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Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Berbur of Bozburun

Pictures are pending. I would like to upload some to the site but unfortunately everything is in Turkish and I cannot understand a word.

Yesterday James went to the berbur of Bozburun, the barbar. It was quite the experience. Big straight edge blade, the pinching of the skin, the ear shave. All in all an interesting male ritual. The day before we went with about 10 people from another boat to a Turkish bath. The captain of the boat asked last night if it was true that we all went in the buff. Yes. I was in peels of laughter to find out that it is rather unprecedented for a group to all be buff. It is more funny because it was James and I with a bunch of 60 and 70 year olds who have been friends for years, never of course have they hung around in a hot room naked together.

A Turkish bath is a bit like a car wash. You change into a tea towel, lay on an octogan slab of marble that is steaming hot, some large Turkish man comes in and rubs you down to take off all the dead skin. Very gross. Then you are sent off for the shower. Next up is the soap, which is in a pillow case that they fill with air. When they drop the case on you there is soap foam everywhere. That was my favourite part. You have to flip over at one point and you are so soapy that you just spin right around. Second shower. Then you are off to the oil massage. The female massage was quite gentle but the sounds from the men were quite different, much like the thwapping sound at the end of a car wash. It was not a real massage more of an oil rub.

Overall it was a strange naked experience with folks I barely know but certainly know a lot more about now. The men and women are together for the entire time except the massage, and you really just have the tea towel, which the Turkish men sort of reposition every 2 minutes so they can scrub, soap, and oil.

Dirsek is our stop tonight. It is a one tavern town.

Basic impressions of Turkey: I am enjoying the landscape and food more in Turkey than Greece. The food is amazing, lots of great casserole dishes—meat with spicy sauces, onions and peppers. But everything is more expensive.

I bought two Turkish carpets yesterday.

And most important, happy birthday to Janice today and The White Rabbit tomorrow. The one taverna town tonight has no phone and it is quite surprising that we have an internet connection here in Bozburun.

Next up Istanbul.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Time’s Arrow: Turkey

We should be in Turkey today, passports stamped and arriving in Turgutreis, which is a lively little town and hopefully has a laundry facility. Turgutreis is known for spectacular sunsets and I hope to appreciate one over an evening cocktail.

Day 8 we sail south for Palamut, another fishing village. I do hope there are things I can eat. Fish allergy.

We might be able to go to Knidos, which around 400-500 BC was the key harbour in the ancient world.

Day 9 we’re off to Ova Buku, another tiny, out-of-the-way spot with a fantastic beachfront taverna. I’ve been told to expect the best home-cooked Turkish food and belly dancing. Swivel swivel, snake hips.

Day 10 we sail to Datca, and hopefully hit an ATM. Datca has several bars and a haman so perhaps a Turkish bath is in order.

Day 11 is Bozburun, a village that is home to a still-thriving wooden boat-building industry. I think there is a hammock with my name on it.

Day 12 we take a gentle run to Dirsek and celebrate James’ mom’s birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

Day 13 we sail to Keci Buku and celebrate my mom’s birthday. ALL THE BEST RABBIT.

And sadly on Day 14 we disembark and travel 30 minutes to Marmaris and back to modern-day Turkey.

We plan to hang out in Marmaris and take the ferry to Rhodes, but we eventually have to get up to Dalaman so that we can fly to Istanbul.

More adventures await us.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Time’s Arrow: Leros to Keci Buku

Today is the day James and I board our sailboat. We embark at 11 am in Lakki, which is the main harbour on Leros. We get all the details, like how to use the boat toilet, then we sail for Lipsos, island of the 42 blue-domed churches. Lipsos is a pretty untouristy place, which I’m sure will be well appreciated after the bustle of London and Athens.

The next day we head to Arki, a little island with a permanent population of 47 people. Perhaps we’ll be able to meet them all. We’re going to Manoli’s place. Manoli runs a little oasis of a taverna and is apparently quite the DJ.

Day 3 we sail to Patmos and explore the famous Monastery Island where St. John was inspired by visions to write the Book of Revelations. The 10th century monastery built by the Crusader Knights is still active and part of daily life. I’m looking forward to the bakery.

Day 4 we sail for Pandeli, day 5 Paleonissos, which has little more than a herd of goats, day 6 Vathi and up to a tiny fishing village to Poppy’s, which is a little family taverna. I hear that Poppy’s mom makes the best homemade dolmades. Then day 7 we leave for Kos at sunrise. While the skipper is dealing with the paperwork to get us into Turkey, we’re going to see the famous tree where Hippocrates supposedly taught, then we’ll enjoy a chocolate milkshake on the waterfront as recommended by the skipper.

We’re sailing with SeaScape Sailing and they sail the boat but also teach us how to sail. I think there are about 8 people per boat and they take 3 boats. The first thing they told us was to read the itinerary then ignore it. We go where the weather lets us go and some of these small islands can become inaccessible.

Next stop Turkey.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Santorini Sunsets

James and I just spent 3 really fun days on Santorini. We stayed in a hotel called Rena’s Place, which is in Fira, the main town. The hotel is off the beaten path but not so far off that you don’t know where the path is. We rented a scooter and drove around the whole island.

I am truly no stranger to peril.

We rented one scooter and James drove. The first afternoon he came to pick me up and it was like the pelican landing in The Rescuers, not sure if anyone remembers that old Disney flick. We got better.

Yesterday we went to Perissa, which is a black sand beach. It was pretty nice, then we scootered over to the Red Beach, which requires a bit of a hike in, but was really lovely. The sun set on the red sand was picture perfect.

We just spent 10 hours on a ferry, and arrived at the hotel in Athens, the one that did not honour our first reservation, and now our room is being cleaned. There was something resembling an undershirt hanging from the bathroom door and unidentificable debris on the floor. One night only and close to the train stop.

So Travis, James will sample the kalamari for me because “stay safe” also means don’t eat things you are allergic to. I did have great pasta last night with Santorini tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. And, there seems to be a large number of Mexican restaurants on the island, not sure what that is all about.

Crazy, thank you for the reminder that I am in Europe with my best buddy and clearly no hot sticky metro can beat the fact that we are away for a whole month. Bollocks to the work life. This is the life part of the work/life balance.

Tomorrow we get on a sailboat for 2 weeks, yahoo! I have nothing but exciting thoughts, but I must go to bed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Athens Arrival

James and I arrived in Athens last night. Our flight was delayed 1 hour because someone missed the plane but their bag did not. The baggage had to be unloaded and reloaded without the offending case. Such is airline travel. The British Airways’ “industrial action” with their cater also meant we had vouchers for food rather than service on the plane.

Our Athens hotel was apparently 50 m from the train station but that was not the case. Well, okay, it is probably true but there are no signs so we spent an hour wandering around, circling in really, like with prey. When we finally found Hotel Diethnes, they did not have our room. Yes, we had a reservation, but there is a conference in town and we think they double sold our room. We were transferred to Hotel Remvi, which is actually quite nice and may be better than our first choice.

James and I wanted to go to the Acropolis and the Plaka today but it is so damn hot, and we slept until 10:30 and by the time we crawled out of the hotel it was 1 pm. Now it is 2 pm and we’ve found the cool of the internet cafe.

I think I’m allergic to Greece, maybe Europe in general. There is smoking everywhere and I’m having a hard time of it, especially having come from Vancouver where it is practically a crime to even think about cigarettes. The last patron in our hotel room was clearly a smoker, it is hanging in the room. Nothing like second-second-hand smoke.

Athens reminds me a lot of Bogota, narrow streets, lots of pollution, crumbly buildings ... but I like it. Friends I spoke to who had been to Athens said I’d be disappointed, but I don’t like to set travel expectations so I haven’t been disappointed yet by a city. They each hold interesting pockets. Like right now we are on Folkinos Negri, which is a tree-lined pedestrian street. There are all sorts of cool cafe/bars and it is around lunch time so lots of locals are hanging about having coffees and icy drinks.

Being somewhere without English signs is pretty cool. I now understand the saying “it’s all Greek to me.” Sefcharisto was my word of the day yesterday. No idea how to spell it in Greek, but it means thank you.

Friday, September 09, 2005

London Highlights

James and I arrived in London on Sept 8. It was a rather long flight but not too unpleasant. A fellow who lives in our apartment, on the same floor as us, was also on the flight, and was also taking the Picadilly Line into Central London. His family lives in London so we had a rather able guide right off the bat. Thankfully my London friend advised me of the best way to get to the Victoria Services Club because neither James or I bothered to find out the address in advance. It is an adventure afterall. I knew the general area, and again, my good fortune was that I’d written down the phone number. It is on Seymour st. right near Marble Arch.

We got off the tube at Hyde Park Corner and walked through the park to get to Marble Arch, which was also our starting point this morning. We took The Original Bus tour to the 20 or so stops that hit the West End highlights. Buckingham Palace was first. Lovely, big, and tourists aplenty. Across from the Palace is St. James Park and the entrance is Canada Gate. We rode the bus over to Westminster Abbey, which is also stunning. The Abbey is huge and it took us a very long time to go through. It is like IKEA in that you are cattle herded along a particular route. Lots of people stop and hold up the queue. My favourite part was the Quire, which is where the choir sits. It is three rows on either side of the aisle, with little red-shaded lamps. Chapter House was also interesting. It is a round room with frescos and medieval floor tiles. The images and text on the tiles are worn in many places but in Latin it says, “As the rose is the flower of flowers, so is this the house of houses.”

We went across to Big Ben, “look kids Parliament”, then got back on the bus for St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was closing as we drove by so we stayed on the bus and carried on to London Tower, which a friend told us to avoid at all costs. So much for the advice of friends. We had to get on a river boat at the London Tower Pier. It wasn’t so bad. The London Tower is where Anne was beheaded. The four towers of London Tower date back to 1078.

It started to rain while we were on the boat. It is London afterall. Now we are in an internet cafe trying to figure out how to get to Watford to watch a rugby match on Sunday.

Tomorrow, St. Paul’s Cathedral, lunch at the Old Miter, which is where James’ grandfather used to hang out during the war, then hopefully to Sadler’s Wells to see the Alvin Ailey Amercian Dance Theatre (which is sold out, but I hope they have one ticket somewhere). James is going off to the British Museum, which is open until 8 pm. I’ll meet him there after the show. I don’t think I can be in a museum for more than a couple of hours. I get artefact overload.

Now, there’s a city out there to discover. May be off to Ronnie Scott’s ...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Trafford pledges $1.6 million for endangered languages

Print-on-demand publisher Trafford, based in Victoria, pledged $1.6 million on August 31 to help in the global race to document and teach endangered indigenous languages.

The donation was announced at WITFOR 2005 in Botswana, where over 800 delegates were gathered to discuss ways to give those in the developing world access to technology.

$1.6 million is a tremendous gift. The full press release is available on the Trafford website.

Trafford.com/pledge

Leaving Lotusland

Tomorrow is the day! I’m leaving ... on a jet plane ... leaving ... but I’ll be back in a month.

James and I are off on an adventure. We leave for London tomorrow on the overnight flight, arriving jetlagged at 1:30 in the afternoon. We spend 3 full days in London then leave on the 4th day for Athens, spend a couple of days there.

Despite the millions of people who visit Santorini, we’ve decided to go. I was leaning to full avoidance, but then friends who had visited convinced me to go. So we’re going, and now I’m excited about the whitewash walls and marine blue skies.

On Sept 18 we fly from Athens to Leros. In Leros we get on a 55 ft sailboat and sail from Greece to Turkey. We do that for two weeks, then go from Keci Buku to Marmaris, hang out in Marmaris, ferry across to Rhodes to visit the medieval city, then travel up to Istanbul.

We spend 5 days in Istanbul and it is one of the cities I’ve always wanted to visit. I’m in complete awe of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, maybe there will be some belly dancing and carpet buying.

In the meantime, the shop will not be tended for the next couple of weeks, but I’ve set up the auto-blogger with the itinerary details so that my today self can write about my future self so that you can read my past self in the present. Time’s arrow.

Posts from the road are also likely but I suspect infrequent. Cheers to all and I’ll down some ouzo on your behalf.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Swinging from the Phone Tree

I have been on hold for approximately 1 hour today. I have spent a maximum of 20 consecutive minutes on hold. The rest of the time has been navigating phone trees. I nearly lost my mind in the Yahoo Search phone system, now I am on hold with VISA.

First, there is no reason that I should have spent as much time as I did speaking to Yahoo. It is online advertising, why do I even need a person for this? Well, if you need a credit for clicks not authorized because the helpful representative activated your account without authorization, then you need to speak to someone. The madness of the phone system is not conducive to speaking in a friendly voice to the person who eventually answers your ring.

And VISA, need I say more. The phone options do not match what I need and yet all options force me to enter my 16 digit number relentlessly. I’m being driven to drink here.