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Jul 7, 2005 - Turkey! Gobble, gobble

Reported by JoMar All rights reserved.

John here.

Yes this is me making an entry because I am getting bored watching Markie make them all the time. Actually I don't really mind because I would rather not spend that much time in front of this thing anyway.

By the way, there are no more pictures for this entry because we burned them onto a CD, and sent it home before we uploaded them here, * uck!

We are a little behind with our entries because we have either not had time or have not found an internet place that does not amputate us by charging an arm or a leg or both!!

Our journey to Turkey was our first really long train ride, 16 hours!!  They (the people who "work" at the train station) told us it would be about 6 hours... But it went by pretty fast, except when we got to the border and had to wait in this "speck of dust, one horse town" for 4.5 hours!!

At this intimidating border, 36'c, a guard came and took our passports, no English to say what was happening, and just walked away. Made us kinda nervous letting someone just take them like that. But when we got back on the train,hours later, they were handed back. This was also the first time that we saw major army guys with machine guns (so butch) on both sides of Greece and Turkey. Also first time we had to pay for a visa. We expected to pay $15 USD for the visa's, according to the embassy in Ottawa, but they charged us $60 USD! We just had enough on us to cover it!!

Okay so the sights and sounds of Istanbul were amazing and it is for sure among our favourite stops!! We stayed in a hotel, not a hostel as it was that affordable, in a really cool funky backpacker's area!

Istanbul has these really neat temples called mosques and at 3 in the morning, as well as other times of the day they have prayer in these mosques that are heard over loudspeakers all over the city. The mosques actually respond and reply to each other and the prayer is more like a song. When visiting these mosques, you are not allowed to have sleeveless shirts (even though it is almost 40'C ! ) no shorts and NO shoes!

So, if you arrive politically incorrect... you are given materials to cover up, and shoes, sandals are put in a bag for you to carry with you while you travel through these amazing ancient religious dwellings.

One that we visited, had these string of lights, just like 40 watt bulbs, hanging. We over-heard from a group tour, that there were 6,666 bulbs, but did not hear the significance, but there was one... damn!

Marc here now... John went next door to the SEX shop!

One night, about 3 days into our visit, we decided to scout somewhere to dance, heard there was this cool club, just on the other side of the river... ha! Did I mention, it is hard to get directions from someone who doesn't speak your language?! The directions we had brought us to this really dark area of Istanbul, stray cats running across our feet, stepping in dirty puddles, crossing dodgy characters...  we got to this one turn in the road going uphill and this old Turkish gentleman motioned us to what we thought he was saying, don't go there, get out!

All of a sudden, a voice was heard and it was IN ENGLISH! It said: "Can I help you guys find where you are going" ?  It was like music to our ears ! We turned around and there HE was! heheheee !

His name was Andrew, and he was like a godsend!  We chatted, told him what/where we were looking for, he brought us to a very, very cool area, where there was nightclubs, trendy restaurants, cafe's and so on. Now just imagine, we had just been plucked outta this dark, dingy, smelly dead end road, that looked like somewhere in Baghdad.

Andrew was kind enough to pass up his movie that he was going to, and show us more. We went to this excellent restaurant called 5th Floor, he knew this DIVA young woman who owned it and we were treated with kid-gloves. Food, service etc. were impeccable.  It was also perched on this cliff and on the top floor, the 5th floor, thus the name for it!

We had a drink together, got a bit more acquainted and POOF, Andrew had to leave :-(  We did find out that this gentle soul was American, living between Turkey and Spain. A very interesting man. Hope you are well Andrew.

After dinner, we went just downstairs one flight and there was this bar, very cool set up, drinks were outrageous and not busy. We stayed for just a couple of beer and just before leaving, we met a couple of great guys from England : Alex and Ashley.  The night bloomed into a dancing frenzy and stumbled back over the river with them in a crazy taxi ride at 4 a.m.

Probably the coolest experience for both of us was the Turkish Bath, called a Hamami.  We also went to this bath with Ashley and Alex.
The one we went too has been there since the early 1400's! Anyway we are lead to a small room of our own and told to disrobe and put on a towel and slip on these sandals. Then we go to this sauna area which is a large room with a great big marble circular slab that we lay down on with about 15 other men (no it's not what you guys are thinking).  Then each man waits his turn for one of these BIG TURKISH DUDES to come and start the massage (anticipation).  So they give you a salt scrub with these big black gloves to remove all the dead skin (gross) and then they give you a totally intense massage with lotsa hot water and soap. Actually they pour tons of buckets of hot water all over you several times during the process! Then this guy takes you to another area and has you sit down on this step and washes your body and hair really well. It was a really amazing and different experience to say the least, especially for me, John, who has never had a massage.

Culture in Turkey is so different than ours... men, straight men, are constantly showing affection publicly towards one another -- on trams, buses, wherever, they are holding each other hands, arms over shoulders, resting on laps while on buses and so on. Odd for us to see...

Me, being blonde (yah, from a bottle and foil!), blue-eyed (natural) was constantly being ogled because I looked so different from every other guy walking their streets. You know, long hair, "over-alls" ... !

There is a sub-culture in Turkey that is also very interesting. The men there do not think in terms of gay or straight, rather as passive and aggressive. Many of the straight men have sexual relations with transsexuals and transvestites and for this reason they do not consider themselves gay. In Istanbul there are quite a few clubs and bars that cater to this very scene. As in many Mediterranean communities, apparently, the man who is dominant does often not identify himself as gay, it is rather the more passive or effeminate men who are considered gay. Go figure.

We took a ferry another day, and went over to one of their islands on the ASIA side and had a great day again with Alex and Ashley. The sea was so blue, but the air so polluted!

Ate, swam, hiked, all in all, WE LOVED T U R K E Y !

Now onward to the border again :-(   --  wish us luck, as we go into Bulgaria!

Marc and John

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