated to do my duties as a tourist: buy tickets, wait in line and take pictures. The only thing that I thought was interesting was the kitchen with bunch of chimneys sticking out on top but it was closed for the day. The kitchen now hosts a Chinese porcelain exhibit acquired by the Sultans through the ages. This kind of collections can be seen in almost all European palaces. I guess back then you weren’t anyone unless you had a big collection of Chinese porcelain.

The Palace is comprised of four courtyards, each more exclusive than the next with VIP lounge, aka the Harem, on the left side separated from the rest of the complex. The first open courtyard was used to assemble troops and allowed entrance to merchants and commoners.

The Gate of Salutation leads into the second courtyard also known the Divan Square where the Imperial Councils gathered on the left building. The kitchens and dormitories for military students are on the right side.

The third courtyard or the Inner Palace is where the Sultan spent most of his day outside of the Harem. The Conqueror’s Pavilion on the right houses the Imperial Treasury and the Privy Chambers on the opposite side contains the Chamber of the Sacred Relics. Both sections are now mini museums with long lines of crowds outside waiting to get in. Most of the items on display were not allowed to be photographed. The Treasury had a crazy amount of gaudy jewelries: one of world’s largest teardrop diamonds, emeralds out of the wazoo and the Topkapi Dagger which was made for the Shah of Persia in 1747 but never reached its destination because the Shah was assassinated before the emissary had crossed the border. There were also two huge solid gold candleholders originally for the tomb of Muhammad each weights over 100 pounds. I found the dark ebony throne of Murad IV with nacre and ivory inlaid to be exceptionally beautiful.

The Chamber of Sacred Relics is supposed to be a big deal for Muslims, many of whom consider this a holy site. Some of the sacred objects on display include the swords of the first four Caliphs (like Christian Apostles), the staff of Moses, turban of Joseph, beard of tooth of Muhammad and a carpet of Mohammed’s daughter. There were also some gold keys to Kaaba, the most sacred sit in Islam in Mecca.

The last courtyard is also the innermost private sanctuary of the Sultan and his family. With gardens and terrace pavilions, this section has a more relaxed and intimate feel compare to the rest of the palace. Many of the rooms here are also adorned with beautiful tiles.

The Harem is not all it’s said to be. The buildings are clustered together with few small courtyards. The rooms seem more simple and practical housing several hundreds of young girls and the black eunuchs that worked for them. Contrary to common belief, the Sultan rarely if at all decided on his mates, instead, the Queen Mother ran the Harem and hand picked the girls that will later become wives, concubines and favorites to bare children to continue the royal lineage. Sorry to tell you but the Harem is not at all a ground for senseless orgies. The Queen Mother’s rooms literately sat between the wives’ and the Sultan’s. How great could the sex with girls picked out by your mother and having her right next door all the time?

It took me most of the day to get through the Topkapi because of long lines for almost every section. Now I understand why there’s a restriction on number of daily visitors at the Alhambra so that everyone could have a pleasant experience. I had a late lunch at a restaurant in the center of old town best known for their meatballs. Ordering here is easy, with only two things on the menu, meatballs and shish kebabs, you really can’t go wrong. I had an order of hot lentil soup with bread; it was a perfect way to warm up from the chilly palace tour. The meatballs were tasty with settle flavors and a tint of smoky aroma (yes, they look more like little sausage links). And everything tastes better with hot sauce.

I’ve been very lucky with the fact that my hostel is located in the center of the major sights in the Sultanahmet district, close enough for a middle day bathroom break. Most of the new city is situated north of Taksim Square across the Golden Horn. With so many sites to see in the immediate neighborhood, I have not yet been on any public transportation system to explore the other side. Turkey is a hot spot for tango, rivaling the European tango capital, Paris. Rose and I never made it to a milonga there but I bought my shoes with me on this trip hoping to checkout the dance scene here. Part of packing light also meant I left out any dance appropriate clothes. Two pairs of jeans, a pair of khaki, couple long sleeves and two sweaters is all I’ve got. When traveling alone I shoot for the low profile dorky look: plain clothes, flat shoes, pulled back hair and no makeup. I don’t know which one is worse, getting pestered constantly on the street or having people guessing my ethnicity and randomly shouting out phrases in different languages, mostly Japanese or Korean (I suppose). Finally a six-year-old boy said “how are you?” to me in Chinese this morning. I think he deserves a donut or something. That’s just one of the drawbacks for being a lonesome Asian female traveler. At least I’m not some smoking platinum blond.
Anyways, I thought a pair of nicer pants would be better suited for going to a milonga, so after lunch I headed over to the Grand Bazaar, the world’s oldest and largest shopping mall with over 4,400 shops. When it comes to shopping I almost always exceed the goal. I came out with 2 pairs of pants, Turkish style, and a nice cotton shirt. 55 Liras later I still feel ripped off even though I paid half of what was originally offered. Car loans and leases no problems but I hate mindless bargaining on general merchandise over plain prices. My aunt in China would love this place. She considers bargaining a pastime and enjoys exercising her advanced haggling skills for things she has no intention of buying.

On the way back from the Grand Bazaar I picked up some pistachio baklava on the street. It’s good to know that the baklava in the US didn’t go through the Chinese food mutation phenomena and the ones sold at Aladdin’s are just as good. I ran into a couple people from Malaysia at the baklava store, I can tell from their accent. The better educated people in Malaysia speak Chinese. One of the women, without looking, tried to hand me her purse while buying baklava, thinking I was one of the family members. It always feels endearing to converse in Chinese with a complete stranger far from China. Although I’m in a foreign land I don’t feel I’m that disconnected with the people here. The Turks and Chinese go way back trading via the Silk Road, exchanging goods and ideas. One of the 26 ethnic groups in China descended from the here and still speaks a form of Turkish. I know them as street vendors in Beijing when I was little selling tasty kebabs! I don’t see many Chinese people here. Yesterday two women with headscarves posed with me for a photo in front of the New Mosque. Normal I’m very skeptical about such things while on the road but it turned out to be completely harmless. Just as I thought some tea would be perfect right now a tea vendor at the park offered me a cup for 1.5 liras. I sat down on the park bench and enjoyed my afternoon tea and sweets just before the sunset. I’m happy.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I never made it to a milonga. It was simply too much hassle to get out of the old town late at night. When I come back form Ephesus I will be staying in the center of the new city near Taksim Square. It will be a whole new experience and I can’t wait.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Breakfast is simple: bread, tomato, cucumber, fresh feta, olives, ham and coffee. I was the first one here, the enclosed terrace on the third floor. Pretty soon two more came, a young man writing in his diary with Frommer’s Guide on the table and a girl meticulously arranging butter and eggs on her bread. I thought about starting a conversation but instead we ate quietly at our own tables with the only occasional sound of tiny spoons stirring in the coffee cups. I can tell the others are content. Some people travel to seek solidarity. The windows are half ajar, letting in the morning sun and cool breeze. I can see the Marmara in the distance with ships passing by. There are countless sights waiting to be explored but I feel no sense of urgency. This is what I came for, a ray of solidarity in the midst of a bustling city.

“If the whole world was a state, Istanbul would be the capital of it.” Napoleon Bonaparte


The hostel is located in the Sultanahmet district or the Old City, where most of the historical sights are packed conveniently within a half mile radius. I ventured out to a cafeteria style diner for a quick bite last night after a good nap. The food from the main tourist area was nothing to write home about but it kept my belly full. The Old town is full of narrow and steep streets with cobble stones that kept most traffic away from the area immediately surrounding the hostel which made it surprisingly quiet at night. At dawn I could hear the birds, seagulls, call to prayer and the occasional helicopters circling above. The air is cool and refreshing. I’m up early from the time difference, waiting for breakfast and getting ready to venture out to the city.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I arrived in Istanbul this morning around 9:30 local time. $20 is all you need for a Turkish visa, no paper works necessary. Getting through the airport was a breeze. I took the cautious route and arranged for an airport pickup to the hostel in advance to avoid any stressful situation. Having to maneuver a large foreign metropolitan city for the first time after a long flight is never fun. Tall minarets situated on top of the old city are visible from far away even in the dense smog. So I’m here, middle of the East and the West, land of King Midas, A Thousand and One Nights, and Helen of Troy. Enchanting, yes, but let me rest up first. The city has been here for thousands of years already, I can afford couple hours of nap.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Off I Go

One thing I learned from my recent trip to Paris is the art of light travel. If I could survive in one set of clothes for a week I could easily fit all my necessities for two weeks into one overnight bag (3 outfits, 2 travel books and a laptop, camera, ipod). So Istanbul here I come!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sweet Escape

Everyone needs an escape. Some people read books, watch movies, play sports or simply go out for a night of heavy drinking. I travel. To me it’s not only a way of life but a necessity. Instead of living vicariously through fictional characters as a distraction from day to day life I have chosen a more tangible experience, an alternate world where everything is new and foreign, different sound, taste, smell, customs, people, etc. It awakens all my senses and elevates them to a hyper sensitive mode. I feel susceptible as a new born baby, learning and growing at supersonic speed.

Traveling might sound like a harmless and even noble hobby on the surface. But to be completely honest with my feelings, I’m starting to develop a dependency on it like any other addiction, a reset button, sweet escape. It makes me feel alive like the first month of a new relationship. Masked by novelty and lust even shortcomings can seem charming at first. And just when I start to feel comfortable with the new surroundings I leave gratified but never completely satisfied with a sweet after taste that forever lingers inside me and brings on a smile when I mention it to others. Unlike people, cities will always be there with open arms, perhaps an open invitation for another encounter.

Every time I take off I feel as if I’m propelled by an enormous invisible force. Like a space shuttle launch or even child birth, I struggle to burn off every last drop of fuel to push through the suffocating atmosphere. Once in orbit I feel free and effortless. This is me. I travel.

Next destination: Istanbul Turkey.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring is in the Hair

After a winter of dead ends I was due for a cut. Half shorter, I feel lighter, one strand at a time.