24 Oct | Adam Goldberg | No Comments
Terribly sorry for the interruption to regularly scheduled blogging, but as you may have read in the last entry, the group has been in Turkey for the past week. The trip was outstanding! The week prior to the trip was pretty standard, classes all week as usual, but on Friday the 12th, in the middle of the night, the trip began. I realize I haven’t written in nearly 2 weeks, so this entry is sure to be long. I hope you’re ready for it.
I have no classes Friday, so I spent the day taking care of business over email, and packing, and hanging out. One or two people weren’t going on the trip, so I wanted to see them for a bit before we left. At around 10:30 that night, I went with some people to this great little bar called Karen’s. We didn’t stay for long; instead, we went back to the apartment to hang out for a bit before going to the windmill to get on the ferry. I got all my stuff together, cleaned up and locked up my room, strapped my pack on and walked to the windmill, the time was about 1am. The ferry was about an hour late arriving, so we finally got on at around 2, we went to our cabins and hunkered down, preparing ourselves for the 8 hour ride to Samos. We got some drinks at a small stand on the boat, and watched the water move below us and the lights in the distance. a big group of us stayed on the side of the ship, talking and having a good time, but it started getting a bit late, so people split up to go do various things on their own.
I went inside the boat and saw one of the professors sitting and talking with a student, so I went over to them. I sat with him and talked as other people came and went, sometimes it was just the two of us (me and the professor) and other times it was us, as well as 6 or 7 other people. Regardless, this is where I stayed for 2 or 3 hours, until about 4 or 5am. We sat and talked, argued, read poetry, talked about poetry, and just generally had a great time. I was having such a great time that I really didn’t want it to end.
One of the group got up to go to the restroom, and, upon coming back, announced that the sun was rising, the time being around 6 or 7 in the morning. The hardiest 5 of us decided to go above deck, bring our drinks and our poetry, and watch the sun rise. So we watched the sun rise for roughly the next 3 hours.
We discussed the beauty of the sun rise, sang songs, some old Scottish folk songs and some newer stuff as well. The whole experience was so much fun for me, because I was with two great guys, and two great teachers, one of whom is a painter, and one is a poet. So the experience of the sunrise was being filtered through such diverse lenses and differing ways of experiencing beauty. I hope that makes sense, but, when it boils down to it, it would be almost impossible for you to truly understand how that evening was so magical.
As the sun was rising, the scenery kept getting more and more beautiful. the shadows, reflected sunlight, highlights on the mountains, and passing scenery of the islands all made a glorious enchanted landscape that was truly affecting. After watching this beauty for a few hours, it became overwhelming, and my companions and I were afraid of exposing ourselves to too much beauty, that we would simply melt right there on the deck. It was as though the world was lining up all of these amazing things for us to behold, bragging at us and saying “hey, look what I can do, look how great I am”… Man, that was a really weird way to describe that… sorry. But just as an example of this, I’ll tell you that at one point, we saw a waterspout, we literally saw a tornado over the water. It wasn’t necessarily harming anything, just sort of being there, being beautiful.
So after spending the whole night (and well into the day) hanging out, experiencing beauty, singing, walking around the deck, talking to each other, reading poetry, and above all, not sleeping… I was a bit tired. I went to my cabin at around 10 or 10:30, slept for a good half hour, and woke to the porters pounding on the doors for us to disembark at Samos.
We spent a few uneventful hours in Samos, which is a truly beautiful island, and then we boarded a second ferry to Turkey. We arrived a few hours later at the port town of Kusadasi, and took a bus into Selcuk to our hotel. Our hotel was just down a small hill from the ruins of St. John’s Basilica, and a 10 minute walk from the main part of town. Turkey was outstanding, everyone was so friendly, the food was amazing, and there was a lot of excellent stuff to see. The first night, we had a huge dinner together at a restaurant, pretty much everyone in town, all the shopkeepers and restaurant owners know the faculty here at HISA, so everyone is always really nice and hospitable to us. Our dinner was amazing, and the people at the restaurant were so nice and accommodating. For dinner we had Hummus, baba ghanoush, spinach dip, flatbread, spicy couscous, beef stir fry, chicken shish kebobs, lamb shish kebobs, spicy meatballs, and drinks all around. It was truly a great introduction to Turkey.
The days went by pretty quickly, we went to the ruins of Ephesus, which was beautiful, we went to a small wine-making town, and then we went to a town about 3 hours away to see these massive calcium formations and hot springs. It was amazing. After those excursions, we pretty much had the rest of the time to ourselves to explore and do whatever we wanted to do. Among these was to go to the Hamam.
The Hamam is the Turkish bath. If you ever have a chance to go to one (especially one in Turkey) – do it. You start by taking off your clothes (we wore swimsuits, although, it doesn’t really matter what you do, because you end up wearing a towel the whole time anyway) and putting on this ornate towel. You then walk into the room and an attendant pours water over you. The room is somewhat like a steam room, it’s hot and humid, but it’s not unbearable, and it’s not terribly steamy. Once you are wetted down, you go to this large marble table in the center of the room and lay down on it. It’s a big octagon or some multi-sided shape, and there’s room on it for a bunch of people. It is heated up as well. So you lay down on it and relax for awhile, I had no idea how long I was there but it was really nice. Eventually, the attendant calls you over and you lay down on another, smaller marble table and you are rubbed down with an exfoliating glove type thing, all over your skin. Then you go to a cold shower, rinse off and go back to the marble block to wait. Next, you are called over to a second small marble bench, where another attendant soaps you down, and gives you a massage. After the wash, you take another shower to rinse off, and then you leave the bath-room. Once outside the room, an attendant, speaking to you in Turkish, tells you to dry off, and change into a fresh towel. Once you have the towel on, he wraps a second towel around your shoulders, and a third around your head, then you sit and drink apple tea and wait. The final step is to get a full body oil massage from yet another man, who rubs all your muscles and cracks all your bones. It was amazing.
After that was over, another guy and I went to the Turkish barber. We both got shaves and I got a haircut. The haircut was great, even though we didn’t speak the same language, he did exactly what I asked him to do. The shave was also amazing, it was like being at a real barber in the 1950’s or something. He used a straight blade, and lathered up the soap with a brush. While we were waiting, he gave us each a cigarette. After the shave, he took a small cotton swab on a metal stalk, soaked it in alcohol, lit it on fire, and used it to burn the hair off around my ears, nose and face. Then he gave me a scalp and neck massage, and cracked my neck. Finally, he generously applied aftershave to my skin. The hamam and the shave and haircut combined left me feeling like a brand new man. It was incredible.
I feel like that’s the long and short of Turkey. There were other things, good food, souvenir shopping, an outdoor bazaar, but to try to describe them wouldn’t make sense. It was just a crazy experience of cultural isolation.
Oh right! I almost forgot.
One day, a friend and I were walking home from dinner when one of the shopkeepers stopped us. The shopkeepers in Turkey, the rug store owners, and restaurant owners always try to stop you to talk to you, get you to eat at their place or come to their shop, and sometimes you try to avoid them. But on this particular night, I didn’t really have anything to do, or anywhere to go. So I stopped. He offered us a smoke, so I took it, knowing that this would obligate me to talk to him. So I did.
He invited us over to sit in front of his shop, where he had cushions set up and a backgammon board. We talked about all manner of things, and he brought us out apple tea. It became more or less a nightly ritual, whenever I would walk by him, I would say hello, and at the end of the evening I would go to his shop to hang out and talk. His cousin was learning English, so we helped him practice it, and he taught us a little Turkish (most of which, regrettably I forgot). One night, he taught me backgammon. It is experiences like those that make a place feel more like home. I poked my head in to his shop on the last night to say goodbye, and all the guys were sitting around a table eating dinner. Far from being mad at me for interrupting, they asked me to join them (which, regrettably I couldn’t). It was really surreal, how people could be so randomly nice all the time. It made me feel at home, and it made me miss home.
Either way, for better or worse, we left Turkey. The ferry back to Samos was short and sweet and I slept pretty much the whole way. We arrived on Samos on a beautiful day, got to our hotel and hung out, all the usual stuff. The next day we were to go to the waterfalls, which was very exciting. However, the following day, I woke up to the sounds of a horrible hurricane like storm with heavy winds and pouring down rain. I walked in the rain to buy my ticket for the ferry back to Paros, and by the time I got back to the hotel, all my clothes were sopping, soaking wet and completely waterlogged. There were canals running through the streets sometimes 5 inches deep. We hunkered down in the hotel, too wet to go anywhere, and waiting to see if we could even get off the island. Well, we couldn’t. The ferry was cancelled due to the rain, wind, and generally awful weather, and we were forced to stay another night on Samos. The following day was a bit cloudy, but still nice (until I went out of course). Then the sky opened up and soaked yet another set of my clothes (which isn’t necessarily bad, when you consider that I’d been living in the same clothes for a week already in Turkey, unable to have a laundry done. This would have been a problem, but everyone in the group was essentially in the same boat, so stop looking at me like I’m some sort of grease ball.)
Well, needless to say, we did eventually get off Samos. I’m quite disappointed however, because although I got to wander around a bit in the town we were staying in, I didn’t get to go to the waterfalls, nor did I get to really enjoy the island. I could barely leave the hotel! It’s ok though, I’ll just let it ride, and remember that Samos is a place I defiantly need to go back to.
So we’re all back on Paros now, and its good to be home. I’ll apologize again for my 2 week hiatus, but as you can see, it was full of adventure, and writing would have been impossible. I hope I didn’t forget anything!
Have a great week, wherever you are, and I hope you’ve been enjoying accompanying me on my journey. More to come soon.READ MORE
6 Oct | Adam Goldberg | No Comments
I might have said this before, but classes keep getting better and better.
On Monday, for philosophy class, we went to the professor’s house up in the mountains. It was gorgeous, and a whole lot of fun. We talked about philosophy and how we lead our lives. One of the reasons I love that class is because it’s so personalized, however, as I write this, I realize I’ve already mentioned my views on this in past entries. But briefly, I’ll say that it’s fun because we talk about how we lead our lives, rather than simply going over facts about dead philosophers. Definitely my kind of class.
Either way, we discussed all manner of things, danced and listened to excellent music.
Then I rode back to the apartment in the trunk of a car. This was also fun.
The rest of the week went pretty routinely, good discussions, printing pictures, watching excellent movies. There’s another school here on the island and we’re finally getting to meet them. We haven’t really done so yet, so I can’t report on that. …Sorry.
Today we went to Naxos, which was awesome. It was a short day trip, but I liked it a lot, and the professor said that we would be going back there later in the semester. We took the blue star ferry down as usual and then took a short walk to a museum of archeological stuff. I took a ton of photographs on the way. After the museum we stopped in an antique store, which was actually an ancient house complete with old stone columns. It was a trip and a half – just gorgeous!
After we finished there we walked back to where we started and took a bus up into the hills, about a half hour away from the shore. We walked around the old town, taking more photos of course, and found a place to eat. The town was beautiful and had this haunting quality, because most of the people were gone and the shops were closed due to the offseason. Everything looked very old, more so than other places we’ve been to here.
The restaurant we ate at was very good and very reasonably priced too, which was a pleasant surprise. Once we were done with our meal, we took the bus back down to the shore, and hiked up a small hill to see the ruins of the temple of Apollo. A few more photographs later, and it was time to go. All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable day!
Well, I’m looking forward to classes this week, and then onto Turkey for a week or so. I guess I won’t be able to write for a little while, but I’ll try to squeeze an entry in before I leave Greece.
Either way, have a great day wherever in the world you are!
I know I will…
As always, faithfully reporting,