Thursday, July 17, 2008

Road to Europe

Stunning view of the Bosporus at sunset in Istanbul (original photo from this site)

A memorable meal at Recepusta with Ian, Bedra and Audrey

So despite my best intentions, my plans for a regular blog during my year in Turkey were obviously somewhat of a failure. Still, I had a really great time, made some wonderful new friends, learned a new language, got to watch the sun set over the Bosporus on several occasions, took part in an Iranian New Year celebration in which we jumped over traditional Zoroastrian fires, and a lot more that would take far too long to recount. It's funny how little you may think you develop or learn in a year while it's happening, and how you really have to look at it in retrospect to even get an idea. Even so, it's still hard to sum up in any concrete statement or list of truths what I learned this year about life and about myself; sometimes it feels like relatively little, but at other times I get an impression of the bigger picture and it's really astonishing to think of all the ways I've progressed (or at least changed) during the year. Even on the superficial and practical level, I now have a CELTA certificate, a year's worth of work experience, and all the benefits--both personal and professional--that a new language and exposure to a new culture and people entail.

Overlooking a surreal Capadoccian valley during a scooter tour near Nevsehir with Audrey

A picnic on the ODTU campus with Ian and some of the Ankara Couchsurfing group

As I said though, it's over: I left Turkey this last Tuesday (July 15th), to embark on a European tour before starting the next stage of my adventures on the other side of the ocean.

My plan was to get a train (using an Interrail pass I had purchased, highly recommended for those eligible; the equivalent for non-Europeans is Eurail) from Istanbul to Athens via Salonica, but when, after having checked the TCDD (Turkey's national rail company), which said there were 3 trains a day between Istanbul and Salonica, I went to the train station on the morning of the 15th, they informed me that the next train to Greece was in 3 days, on Friday! So some quick thinking and 32 Turkish Lira later, I had booked a sleeper car for Sofia, Bulgaria instead, with the plan to spend a day there and get a night train down to Athens. While booking the ticket, I met a young Spanish guy, Dani, who seemed to have had the same plan and was therefore in the same predicament. We were stuck in Istanbul for the day (the train for Sofia left at 10 pm and it was 8 am), so we decided to make the most of it.

Both of us had seen the sights before though, so making the most of it involved stopping for some coffee before heading to Sultanahment for Turk kahvalti (a traditional, full Turkish breakfast). We then wandered down to Gulhane park, where we siesta-ed under the shade of a tall tree, before moseying back to the madding crowds for some internetery and tavla-ing in a cafe overlooking a street near the Aya Sofya. It was there that I heard via a text message that some of the ex-Bilkenters were also in Istanbul, so Dani and I headed out to meet them for dinner.

After that it was back to the train station where, after a worrying 15 minutes of realising I'd lost the ticket for the locker where I'd left my bag that morning and having to get a reluctant, grumbling station director to enter his PIN code to open it for me, I boarded the train for Sofia...

1 comment:

Kirsty said...

Are you alive, brother? Standing by for the "more." Dad: "For the next broadcast." Mum: "Hanging on your every word. Isn't it wonderful that you're such a world renowned personality that people in Scotland are waiting with baited breath for your next addition."