Anyway, I'm sure nobody wants to hear me complain. I left off in Istanbul last Monday. I have since discovered the reason for all the instant friends in Istanbul - there is a breed of Turk called a tout whose job it is to bring people off the street into a shop. The shopkeeper then gives them a commission, which comes directly out of the customer's pocket! Many touts are not actually asked to do the job by anybody, they just grab somebody off the street, bring them to a shop, then demand their commission from the shopkeeper. Many shopkeepers find them just as annoying as the customers! The tout phenomenon seems isolated to Istanbul, however.
Tuesday the 6th Vidar and I went on the boat cruise up & down the Bosphorus, after which he went back to Taksim. I went to the Hagia Sofia, which is absolutely amazing. I also went to the Blue Mosque, a carpet museum, and the Yerebatan Cistern, which is a very nice place to hide from the heat for an hour or two.
Wednesday I went to Topkapi Palace, the center of the Ottoman Empire until the construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace in the 1800's and booked a bus ticket down the coast for the next day.
Much too early Thursday morning I got on a Fez bus with a bunch of other backpackers, mostly Ozzies and Kiwis, and drove out to Gallipoli. I didn't really remember anything about it from my history classes and the only reason I remembered the Dardanelles is because it's part of the Husky fight song, but it's an important part of history to Australia and New Zealand. We toured the battlefield and stayed the night in Eceabat.
The next day (Friday) we crossed the Dardanelles and I was officially in Asia! The bus went first to the ruins of Troy, which we toured rather quickly in about an hour, then it was back on the bus to the ruins of Pergamom, which we also toured rather quickly, then it onto the bus again to Kuşadasi, where I am now.
Kuşadasi is on the Aegean coast near the ruins of Ephesus. I got a cold on the bus from a Kiwi named Tim and wanted to just relax and try to get rid of this cold on Saturday, so I just wandered about the town and enjoyed the perfect blue and green waters of the Aegean. The next day (yesterday) Tim and I went on a boat cruise up the coast, stopping at a few little bays and swimming about. Last night we met a Hungarian girl named Yuleet (no idea how to spell it, sorry!) and we all went out for Raki - probably a mistake! Raki is strong stuff and I'm sure that contributed to my headache this morning!
Tim got bitten on the foot by some mysterious insect AND badly sunburned, and his right foot swelled up like a sausage. I didn't sleep much because of the heat and my cold, so neither of us felt up to making the trip to Ephesus today. That's probably just as well, as I've been told today was the hottest day so far this year, and Ephesus doesn't have any place to get water or escape from the heat.
It turns out that Tim, Yuleet and I all love photography, so this afternoon we wandered up into the residential section of the town. There were no other tourists there, just regular Turkish people going about their business - kids playing, old women selling fruits, neighbors gossiping, lots of people just sitting in doorways and near windows. Some people didn't want to be photographed at all, but some were more than happy to pose for us. When we came upon a group of children sitting in a doorway, they smiled for us and the old woman next door gave us all watermelon slices. Yuleet talked to her for awhile in Italian (she speaks 5 languages!) and then we wandered up the street toward some music. When we turned the corner a couple of blocks up we found ourselves in the middle of a Gypsy festival celebrating a boy's circumcision.
This is a big deal to the Turks - the boy has a special costume that he wears and the proud parents parade him about town all day, and then have a big party in the evening. We were invited to join the feast and given food and drinks (no Raki for me this time - only Coke!) as if we were family or friends. Everybody was incredibly nice and friendly and a good time was had by all (except perhaps the boy about to be circumcised).
Yuleet left this evening for Istanbul, unfortunately, and Tim and I were very sad to see her go. I think we're going to try for Ephesus tomorrow - there's a nice breeze now and hopefully that means tomorrow will be cooler - and after that perhaps I'll head into Greece. First stop, the island of Samos.