Saturday, December 13, 2008

Turkey Part 2

Merhaba all!

So... I'm back home after my 2.5 months of nomadic vagabonding... and I miss it. For some reason, I almost felt like crying all the way home from the airport in Boston. Now that I'm bakc I'm happy to be in America, but I certainly miss Europe (and the bit of Asia I saw in Turkey).

Not much more to tell about the rest of my time in Turkey. We took a plane to Istanbul, then stayed in the Yunus Emre hotel, owned by friends of my dad. They have an adorable daughter named Yasmine who I had the pleasure of meeting. The first day I ended up taking a six hour nap, then going out to dinner with a British friend of my dad's who now lives in Turkey.

The next day we went to the mosaic museum--quite cool! Mosaics from the byzantine times with roman influence. Then wandered around looking for Christmas presents. The bazaars were closed because of byram (spelling?), a religious holiday of sacrifice. A lot of sheep were slaughtered the morning we arrived in Istanbul, and the meat given to the poor (I think). Then everyone didn't have work or school and said "iyi byramlar" (happy Byram). I guess it's kind of like christmas? Except about a week long.

Flew back to the states on Wednesday, stopping for about an hour at CDG, which I am quite familiar with by now. Since then I've gotten in the habit of going to sleep around 7 or 8 because of jetlag, haha. Still haven't unpacked.

Here are some statistics:

Countries visited:

Airplanes taken:

Time away:
September 24-December 10, about 2.5 months

Languages spoken:

That's about it!
Now it's time to get ready for Christmas and New Year's. After that, who knows! Once I start doing more exciting things I'll take up updating this blog again.

Tchau for now!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Turkey Part 1

Merhaba from Konya!

My dad and I spent 3 great days in Istanbul, having two enormous, long Turkish dinners: the first with my dad's Turkish friend Suha and two Italian friends of Suha's. The next night we ate with the owner of the amazing hotel we were staying at, along with the costumer relations manager.

We strolled around Istanbul, looking in the Grand Bazaar, as well as other bazaars, went to the archeological museum and the train museum, took the trams, met another one of my dad's former students (Suha is a former student). It was fun!

On Thursday we flew to Asia! to Nevsehir, in Cappadocia. We drove to Ürgüp where we stayed in a cave hotel, which is awesome. Met the one person on our tour (from New York), and had a great day of touring around. I climbed around a lot of old cave houses--thousands of years old. Unfortunately, many are unsafe because the rock wears down and is prone to collapse.
We also went to a café owned by a friend of my dad's and walked around Ürgüp.

Saturday we got up early to drive to Konya, stopping along the way at some really cool caravansarays--structures built on the sides of the roads for caravans to use to rest. Some are falling down, though the ones we visited had been restored.

Now we're in Konya, along with 2 more Americans and 3 Iranians who joined our tour. Yesterday and today were busy-- we went to see mosques, museums (archeological--woo!) and old theological schools--some really beautiful buildings with some great tile work. We saw Mevlana's tomb, which I had seen when I was here 9 years ago, and vaguely remembered.

Last night we went to see the whirling dervishes. The performance was held in a beautiful new cultural center. It started out with a concert of traditional turkish music, and then the ceremony began. There were 28 dervishes, some little kids. They whirled 3 times, with breaks in between. It was really interesting!

Now I'm back in the hotel--hotel Rumi, of course--taking a break. Tonight we don't have much planned, and then tomorrow we'll fly back to Istanbul for two days! Then on the 10th, I'll fly home. wowee.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Norway and Belgium!

First of all, I just thought I'd mention that I'm safely in Istanbul, listening to the evening call to prayer from the Blue Mosque (and various other mosques)-- it's 4:50, aka sundown, aka time to pray again!

Norway and Belgium were so much fun! After I left Portugal I stayed in Paris for two days (in a youth hostel), then flew to Oslo and took a train to Brumunddal, where my friend Anne-Lise lives. In the week I was there I (in no particular order):

-Took walks on ice and snow and slipped various times (never fell, pretty proud of myself for that!). I love snow! It snowed!
-Saw a huge ski jump
-Went to Oslo and:
--saw a norwegian tv station headquarter place
--saw an old fortress
--bought a hat with earflaps (yes, I'm still really excited about that)
-Went to a Norwegian high school in Hamar
-Went to a Norwegian folk high school in Lillehammer (look them up, they're cool!)
-Saw "The Polar Express," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," "Stardust," "Love Actually," and various friends episodes. It gets dark early, so we watched a lot of movies.
-Saw a ruined dome church in Hamar
-Baked pancakes, french toast, and gingerbread (peperkake!!!!!!!) and ate a lot of gingerbread dough. yum.
-Ate moose and reindeer and lots of brown cheese (it's good, look it up). Then made a moose meat fajita the next night for dinner.
-Watched as it got light at 8 in the morning and dark at 3... beautiful sunsets, though!
-Had fun trying to figure out Norwegian kroner (approx 9.2 kroner=1 euro, or something like that!).
-Ate lots of yummy norwegian chocolate
-Learned some Norwegian, which is a fantastic language! Really beautiful.

So, summed up, Norway was awesome! Sorry if you don't like reading about my adventure in bullet form, I'm too lazy to write paragraphs right now.

Next stop: transit. Train from Brumunddal to Oslo, plane to Amsterdam, change planes, fly to Paris, sleep a night at a friend's apartment then take a train from Paris to Brussels. four countries in two days! woo! I accidentally bought a first class ticket on the train, so I got food and free wifi! pretty nice, but on the way back I made sure to get a second class ticket for half the price.

In Belgium, I:
-Went out with my friend Vreni (whom I was visiting and hadn't seen for a year and a half!) and her friends from a club she's in to go bowling. Failed miserably, but I've always known I'm horrible at bowling. Vreni won! woo!
-Went to Leuven, Belgium's student city, with the coolest town hall I've ever seen. soo cool! Lots of bikes. Ate lunch at a pasta place with Vreni and a friend of hers who had been on exchange in the US. Tried to order in flemish and failed. haha. Explored shopping streets, woo!
-Went by myself to Brugges because Vreni had classes. Brugges is absolutely beautiful! I have fallen in love with Belgian architecture.... all the houses lined up together with their step-like rooves and bricks and designs... very cool. I went to a museum there and saw some tapestries and lace... Brugges is famous for lace. Quite cool. Cold, actually, though not as cold as Norway. No snow in Belgium, but some rain! Had glühwein (hot wine), which they sell in cute little cabin things on the streets.
-Got to know the fantastic Belgian train system very well.
-Went out to eat in a steak-and-french-fries restaurant where they were serving wine from my friend's host mother's vineyard in Portugal. coincidence!!! It was funny.
-Went into Brussels where I saw Vreni's school (very green--they painted everything green...) and a christmas market! It was awesome: lots of little cabins selling clothes, hats, candles, more gluhwein and hot chocolate, etc. Plus a skating rink, ferris wheel (with a VIP cabin for 75€ that comes with a bottle of champagne... thought that was funny), ice sculptures, and decorated trees. It was quite cool and made me wish we had chirstmas markets in america... not just walmart.
Except at one point they decided to "make" snow by spraying out suds into the air. Looked like snow, but then we were all covered in suds. haha.
Then we went to the Grand Place, which was beautifully decorated with a lot of lights and a big christmas tree, plus a nativity scene! absolutely beautiful :-D.
-Ate way too many waffles. yum!

Yesterday I hung out with Vreni in the morning, then took the train back to Paris (I guess I just need to stop by there every couple weeks? haha) where I stayed the night in a hotel near the airport, then flew here, to Istanbul, where it's quite warm and very unlike Norway and Belgium! Met my dad and the airport, then got to this hotel, where instead of chocolates on the pillows I got a pretty little container of turkish delight (if you don't know what it is, look it up. it's good).

From one incomprehensible language to another... haha.

Thanks to those who have been reading!