Starting in cosmopolitan metropolis of Istanbul, Erik journeys to the Eurasian country of Turkey.  He is joined by his friend Jeff—a fellow Asian-American travel veteran—to explore centuries-old mosques and palaces, the local food scene, and other things from an ex-pat point-of-view with Erik’s ex-pat friends.  The two seasoned travelers leave Istanbul for other quick jaunts in the country: the surreal moonscapes of Cappadoccia, and the beach towns on the Turkish Riviera along the Mediterranean.  Although the duration of the trip is only nine days, Erik attempts to make the most of it through varied Turkish landscapes.

TRAVEL DISPATCHES (in chronological order)

Turkey Sandwich

Posted: June 02, 2011

IT’S BEEN HALF A YEAR since the last Global Trip adventure already, which means it’s about time to go out and see/blog some part of the world again, if only for nine days.  Since I came back from Chile and Easter Island last January, it’s been six months of ups and downs with freelance employment, relationships, and everything else going on in my life — mostly stuff still going on for that other blog I have — one concerning food — which hopefully will be a published book by year’s end. 

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Turkey Jerky

Posted: June 05, 2011

DAY 1: “Trinidad?” the passport officer asked me upon landing in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

“Yes,” I answered with a smile.

“First name, ‘Erik?’”

“That’s me.”

He looked me up and down with suspicion.  I didn’t know what the hold up was; Corinne, my seatmate and fellow Brooklynite on the 9 1/2-hr flight went right through in fifteen seconds.  We both had our Turkish visas in our passports, which we purchased on another line right before the passport one, so that couldn’t have been the issue.  I suspected that perhaps it might have been something to do with the Israeli stamp I had on one of my pages, although I’d read that it shouldn’t be an issue.

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Teenager Talk On The Sexy Side Of The City

Posted: June 06, 2011

DAYS 2-3 (PART 1): “It’s so big,” Jeff said, unconsciously setting up his own punchline as we stood marveling inside the beautifully cavernous Aya Sofia. “I remember Alex saying that after it was built, nothing was bigger in the world in a thousand years.”  He paused before saying a bisyllabic “Hmm-mm?” with a rising question inflection at the end — a sort of European version of a “That’s what she said” joke that he’d picked up in Germany watching soccer with Spanish commentators, who used the phrase to imply any innuendo on the playing field.

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It’s Not Racist If You’re Already Asian

Posted: June 06, 2011

DAYS 2-3 (PART 2):  “[We should go to the Asian side,]” Meg suggested to Chinese-American Jeff and Filipino-American me.  “I feel like you two should feel at home,” she joked.

“I’m not even going to call you a racist for that,” I said, smiling.

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Easy Riders and Hard Ons

Posted: June 09, 2011

DAYS 4-5 (PART 1): “Do we have to make a reservation for the testi kebabs?” I asked Mustafa, our Turkish go-to guy from the Kelebek/Sultan/Coco Cave Hotels in Gorème — three separate “cave hotels” that shared facilities built in and around the wild rock formations of central Turkey’s Cappadoccia region.  I was inquiring about the testi kabab, a regional dish that we’d heard about and seen around town — meats and vegetables stewed for at least three hours before serving in its individual clay pot — with the gimmick that you smash the pot and then eat the contents inside.

“We don’t make testi kebabs,” he told us with a bit of disdain, representing the Lonely Planet-recommended Seten restaurant (coincidentally down the stairs from our hotel’s reception), which specialized in real regional Anatolian cuisine.  “We only make local food.  Testi kebabs are for tourists.  We don’t eat that.”  It was a pretty convincing argument coming from someone who sold activity packages to tourists to do things that locals definitely don’t do, like go hot air ballooning in the area at almost $250 USD/hr.

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Lost? There’s A Turk For That.

Posted: June 11, 2011

DAYS 4-5 (PART 2): “Where are you going?” asked a lone Turkish guy who seemingly came out of nowhere at a deserted road junction between towns in the Cappadoccia region. Jeff and I were on our motorbike scooters, and were a bit lost.

“[Is this the way to Kaymakli?]” Jeff asked him.

“Mazi,” he said, naming a town that, according to our map, was on the way to Kaymakli.

“And Kaymakli?”

“[No, Mazi this way,]” he replied, pointing in one direction before pointing towards the other way of the T intersection. “[Kaymakli, this way.]”  (Later we learned that a lot of our confusion was due to the tourist map we got from the rental place, which apparently wasn’t accurate or to scale.)

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The Post-Backpackers

Posted: June 12, 2011

DAYS 6-7 (PART 1):  “The [Lonely Planet] description doesn’t make it sound good,” Jeff told me, flipping through the pages about our next destination, as we sat in one of two minibus shuttles that took us on the hour-long ride from Antalya — one of Turkey’s southwestern coastal main cities — to the popular beach town of Olympos.  We simply decided to go there without much thinking ahead, based on it being a “place to go” — plus my Turkish friend Izge back home had recommended it to me on Facebook. 

Lonely Planet: The former hippy-trail hot spot has gentrified considerably in past years and is today overcrowded and institutionalized… But love it or hate it, Olympos still offers good value and an up-for-it party atmosphere…  Be extra attentive to personal hygiene while staying at Olympos.  In summer in particular the huge numbers of visitors can stretch the camps’ capacity for proper waste disposal beyond its limit, so be vigilant in particular about where and what you eat.  Every year some travellers wind up ill.

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Pirates Of The Mediterranean

Posted: June 12, 2011

DAYS 6-7 (PART 2):  Olympos in Turkey may be a Mediterranean beach destination almost exclusively full of backpacking hippies and Australian kids on gap year, but it’s not the only place on the “Turkish Riviera” that has been overrun with tourists from another country.  We’d heard that whole towns down the coast are almost exclusively British or German, and Kemer, the closest big town near Olympos and Çirali, was almost completely Russian. 

“A lot of Russians here,” I noticed and told to Ilmas, a non-Russian, Turkish resident of Kemer, who had picked Jeff and me up at the Shell station along the main coastal highway.

“Too many,” he said with an expression that was in between a smile and frown.

“It’s the Russian Riviera,” Jeff said.  (Later we heard rumors that some tourists toted tattoos only found on members of the Russian mafia.)

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Leftover Turkey

Posted: June 13, 2011

DAYS 8-9: “We’re done here,” I said to Jeff (imitating Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama on Battlestar Galactica), as we checked out of our room at the Orange Motel.  It was a rather abrupt checkout; we slept in until noon after a night of boozing in Olympos — and the staff was already knocking on our door.  Jeff was hungover and was waiting to “sweat it out,” while my strategy was to “throw it down” (as oppose to “throw it up” if you know what I mean).  It’s a post-drinking thing I do that keeps me from getting hangovers.

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JIVE TURKEY (in chronological order):


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