Friday, July 18, 2008

Jigity Jig...

Home again, home again. I am happy to be home, but this trip was a great experience. The first two weeks were completely peaceful. The last four days were crazy, chaotic, completely fascinating and full of adventure. I can't begin to explain it all here, but suffice it to say that traveling anywhere outside of Europe is a challenge, no matter if you're on your own or with a group of 81 musicians.

The orchestra I was traveling with has been doing this for 35 years, and done at least 75 tours all over the world, but there are always unforeseen situations...but, oddly enough, it is often that craziness that we remember, long after the tours are over and done. This tour, there were seven of us who have been involved off and on with the group for more than half of those tours and several others for at least a third of them.

We awakened by the 5 a.m. call to pre left the lovely Hotel Benois in Greece on Monday afternoon and for the next 4 days spent most of our time on the road, or on ferries. 6 hours from the island of Syros to the island of Samos. Another couple of hours on a ferry to the mainland of Turkey. Another hour or so on buses (81 people require two buses) to Ephesus. And hours of waiting in between. Arrival at our hotel in Epehesus was sometime around 2 a.m.

We fell into bed and slept soundly until we were awakened by the 5 a.m. call to prayer. We finally got up at 7 so we could go to the ancient ruins of Ephesus before it got too hot. Only problem: we had to walk some 2 miles. It was a HOT two miles, but we finally arrived, and the sights were worth the effort.

We took a little side trip to a Turkish carpet making school and got a tour (and a bit of pressure to buy, of course). It was quite interesting though, and the carpets were beautiful, albeit quite expensive. They gave us some delicious Turkish Apple Tea, and later, I bought some to enjoy at home.

Tuesday afternoon, we were supposed to make our journey to Istanbul, but the buses that were coming from Romania did not arrive until 8 p.m. and then the drivers had to sleep, so we did not leave until 1 a.m. Wednesday and then drove all night and all morning from Ephesus to Istanbul. It took 12 hours, the last part fighting traffic and being lost in tight little side streets with two giant buses. Our relief at finally arriving at our Hostel was tempered by our first glimpse of the Chill Out facilities. I prefer not to dwell on our dismay, though, as the 4 hours (as opposed to the entire day) we had left to sightsee were frantic, but well worth it.

We saw three main sights: The Blue Mosque (loved it), the Haigh Sophia (a little disappointing inside but outwardly beautiful), and the Grand Bazaar (overwhelming and a little frustrating, perhaps mainly because we were so exhausted). We were going to see the Turkish Baths (and even experience it), but I chickened out at the last minute. I found out later that they were closed to women by then, so I didn't really miss out after all.

After a night in the somewhat dicey hostel, my sister, nephew, and I took our leave from the group and made our way to one of Istanbul's four airports to fly home via Paris. Flights were uneventful, and we got star treatment in Paris, with a jetway-to-jetway escort that included a rush through security and bypassing a couple hundred people in line to board the plane for our last leg home. Let's just say that we appreciated Air France's TLC.

I got home home at about 10 p.m. Boston time, but it was 4 a.m. Turkish time, so that made four days in a row of very late nights and arduous travel. To say I fell into an exhausted sleep would not be exaggerating. It was good to get here. Good to have a shower in my own shower. Good to see my cats (they were thrilled to see me). Good to hear my parents' voices. Good to be able to say that in spite of the problems here in this country, there really is no place like it. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to see the places I've seen on this and other trips. We are blessed. There's nothing like travel to help you realize and appreciate what we have to be thankful for in this country.


La Tea Dah said...

Welcome back home --- it sounds like you had an exciting and somewhat frantic time at the end. I have enjoyed your travel posts very much. May the rest of your summer be blessed as well.

Inland Empire Girl said...

Welcome home. I have enjoyed seeing your trip through the lens of your camera. Get some rest and relaxation at home now!