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Istanbul Turkey

Saturday, September 30th, 1995

According to political geograpy Turkey is half in Europe and half in Asia. But since it is ethnically and culturally closer to the Middle East I have categorized as such. With its strategic location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious and artistic events for more than 2,000 years. Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque and other historical sites. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the way back from the Kyrgyzstan trek we stayed over a week in Istanbul before taking the plane back to the states.

Staying in a little guesthouse in the Sultanahmet area, we were within walking distance to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Old Bazaar. I enjoyed a traditional Turkish Bath in a beautiful huge centuries old bath house with stained glass ceiling letting muted sun filter below. I was scrubbed clean by a lady…and then led to lie nude along with other women on a huge slab of marble that was heated from below. Lovely.

An older gentleman from the trek was laying over in Istanbul too and staying in the same guesthouse. We planned on meeting him for a breakfast out but when the time came and went we became concerned. The next day he told us of his “adventure.” He had woken early and decided to walk down to the wharf to watch the fishermen bring in their haul. Unfortunately he met up with a couple guys who decided he was good for a few dollars. They forced him into a car, drove around for a couple hours all the while demanding his wallet. But this old guy was indomitable and stubbornly refused to give it up. Finally, his captors let him out. But he had no idea where he was. It took the better part of the rest of the day for him to find his way back. At least he was left in one piece!

The underground cistern was particularly interesting. No longer used for water, a walkway led past a statue of a head of Medusa…turned upside down and placed under a supporting pillar. Quite the Turk comment on a historical dispute with Greece.

The food was glorious…complex flavors of aubergine, tomato and spices blended perfectly together. Ummmmmm.

But a week in Istanbul…let alone in Turkey…was far too short. I will return.

A Dacha In Samarkand

Saturday, September 30th, 1995


After coming off the Kyrgyzstan trek, Peter, our trip leader, had arranged for us to go to Samarkand in Uzbekistan before continuing on up to Tashkent for the flight home via a week in Istanbul Turkey.

Beautiful…magical Samarkand…with more history than you can imagine. The population (412,300 in 2005) is the third-largest city in Uzbekistan and the capital of Samarkand Province. The city is most noted for it’s central position on the Asian Silk Road between China and the west.

We stayed at an old Russian “dacha” (summer home) used by Communist party members before the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Everyone was excited about a real shower, a real sit-down toilet and real beds. You line up there for toilet paper…someone said…pointing to a heavy babushka (old woman) sitting officiously behind a small table in the entry way. “No! No! Not tonight,” she grumbled loudly. “Tomorrow morning…toilet paper!” We were incredulous! But the sit-down toilets have no paper….we groaned. “No, No, Not tonight” she repeated. Someone else’s room didn’t have electric lights so an old guy was sent off to investigate…never did find out if light was discovered. Some rooms had tv’s with snowy reception of Russian programs…we were hoping to get some news but there was nothing we could decipher.

So gratefully, we all sat down on real sit-down benches at a real table in the garden outside the dacha for a feast after 18 days and nights eating on the ground. There was a smattering of Russians who joined us that were not on the trek…police…Peter said. One, who had too much too drink, bragged menacingly about how much power he used to have and now he was nobody. “Don’t answer him,” Peter advises.

Despite its status as the second city of Uzbekistan, the majority of the city’s inhabitants are Tajik-speaking. In 2001, after several abortive attempts, UNESCO inscribed the 2700-year-old city on the World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.

The Registan

Saturday, September 30th, 1995
7Z3XBdt3hLmJjqkmk2I6k0-2006190121351559.gif samar6.jpg It is said, the sand was strewn on the ground to soak up the blood from the public executions that were held there until early in the 20th ... [Continue reading this entry]

Exotic History Of Samarkand

Saturday, September 30th, 1995
7Z3XBdt3hLmJjqkmk2I6k0-2006190121351559.gif From Wikipedia: At times Samarkand has been the greatest city of Central Asia, and for much of its history it has been under Persian rule. Founded circa 700 BCE it was already the capital ... [Continue reading this entry]

Serendipity In Tashkent

Monday, September 18th, 1995
7Z3XBdt3hLmJjqkmk2I6k0-2006190121351559.gif In September of 1995 we flew into Tashkent, Uzbekistan from New York City on Uzbekistan Airways on our way to join an REI trek into the mountains in Kyrgyzstan. The night before we ... [Continue reading this entry]

Trekking in Kyrgyzstan

Monday, September 18th, 1995
7Z3XBdt3hLmJjqkmk2I6k0-2006190120654814.gif The fall of 1995 Bob and I joined an REI adventure tour company based in Seattle Washington on an 18 day trek in the highest and most dramatic part of the central Tian Shan ... [Continue reading this entry]