Updated: Nov 15
Disclaimer: I hit "Publish" way before this post was done. An unconscious moment while smelling breakfast wafting up to my cave room in Cappadocia maybe? So sorry friend... the following is the finished version of this travel post...
I will not miss the plane. I will not miss the plane. This mantra is so effective, I found myself at the IST airport ready to head to my gate an hour before my gate was posted.
I am learning to navigate an organized and relaxed plan to fly.
First, two days before I would board my flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia, I prepared. I did laundry (as you may recall from the last post) and packed as much as I could. Then I could relax the day before. Which I did, in high class. I booked a day cruise to the Princes' Islands.
The $28 package included pick up and drop off at my hotel, the cruise (to two of the Princes' Islands), time on each island to explore, and lunch on the boat (between islands).
The first stop was Kınalıada. We had one-hour to explore this remote and absolutely chillaxed island. I would love to stay there, right on the beach, in a cabana, and sleep in a hammock. The second island stop was Büyükada. It was larger, so we had two-hours on land.
On the ship, I met a fellow current world-traveler who is from Mexico, named Moses, who turned out to be my perfect travel-buddy-for-the-day. On Kınalıada we rented bicycles and checked out an abandoned (off-season) beach spot. On Büyükada, after walking around for a bit, both tired, we benched (sat on a bench that is, not lifted weights). Moses did his thing to relax (sleep and scroll his phone) and I did mine: yoga on the grass by the Sea of Marmara and chatting it up with an extremely sweet, young, gay, transy, Iranian named Hadi.
And here, for those who love the views, are pictures. First, the cruise...
Then, Kınalıada (you can thank Moses for taking lots of pics (and videos :)...
Then... after the ship returned to Istanbul, the trip organizers had thought that the ultimate end to an all-day cruise to relaxing islands would be...
Yeah, a fashion show, followed by shopping their two-floors-worth-of coats. Not really my thing.
What was really my thing was, when I got home and walked around the corner to the ATM machines that had not worked for me the day before, the one that had been out-of-order and now was in-order had an English option and - voila - I got me lyra. Whew. At that point, I really felt ready to travel to my next venture.
The other good plan I did was I did not go out. Instead, I slept. I slept so well.
I also threw away my painted Clark clogs. We're done with stinky shoes.
Also the day before flight day, I had reserved an Uber yellow taxi to be outside my not-legally-an-Airbnb-"hotel" for three-and-a-half hours before flight time. As you may recall from my past airport debacle posts, these initial steps can create the difference between a good trip or a trip where I've landed in the Universe ruled by Murphy's Law. There would be no Murphy's Law this time. This would be a trip that kept me here on Earth where challenges are reasonably and easily handled. This would be what I am now calling "a good trip."
I woke an hour early, showered, finished packing, neatened my room, and headed down 5-minutes before pick-up time. My Uber yellow "taksi" driver was on the street (5-minutes early). My hotel host was also there, and helped me carry my bags downstairs. My taxi driver put my bags in the trunk of his yellow taxi. While he did that, I informed my hotel host that I had left the apartment neat, though it needed a good cleaning because it obviously had not had a thorough cleaning before I'd arrived. The overhead light was thick with dust; there were things on the floor behind the little fridge and next to the nightstand; there was a dirty wad of paper on the corner shelf in the shower; the wall behind the hot plate was splatted with grease. Little things like that. He spoke with my Taxi driver, in Turkish. I don't know what he said. It could have been, "This is an American who is very particular - watch out" or he could have said "This woman is very helpful - watch out for her."
An hour later, when we were close to the departures section of the IST airport, I asked my Uber yellow taxi driver to drop me off by a rolling luggage cart. Yüksel, my angel-driver (as it turned out), got out of his taxi, told me not to handle my own bags, paid for the rolling cart, and man-handled it free for me. My Uber yellow taxi driver was definitely 5-star material. I left him a 5-star rating and a tip on Uber. If you're needing an Uber yellow taxi on the European side of Istanbul, look for Yüksel.
I am learning to navigate IST.
First, I walked in the correct door. I realize this sounds like a ridiculous thing to say to you, unless you read the post where you are right now thinking, "Whew. Good job, Ami."
Second, I was able to read "Domestic" (rather than "International") flights, and head to the correct security line. Another small yet important step to getting to the Third and Fourth steps without a full body sweat and without being possessed by an inner temper-tantrum-ing two-year-old.
I got through security without a hitch, while keeping my rolling luggage cart for the other side. I actually felt quite proud of that little feat. On the other side of security, I was able to navigate to the area I needed to be next. I asked for help as to print my boarding pass and where to go to check my bags. Again, quite proud I am.
And then, because everything had gone so smoothly, I realized I was so early, my gate number was not posted. I knew this because I asked. The person at the information booth said, "Your gate number won't be posted for another hour." I looked at her with a bit of that deer-in-the-headlights look and she added, "For now, you can check out the lounge. If you need me again, just come back here. I'll help you." Ah.
What to do with my time... What to do with my time...
I got a large and delicious cappuccino and, for 20 Lyra, made best friends with a massage chair. (Who says money can't buy love?) This may be have been a machine, but it was effective. When you find yourself so freakin' early for your flight that you don't know what to do with yourself, find a massage chair... sit, wait it out, and you too may experience the lowering of shoulders, widening of the ribcage, and deepening of the breath. For now, please meet my new best friend, the IST airport massage chair...
Next, I had a photo shoot with the bathroom. I have been wanting to introduce you to Turkish toilets. I am excited.
If you are a man in pants or a woman in a dress, you will know where to go.
If you choose the woman in a dress, her counterpart will point you in the right direction, just in case you were confused before this point.
Once inside, you have two toileting options. Squat over the hole in the floor and then hose off...
...or sit on the toilet and then shoot yourself with cool water from the butt side of your body forward (opposite of how Americans in a female body were taught to wipe)...
If you are an American, it may take a moment (like, a couple of weeks) to realize that these options are better – far better – than the one American toileting method you’ve become accustomed to. There’s a reason “Squatty Potty” is gaining popularity. There’s a reason “bidet” is a thing.
And, with either choice, when you're done washing, the toilet paper is used for drying, and placed in the trash can directly below the dispenser. "Do not litter in toilet" (or "closet" as one sign said) means do not throw (even) toilet paper in the toilet (or hole in the floor). The paper is litter. The paper goes in the litter/trash can. I imagine Turkish folks may be saying, "Get it right, Americans. Geesh!"
Here's more Turkish bathroom signage...
And then, entertainment for children while waiting at IST...
Next, I was hoping to write a blog in the internet lounge area. I learned, though, that, the internet being available at the IST airport lounge does not mean the internet is accessible. This little glitch did not deter *Super Ami.* I have vowed to deliver. So, I reverted to my most effective superpower in those situations: Word Document.
I will confess I did not get far. Much of this is being written as I sit in my cave room in Cappadocia.
Ima skip to the air and catch you up so we're here together.
In the air, I was once again floored by the clouds. This next bit I wrote in the plane on my phone's Notepad (another superpower tool when there's no internet access).
"I see the sun glistening on water through an opening in the blanket of clouds. Wispy white clouds drifting above a thick blanket of fluffy clouds in shades of white and gray and purple, above glistening water. I'm thinking: it's all water, different forms of water. Is that why I have such a deep appreciation for clouds? Water is life. Clouds are water. Why, I often wonder, do clouds move me to tears? Did clouds move Joni Mitchell in this way? Before she wrote Both Sides Now had Joni Mitchell found herself looking up at the clouds, utter awe in her soul, tears in her eyes? When she flew from gig to gig, sitting in the airplane's window seat, flying through and high above the clouds, did she find her face plastered against the glass, again, her soul taken over, tears on her cheeks?"
Besides my friends the clouds, I also made a new friend with the steward sitting in the seat facing me. His name was Baris, like Boris, and, in Turkish Baris means peace. Baris was born and raised in Cappadocia. He and his wife now live in Istanbul, on the busy European side, which he's not all together happy with. They both work for Turkish Airlines, though, so it's convenient. The upside of their whole deal is that they travel the world. Baris was in San Francisco yesterday. Before this job, Baris had been a tour guide in Cappadocia. His father drives a shuttle bus. We both wondered if I'd meet his dad.
When we landed, and got out of the plane, everyone took pictures. It was indeed a unique landscape: a desert with huge anthill-looking structures called fairy chimneys and hills that looked like buildings with windows and doors naturally carved into them. I did not take pictures, not until I took this video (below), during my shuttle bus drive, when the Call to Prayer started. I thought, "Turkey... no matter what the landscape, no matter how far I travel, there's the Call to Prayer."
I do want to tell you about the amazing drive to different towns (while dropping off other tourist-passengers), about my conversation with the driver and co-pilot (who had left before the video above) that was essentially a spiritual reading, about how I was the last person on the vehicle with the driver, who had his own intriguing story to tell but I could only hear it through his spirit guides because he spoke no English and I no Turkish. But, I want to get you where I am right now, my friend. So, let's skip to here.
When I stepped onto the Airbnb property where I will call home for a month, The Monastery cave Hotel, I felt like I stepped into Magic. I linked the Airbnb listing so you can see it. That door in the picture, that's my door. I am living in a cave. You who know me know that I like my bedroom to be like a cave. My current bedroom is a cave. A real cave. I'm living in a real cave.
Before we get to pictures of my cave home, I want to tell you that the magic was not even the fact that I'm living in a real cave. The magic was what happened next.
I was toured by my host, Arjan. Arjan showed me every available room. Since this is off-season, every room was available. He showed me the features of each room, and each feature was indeed wonderful. But when I saw "my" room, I thought this will be my home.
After choosing my room, and bringing my bags to it, Arjan invited me down to the cafe. He and his sister own and run this place... the Airbnb hotel, the cafe. There was a small gathering of people he introduced me to, including his sister, Sureyya. I don't know if all these people worked or hung out at the Monastery cave Hotel. It was hard to tell. Even 5 days later, it's hard to know.
"This is Mr. So-and-so, our doctor here," Arjan said, and then pointed to the surrounding cave walls. "This is Mr. So-and-so #2, who fixes things here," Arjan said, again pointing to the surrounding cave walls. Arjan went on like that, introducing each person by name and then pointing to the surrounding cave walls after each introduction. And with each introduction, a man would stand up, give me his hand, and hug me, side-to-side, warm and welcoming, relaxed, with no expectations, at all.
I did not tell you that it was not like that on the European side of Istanbul. At all. So, this was refreshing. SO refreshing.
Mr. Arjan (everyone calls the men Mr. - I don't yet know about introductions for women)... Mr. Arjan poured me a glass of red wine. "The best wine," he said, "made here (in Turkey? in the region? locally?)." Then he made me menemen. Really good menemen. Really, really good menemen. With a sizable side plate of feta, olives, and freshly sliced tomatoes.
Arjan's sister, Sureyya told me they were meeting later with her fellow students. They were all going to the theater to see a new movie about Mustafa Kemal, the first president of Turkey. They'd be driving. Arif said he'd be taking his motorcycle. I jumped on that. All of it. I rode on the back of Arif's bike, and watched a two-and-a-half-hour movie not in English with a large group of university students who spoke Turkish. There were many languages spoken during the movie, with Turkish subtitles. There was a line in English. I had my moment.
I will spare you more details here. Not because there weren't more details. There were. Not because the details weren't interesting, they were. I'm gonna skip a whole lot now only because I am chomping-at-the-bit to show you my cave-room...
And this is the view from my new home...
Now, I am ready to hit Publish and explore Cappadocia.