LUTMAN'S THREE-WEEK FALL 2000 TRIP TO TURKEY
Report No. 1.
Day 1 and 2 of 21 or so. Sunday, September 17 and 18, 2000. San Jose to Munich flight. Munich to Istanbul flight. Istanbul to Golcuk (GOAL-chuck), where Tara's boyfriend Cihan (GEE-hahn) lives
Older daughter Tara sleeps over Saturday night, and takes us to San Francisco International Airport on Sunday September 17. THANK YOU TARA.
We have lots of luggage Ð one carry-on and two checked pieces, each (one checked piece is Cihan's leftover stuff from his two-year stay in the US). Plus stuff like fanny-packs, parkas, handbags, etc. The rules said each carry-on must be less than 8 kg (17.6 pounds), but the rules also say you are only allowed one carry-on each. I bought a new carry-on for about $100 and it weighs 9 pounds before I put anything in it! We have more carry-on weight than allowed and more volume than will fit in two carry-ons. So I put the overweight in a backpack, sling it over my shoulder, and put my parka over the same shoulder so it can't be seen. I plan to quietly stuff it under the seat in front of me. I make it all the way to the gate when it becomes clear that they don't check the weight of the carry-ons but they do check how many carry-ons you have. So I unload all overflow stuff from the backpack (plus the backpack itself) back into the two allowed carry-ons, and we're in business. Well, not business CLASS.
ECONOMY VS. BUSINESS CLASS
The Lufthansa 747-300 flight is totally full in economy Ð the section we have chosen. Our tickets cost about $940 round trip per person in economy class. We checked on upgrading to business class, since that is supposed to be MUCH more comfortable. Quoted cost was $3000 per person, one-way only, San Francisco to Munich only. So, let's see Ð that's $12000 to upgrade for the two long legs (about 10 hours) for the two of us. Another way to look at it is we are each saving $3000 in 10 hours. That's $300 per hour. Would you sit in a cramped seat for ten hours for $3000?
PASSING THE FLIGHT TIME
The food is remarkably good, and we are flying against the sun, so the hours are "passing"fast, and we seem to be fed a meal about every three hours. After first saying they could not get the movies to work, they run them after all. We see "Skulls" and another, lighter movie. I don't pay much attention to the second one. I get very little sleep. I keep trying -- I doze five minutes or so then wake up. I don't fight it, and just get out my reading again. This happens such that I get perhaps one or two hours' sleep during the short night. Morning comes, we get our freshener towels and eat breakfast. Another hour or so and we land in Munich.
CHANGING PLANES IN MUNICH
This is a new, huge glass and steel international airport. We walk down the raised transition path to our next flight's gate and sit down to wait for two hours or so for the Munich-to-Istanbul leg. During the walk, we are each ROLLING our carry-on piece. What a pleasure. We take a bus out from the airport building to a tiny satellite building with an escalator which takes us from ground level up to the level of the airplane entry. We get on the plane and it's only about 70% full, so we get a blank space between us. It's very good, a little over three hours. Very comfortable.
I doze a little more, we have another meal, and we land in Istanbul. Everybody gets off, and we are about the last ones. We turn a corner to find about eight lines with about 50 people in each line. As we are standing there, up behind us comes Cihan with flowers for Sharon, "Welcome to Turkey, you guys!" he yells. How great to see a friendly face after such a long trip. Cihan looks great and says he has dropped 30 of the pounds he picked up in the U.S. and wants to drop 30 more. CONNECTED! He flashes his military ID card and gets us around all the people in the lines. We pay the $45 each for our visas, skip customs and are out. How cool is this? You just gotta know the right people.
Cihan takes us to the National Car Rental place to pick up our Renault, auto transmission, air conditioned car, and there's a problem. The people who had it before us aren't bringing it back for a few more hours. They give us a manual transmission Ford Manteo (or something like that) with air conditioning and promise to deliver our car tonight, to Cihan's place in Golcuk. Wow! The car is about $100 a day, but that includes CDW, which you normally decline in the US, and a few more bucks so that you don't have a $400 deductible if you have an accident. But it is EXTREMELY difficult to find an auto transmission vehicle in Turkey, I can tell you. We add Sharon for an extra $2 a day, and they say Cihan can drive it also, for no extra charge, since he won't be driving much. Loose rules in Turkey, in this case.
We take off, with Cihan driving and after we get in traffic, we learn that the air conditioning doesn't work. It's pretty hot, maybe 90 or so. I'm a little juberous, as Dad used to say for dubious, because I'm afraid they are going to try to dump this car on us for the duration. Must let that go . . .
ISTANBUL TO GOLCUK
Cihan drives us about 160 km per hour max (100 mph) down the excellent freeways leaving Istanbul, after first muddling us through evening rush hour traffic. We travel on the European side for a while, then cross the Bosphorus and enter the Asian side. The view of the Bosphorus from this bridge is spectacular, but will have to wait for the end of the trip, when we will spend about three nights in Istanbul, running around with daughter Tara and Cihan. I plus the GPS into the cigarette lighter at the airport before we ever take off, and I can see major items approaching before we ever see them. I can't tell you how reassuring this high tech goody is to me, thinking about the next weeks when we are driving by ourselves.
The first birds we see are House Sparrows, a Black-billed Magpie, Starlings, then an unidentified gull. We see some unID'd swifts high over a building and some kind of crow, also unidentified at first. We are well on the Asian side now, and we can see that the crows have a gray sort of vest on. They are HOODED CROWS, our first lifer. At first we thought they might be Jackdaws, but then we reject that. Not quite right. We arrive at Cihan's and a few bats are chasing insects around.
Cihan lives on a naval military base, in a three- or four-story apartment, I don't recall which right now. No elevator, or lift as they say here. So you get automatic exercise at least twice a day whether you want it or not. The building looks a little scary from the outside, from an expected-cleanliness point of view, but when we get in, it's a great place -- very elegant, with spectacular views out into the Marmar Sea, overlooking the naval base.
FIRST NIGHT ACTIVITIES
After Cihan helped us (i.e. did almost all of it) take our baggage up to his apartment, we got back in the car and went to the military restaurant where he had earlier arranged a special dinner for us, to be prepared by the chef. I counted and there were 17 courses. Well maybe not, but great tasting dishes kept coming and coming. The fresh sea air and the lights of the surrounding cities and towns were invigorating and helped us to combat the jet lag in the way that's supposed to be the best (stay up as late as you can the night you arrive).
After dinner, he took us on a tour of the base and about 13 months after the terrible earthquake of last year, Cihan several times said things like "This park was created to commemorate the 130 naval men who died in the collapse of the building that was here." Pretty devastating to me. I think he said that about three times. He says that the people of the surrounding town seem much more serious and perhaps nervous than he remembers them being when he left for America a couple of years ago.
We finally went back to the apartment and checked with the car rental people. Their new story is that the current renters of OUR car would return it tomorrow and they would drive it to where we were tomorrow evening. The problem was that we didn't know exactly where we would be. So we had to think about that one a while. Meanwhile, I checked email at Cihan's, sent off our initial "we made it" message, and checked the football results to see how I did in my fantasy football league. What a life. Finally hit the sack about a half-hour past midnight I think.
New Life Birds (first time ever seen or heard): Hooded Crow.
Totals: Today 1. Trip 1
Impressions of the Day: The new Turkey is far more modern than I realized, even though Cihan had been telling us about it over the last year or so. The country is also a wonderful mixture of the new and the old. I love the minarets of the mosques. Every city and village has at least one mosque and minaret, like the steepled churches of New England. They are elegantly beautiful. All the mosques we saw today had one minaret, though we know that some mosques have more than one.
The Imams of 2000 do their call to prayer into a microphone connected to loudspeakers mounted on the minaret, the speakers facing all four directions. They no longer climb up and call from minaret windows, or at least not that we saw. Sixty percent of Istanbul's population is under 25. Hard to fathom.
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