"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A very belated travel post, part 1

Well well, here we are again... if I even have any readers left after deserting you for so long.  Got a little derailed after getting back from Turkey.  School started, I came down with a post-travel bug, and worst of all I coped with a death in the family from the other side of the world.

Despite the silence, life has been barreling along here in Poti and its environs.  But first, let's finally knock out the trip to Trabzon, which was nothing but amazing and incredible from start to finish.

Julie and I left Poti via crummy marshrutka on Saturday, September 10, in the pouring rain.  A marshrutka from Poti to Batumi, then a quick stop in the city to pee, buy snacks and vodka, and exchange money.  Then a walk through the rain to find another marshrutka to Sarpi, on the Georgian-Turkish border.

Julie smiling in the rain as we wait in the passport line... for the first time.
It was really quite confusing figuring out where all we needed to go to get our visas... but luckily the Turks are some of the most friendly and helpful people I've ever met.  A random guy took us all the way to the opposite end of the border station, to a tiny kiosk we literally would never have found on our own.  Then a couple of other hoops to jump through, and viola!

Legit in Turkey!
Another helpful Turkish man helped us get a taxi from the border to Hopa.  And we never even saw the Hopa bus station, because our Taxi screeched to a halt on the highway and flagged down a bus that was... going to Trabzon.  Talk about convenient.  We pretty much grabbed our stuff and made the switch in a minute and a half.  It was a long bus ride to Trabzon, mainly because the bus made a ton of stops along the way, sometimes waiting for 15 or 20 minutes at each stop.  But eventually, after leaving my house at 8:15 that morning, the bus pulled over next to Trabzon's Ataturk Square at just after 4:00 PM.

Ataturk Square
I knew our hotel was right off the square, but had no idea as to exactly where, and Turkey is kind of like Georgia in that there are no goddam street signs.  So we just sort of wandered around... and after less than ten minutes, I spotted our hotel around a corner.  Things work again.

Our hotel, Hotel Erzurum, was very basic.  As in... Very.  But it was within our modest budget, was right in the center of town, and had a water view (from the right angle).  So who's to complain about no hot water and the occasional friendly cockroach? :D  (Only saw two of those, thank goodness, and both near the end of our trip.  Still, those who know me can be very proud of the hysterics I did not have upon these unwanted discoveries.)

Modest Accommodations
Our view, if you stood all the way over to the right.

Julie wanted to do some shopping, so we headed across the square to Trabzon's very bustling, very modern shopping district.

After the isolation in Georgia from almost all things Western, it was a very welcome shock to see a McDonald's AND a Burger King sharing a street corner.  Trabzon has pretty much every Western convenience you could ask for -- Julie and I made sure to stock up on shampoo, lotion, and other girly necessities while there, as such things are simply not available in Poti, or available for a horrific price.  But Trabzon manages to blend thousands of years of history in with their modern conveniences   I fell in love with this city pretty much immediately.

After shopping, we walked around, wanting to find an off-the-beaten-path restaurant for dinner.  This was kind of a mistake, and we wandered aimlessly for almost an hour and a half.  Also we did not yet understand that, in Trabzon, it is virtually impossible to find a restaurant or cafe that also serves alcohol, even beer or wine.  So we wasted some time looking for something that we simply were not going to find.

Eventually, though, our wanderings took us past a hookah bar.  They served food (barely), and we were starving and tired and frustrated and wanted to try a genuine Turkish hookah (they call them nargile).  So our first meal in Turkey was a crappy hamburger and sodas.  Bummer, but at least it was calories.  After dinner, we ordered a nargile with apple tobacco, which at the very least was a lot tastier than their burgers.

Right after this photo was taken, I was mugging for another shot on Julie's camera, and picked up the giant hooka itself, around the middle.  To my extraordinary horror, the bottom of the thing fell right off, crashed to the floor, and began spilling water everywhere!  I was so mortified.  But once again the Turkish people showed their grace and graciousness.  The staff came to my aid, whisked the poor busted thing away, smiled and waved away my desperate "Ozur dilerim!!"  (Sorry!), and soon returned with a brand-new hookah for us.  Oh well.  Stupid American trick #1, in the books.

After dinner, we walked back to Ataturk Square where I had seen Efes Pub, so we could get a few drinks.  The place was packed with Trabzonites watching their very own football team play Manchester, but we were able to find seats right away.  A few beers and glasses of wine, and then we retreated back to the room for a couple more drinks (mixed in empty water bottles, classy), and girl talk.

A very satisfying first day in Turkey!  More to come -- as soon as my family's internet starts working again!

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